Joanne Wakefield, office manager for Giacobbe & Sons, which owns multiple properties downtown, told the Redevelopment Agency they were aiming to rent two separate storefronts on East Cherry Street: one an organic hair salon aimed at seniors at 75 E. Cherry St. (The Mall), and another a Mexican restaurant and bakery at 69 E. Cherry St.
The hair salon would offer direct service to seniors, such as those living in senior housing in the area, like Golden Age Towers, said Wakefield. But they could not get approval from the city so they appealed for help from the Redevelopment Agency. She noted that of the 81 storefronts along Main Street, from East Milton Avenue to Monroe Street, and East Cherry Street, 34 are vacant (about 42 percent).
City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the city construction official had not received any application from a Mexican restaurant, which is a permitted use on East Cherry Street. He said he walks to work most days past vacant storefronts, though some new ones are coming because they’re able to carry capital. There are an inordinate number of vacant stores, he said, adding that he’s always felt it’s better to have a store occupied than not. Then there are deeper issues about what types of stores are wanted and the direction of downtown.
A city ordinance prohibits siting a salon, or any personal services business, within 1,000 feet of another, said Pelissier. In the ’60s and ’70s, downtown had more wig shops than anything, according to Mayor James Kennedy. There is a tendency to take five or six that are there and deplete business, he said, adding that an overload like that can take away business.
As a courtesy, Pelissier said he would raise the issue with the Redevelopment Agency, which potentially could provide relief as a redevelopment project. Since a salon already exists across the street from The Mall (Max Hair Care II, 84 E. Cherry St.), he told Wakefield that an application would have to be presented to the five-member Redevelopment Agency. There was a salon proposed at an Irving Street site two years ago that was rejected by the Redevelopment Agency. In case law on appeals, Pelissier said decisions have gone both ways with respect to a 1,000-feet law.
In a brief follow-up telephone interview today, Wakefield said the potential tenant passed on pursuing the salon after learning she would have to go through the Zoning Board or Redevelopment Agency. She said the tenant who had interest in the Mexican restaurant and bakery hasn’t been heard from in some time. Of the 16 spaces available in The Mall, she said six are currently vacant and another two will be leaving.
Raffio Giacobbe of Giacobbe & Sons told the Revelopment Agency that he considered moving his office to the front of the the 75 E. Cherry St. property so it looks more active, given that downtown and East Cherry Street don’t look good.