Stoughton’s Main Street is less crowded these days, with eight businesses that had been housed there closing in the first half of 2019.
Another business not on Main Street – Malabar Coffee at the Stoughton Wellness and Athletic Center – also shut its doors this year.
Local leaders say they are not concerned, that businesses come and go but the downtown remains active.
The exits have left a few storefronts vacant, some with signs explaining the closure and thanking longtime customers.
“We will miss downtown Stoughton, your faces, and all the magic we felt being a small business,” reads a letter on the door at Stori Anne Co. “Thank you so much for allowing us to have our dream over these past seven years. It has been amazing, and no piece of paper could ever truly express our gratitude.”
The reasons vary: The owner of Mary’s Fine Antiques at 193 W. Main St., for example, was moving to New England to be closer to family, according to a Facebook post. Prize Impressions and The Lilystone, meanwhile, both moved their catalogs online, saving money on rent costs. And Paco’s Tacos had been working on a new lease with the landlord, at first limiting his hours but eventually fully closing its 135 W. Main St. restaurant.
Giggles and Firehouse Tattoo also closed their Main Street storefronts this year. The former Firehouse Tattoo building at 183 W. Main St. already has filled with a new CBD business.
Stoughton Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Laura Trotter told the Hub she was sad to see the number of businesses closing, but still feels the downtown is “vibrant,” something she said she hears from visitors regularly.
“I beg to differ when people say our downtown is in trouble,” Trotter said. “Small businesses do have a high turnover rate; it just is the nature of what’s going on.”
She pointed to new restaurants that have come in over the past few years and said the closures present “an opportunity” for other businesses to come in.
“It’s really great to see how much we do have downtown,” she said. “How the opera house has made it so we have a very vibrant restaurant scene; you couldn’t say that five years ago.”
Mayor Tim Swadley struck a similar tone in a conversation with the Hub, pointing to city efforts like the proposed whitewater park and Downtown Revitalization Subcommittee that aim to help businesses downtown.
“What we’re trying to do at the city level, we can’t really determine who comes and goes downtown,” Swadley told the Hub. “What we try and do is try and provide them with whatever support we can to help them with their business.”
He lamented that some businesses have had to close, but he said he feels good about the overall state of downtown, and said efforts on parking and improvements to sidewalks or crosswalks are other avenues for the city to offer help.
“We still feel that our downtown is in pretty good overall shape,” he said. It’s always sad to see a business that decides they have to close their doors, but we certainly are willing to do what we can.”
Swadley said the downtown will continue to add “to the culture and spirit of the community.”
“We feel it’s really important to bring people in the community together to kind of share their experiences and have some fun together,” he said. “It gives you a real sense of community.
“We definitely have a downtown that is capable of doing that.”