There’s something odd about Fall River’s retail community. Among its members are businesses that if clustered together, would come pretty close to the kind of retailing that would rival many small tourist destinations. But they’re not clustered together.
I’ve written about this before, so you may want to skip this one.
There’s a bead shop in Fall River. There’s actually two – one that sells beads and jewelry and one that sells jewelry made out of beads. And that Irish store. There are several women’s dress boutiques. And a yarn store.
Ever go to those places? Those little daytrip tourist towns where people go to spend money? Sometimes just to spend money?
There’s usually a book store and a bakery. There might be a specialty food purveyor. We got those.
Ice cream? Yup. Maybe a shoe store and a handbag place. Restaurants. Really hip places might include an army-navy store, a tattoo parlor, a comic book store or even an independent hardware store. Candy store. Florist. Maybe a few “personal care” places like a hairdresser and a tanning place.
We got all those. And we have “art & artisan” retailers. Yes, we do.
The thing is, some of these popular retail districts really only amount to twenty or thirty businesses. But they are areas where retailers feel compelled to locate. They are places that are considered “the” place.
And in Fall River, we could populate such a district without breaking a sweat, in the sense that all of these businesses are already doing business in Fall River. Every type of business I have mentioned here is represented by an already-existing and presumably viable example in li’l ol’ Fall River. Right now.
So, the idea that Fall River cannot become a place for destination shopping is a bit weak. The remaining handful of local textile manufacturers is rumored to be opening up an outlet store. Portugalia Imports recently opened a store that already attracts customers from beyond the immediate area. So do some of our restaurants. So does Party Dress Express. And Corky & Company.
Ah, if I only had a couple of million dollars.
It’s not the kind of thing that happens easily. And I’m not wishing any city landlords any bad luck. But if there is no obvious “gotta be there” area for destination retailing, one could be created. Because we already have the destination retailing. We just don’t help it out very much.
Anawan/Poacasset Street and Water Street/Ponta Delgada Boulevard. Ground zero. Open-air the falls. Like New Bedford, we can have our own “cobblestone” district and like Providence, we already do have our own Riverwalk. Like Newburyport, we can have our own destination shopping district and like Newport, we can attract people who are just trying to spend money.
Yes, we can. Not with the wave of a wand, but by bringing together property owners, developers and retailers (and some government grants, yes) to share a vision of the future. What I am not talking about is massive urban renewal (aside from the waterfall).
I’m talking about a vision and a plan. I’m talking about using the Gates area not as another park, but as a buildable lot. About any kind of tax credit that is required to convert street-level mill space into sidewalk-accessible storefronts. I’m talking about asking the Chamber of Commerce to relocate, about a SRTA trolley run.
I’m talking about using a pile of exiting resources to our best advantage. And I don’t give a rat’s butt who gets rich doing it.
With the roadwork, lighting of the bridge, and the fact that we already support the kinds of retailers that would be required – it can be done. It takes more than money, though. It takes vision. It requires Fall River to bust a move unlike any move it’s busted before.
And maybe it’ll save downtown.
Okay, I know. Talk is cheap. But at least I’m not criticizing anyone. My point is that many people in Fall River do not think that the city is a place where people will visit and spend money. Except people do visit Fall River to spend money. And we could increase that – by a lot.
My point is that it’s possible. I’ve heard that at least two of those mills on Anawan Street could change hands at the right price. We have plenty of cobblestones. And we have plenty of what people want. We just have to package it better.
It can be done. Simple point.