There is some bad news and good news to report when it comes to downtown Madison.
The bad news?
The owner of plans to leave the store's Madison location in May when the lease is up.
The good news?
Julie Francis, the owner of soundRunner, still plans to stay very involved in the Madison running community. The owner of Boutique on Wall Street is opening a store on the Boston Post Road downtown where Brandon Gallery used to be located. And it looks like a new restaurant may be opening this spring in the old Page Taft building on Wall Street.
soundRunner closing in Madison, staying open in Old Saybrook and Branford
Julie Francis, the owner of the soundRunner in downtown Madison, has opted not to renew her lease at that location when it expires in May. The soundRunner stores in Old Saybrook and at its flagship location in Branford will remain in business and will absorb the existing staff at the Madison store, she said.
She said the financial stresses involved with running stores in three locations, during difficult economic times, have finally taken its toll.
"Three stores. It's really a lot. And, with family, and health concerns and all of the things that we hold dear, as owners we have to pay attention to the big picture and what makes sense," she said. "The lease is up in May and we are not renewing our lease. We've done everything we can do and now our focus is on tightening things up, and being responsible to our mission and the staff we have."
Staff at Madison store will find jobs at remaining stores
One large consideration, Francis said, was that she did not want to get rid of employees. The plan is to have the remaining staff at the Madison store will be absorbed in to one of the other two stores, she said.
She said the building's landlord, Robert Genesius, has been "amazing" in terms of trying to make the terms of the lease work, but she said in the end juggling three stores just ended up being too much for the amount of business soundRunner is doing on the shoreline.
The Realtor handling the new lease, Alison Gould, said she and Genesius really would like to see another retail operation in that location.
Too many banks and real estate agencies can have detrimental effect on retail district
"I really want a retail space in there," Gould said. "Too many banks, real estate agencies and/or financial brokers have too often ruined a prospering downtown area." Gould said interested parties can reach her at Alison.Gould@coldwellbankermoves.com.
Eileen Banisch, the executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Gould that having a retail operation move in to that location would be best.
"My husband Tom and I often take weekend trips throughout New England, usually to popular destination cities including Newport, Portland, Portsmouth, and Lenox, and have observed that the national economy/recession has affected even these venues in varying degrees," she said. "Madison, however, seems to be doing better than most, with fewer retail vacancies."
Struggle for local businesses to compete with internet, outlets, big box stores
She said it's often a struggle for local businesses to keep their door opening, particularly when dealing with competition from the internet, outlet centers and big box stores.
"The Madison Chamber of Commerce's "Love Your Local" attitude has never been as important as it is today," she said. One example of that campaign is the at retail locations on the Boston Post Road, Wall Street, and Station Square on Bradley Road.
"I hope the soundRunner space remains as a retail establishment rather than office space, and am happy to see that the former Brandon Gallery space will soon be occupied by Asiye's clothing store."
Former Page Taft building being transformed into restaurant, apartment
Banisch said she's also looking forward to a new restaurant opening on Wall Street this spring in the former Page Taft building. Some residents who live nearby on Wall Street said they have heard the location is being considered for an upscale burger bar, but those reports have not been confirmed. Calls to the developer were not immediately returned.
Public records show that Plunkett has been talking with town planning and zoning officials about using the building at 52 Wall Street for a restaurant on the first floor, with a deck addition in back, and an apartment on the second floor. About 28 spaces have been planned for customers, along with on street parking that will be available. The restaurant will be accommodate about 76 diners, according to town records.
"Bill Plunkett is in the process of transforming that building into a beautiful setting for a new business," she said.
Asiye Kay plans to open new shop on Feb. 1
Asiye Kay, the owner of on Wall Street, said she is looking forward to opening her new location in the former Brandon Gallery location on the Boston Post Road, right next to the and .
She said she hopes to have the new store open by Feb. 1, 2012 and that her existing store will stay open for now.
"I'm opening a second location as of now," she said. "After six months, I will make my decision as to whether I will stay or whether I will close the one on Wall Street. For the first six months, I want to test the market."
New store, different concept
She said the new store will be different from her existing locations in Madison and Guilford, where she sells upscale, dressy dresses for occasions like the prom and a big night out on the town, like
"This will have a different concept, a little bit more casual, more fun, since we have mostly dresses in both locations in Guilford and Madison," she said.
She added that she works as a private consultant and personal shopper and that she hopes to make the new store a destination for that, providing consultations for those who make appointments, and on a walk-in basis as well. "I will expand the concept," she said. "We'll be giving a little more service at great prices."
Francis says she will stay connected, involved with Madison community
Francis, from soundRunner, said she is sad to be closing her Madison location, particularly since Madison is her hometown. But, she said, she plans to remain very involved and active in the community and with her volunteer work in Madison. She said she's already had conversations with the organizers of the Turkey Trot, and others, about doing just that.
"All the things we do in Madison won't go away," she said. "We'll continue to do the Shoreline Road Race series, the Leprechaun Run will still be there, the Turkey Trot, none of that will change.
"Our goal and objective is to provide tools to make sure people are active," Francis said. "We'll continue to provide programs and information about footwear and apparel to keep them out there longer. We know that 200 minutes of activity a week can help keep chronic illness at bay. We will always continue to help people with that."