, Newburyport, MA

January 9, 2014

Downtown shuffle continues

More retailers announce plans to expand, close


---- — NEWBURYPORT — The truck with a plow affixed is a common sight in the community these days, but the moving van will also be spotted in the coming weeks, as numerous merchants move around the downtown.

Some retailers are going to new locations, while others are closing their doors and leaving town completely.

Several merchants are also talking about relocating, but they don’t know where. With the tough selling months of January, February and March upcoming, numerous business owners are attempting to adjust to new conditions.

“There is a shuffle of merchants going on, but I don’t see it as a red flag or an indication of bad economic times,” said Ann Ormond, president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Some store owners want more space; others want a different location. Most spaces that are opening are being filled, so this appears to be a natural movement at this time of year.”

J.L. Coombs, the footwear shop at 1 State St., has announced that it is relocating to a new storefront on Pleasant Street, while its neighbor, M.K. Benatti Jewelers at 11 State St., will take over the space they vacate.

Owners Matt and Karyn Khatib say they will take over the storefront at 1 State St. on Feb. 1, and will spend about three months building a new store in the space that’s four times their current location, which will allow them to have more space for additional merchandise in a bigger showroom, as well as to spread out their workshop more in order for customers to get an up-close view of their work.

With a larger location, they also plan to offer more events for the community, including trunk shows, and to hire more staff.

They will remain in their current space until they are ready to open the doors of their new shop.

This is the couple’s fifth year in Newburyport, they said, and they have been struggling with space limitations. The couple completes the entire jewelry process onsite, from designing a piece to a customer’s specifications via a computer program, to casting a piece, setting a stone and polishing the finished item.

“I’m so excited,” Matt Khatib said. “We are absolutely thrilled to be doing this right now. We are a destination now; people come from all over the Merrimack Valley, and Boston ... There’s a need for what we do.”

While Khatib draws clients from across the country — and the globe — he and his wife say they wouldn’t be expanding and growing without the constant support from local customers who make an effort to shop local and support their downtown.

Their new store “will be absolutely beautiful,” Matt Khatib said. “You’re going to have a unique experience when you walk in.”

Meanwhile, at 37 State St., Lizology, a clothing shop for women, is leaving Newburyport. A sale is underway. Owner Liz Rodgers runs a similar store in Portsmouth and after two-and-a-half years in Newburyport has decided to pull back and concentrate on her store in New Hampshire.

The owners of A Shore Thing, at 1 Titcomb St., announced this week that they are also closing their doors.

In an email to customers yesterday, the owners wrote, “It is with sadness that we are announcing that Carol, Melissa and Bill have decided not to continue as proprietors of our little corner of Newburyport. Our store will be either sold or closed in the next few months. If you are interested in ‘taking over,’ please let us know. We are offering an attractive sales price with some owner financing.”

“We have put our hearts and souls into this enterprise over the past four years; however, we have decided mutually that we will move on to other exciting activities in our lives,” they added.

Owners of Urban Elements at 20 Pleasant St. say they are planning to move into a larger venue in Newburyport by March 1, but a spokeswoman declined to give details; and Macro Polo Too at 15 Pleasant St., offering toys and home decor, is leaving the community.

The owner of Clothing Encounters Millwalk, 31 Water St., will be retiring, and Pawsitively Best Friends at 16 State St. is seeking new space after being unable to obtain a new lease from building owners. The Essencia Lounge, 18 Liberty St., closed suddenly in recent days, but its owners, who also run a spa in Amesbury, haven’t announced their future plans.

One business that is not moving but is welcoming the moving van is the Screening Room.

The city’s only cinema will be getting new furniture, projection equipment and paint.

Operator Andrew Mungo will be close Thursday for about a week. After raising $108,000 from community supporters, he has announced plans to install new seating, rugs and digital projectors.

The 99-seat venue will reopen Thursday, Jan. 16, managers say.

Another community icon here, Chase and Lunt Insurance, recently moved out of its offices at 47 State St. to new headquarters at 65 Parker St. near the train station.

A restaurant whose identify has not been disclosed is reportedly moving into the centrally located brick building.

Veteran observers of downtown commerce say it could be months before that office building is refitted to serve as a restaurant with running water and kitchen equipment.