NORWAY – Main Street businesspeople said Wednesday they are disappointed that the New Balance Factory Store is leaving, but their feelings were mixed about whether the store’s loss will hurt the downtown business climate.
“I think it will hurt Main Street unless they can get another larger, well-known store in there that will bring tourists here,” said Melinda Edwards, manager of Maine Made & More, New Balance’s next-door neighbor. Edwards’ store merchandises products from Maine including home dcor, clothing, food products and toiletries.
“They have been a draw for people,” she said.
Across the street, Dagny Lilley, co-owner of The Irish Ewe, which sells yarns and Irish imports, had a different perspective. She said the loss of New Balance may actually help other businesses by redirecting shoppers’ attention elsewhere.
“I think people may be willing to look at the rest of Main Street,” she said. “They brought foot traffic but I don’t think it will drop off that much.
“It may rearrange the flow,” she said.
New Balance will conduct its final day of business on Main Street on Saturday, then relocate to the company’s new store on Route 26 in Oxford next week. A grand opening is scheduled for April 29 at the Oxford location, which is double the size of the Norway store.
The building that houses New Balance and Maine Made & More is owned by the Oxford Hills Growth Council.
David Holt, the town’s manager, said he is not aware of any potential new tenants.
Holt said he was “really sad” about the loss of New Balance. “It’s been wonderful to have them. They brought a lot of folks who wouldn’t otherwise come to Main Street,” he said.
Holt said the store’s move represents only a minor revenue loss for the town, but the impact could be more significant on the overall downtown climate. “It won’t make much difference in (revenue). It’s a question of traffic and vitality,” he said.
“Downtowns are no longer places where people go for their everyday goods. People should go for the fun of it and the enjoyment of it, and we need to create that new environment,” he added.
Some Main Street entrepreneurs said although they regret the loss of New Balance, their customer base probably won’t be affected. “I think anytime you lose a big business like that, you’re going to lose foot traffic. But I’m not sure that was my customer anyway,” said Lorrie Bean, owner of Lola’s Boutique, which carries upscale women’s apparel.
Erica Jed, owner of Books-N-Things, which held its grand opening at its new Main Street location on April 1, agreed. “I don’t see people in here with shoe boxes,” she said.