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Vacancies Disappear as Downtown Westport Booms

WESTPORT, Conn. – Nike, Theory, Kate Spade — these are some of the retailers that have planted roots on Westport's Main Street in the past year. Whether residents like these shops or not, they've helped eliminate several longstanding vacancies that once lined the street.

"All these building being filled creates revenue," said Westport developer David Waldman, president of David Adam Realty. "That great revenue base offsets the tax dollars we're forced to spend. That's why we're not Weston — we have a commercial base that generates revenue to offset the expenses to run the town."

Since last December, seven new businesses have sprung up on Main Street alone. In addition to Nike, Theory and Kate Spade, they include Custom Sleep Design, Benefit Cosmetics, Calypso St. Barth and Jack Wills. On Dec. 8, West Elm, a contemporary furniture and home décor store, will make it eight.

The opening of these new shops came in addition to the reopening of Brooks Brothers Women and the Gap, which moved to 125 Main St. Waldman said several of the new additions on Main Street were made possible because of the Gap's relocation.

"Gap moving was the greatest thing to happen downtown," Waldman said. "They moved their Main Street shops into one vertical building that was doing nothing, and those big spaces the Gap occupied were cut up, helping create a better retail mix."

Although the newest shops on Main Street have drawn plenty of attention, downtown, as a whole, has seen an uptick in new businesses over the past year.

Just last month, Spruce Home & Garden breathed new life into the Old Town Hall at 90 Post Road E. Within the past two weeks, Mixology, a trendy woman's apparel store, opened at 151 Post Road E. In March, Westport native Michele Stuart set up shop at 180 Post Road E., turning the former home of Baskin Robbins into Michele's Pies.

Bob LeRose, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and owner of the Main Street restaurant Bobby Q's, said this boom is the most he has seen downtown in years.

"There's been a lot of activity lately and it's all very positive," said LeRose. "In my seven years here, I don't think we've seen turnover like this."

Waldman, who has lived in Westport his entire life, agreed with LeRose. He said Main Street is almost completely ocupied, with only three vacancies remaining. Before all these businesses opened, the number of vacancies on Main Street was probably the highest it has been in the past 15 years, he added.

And the downtown boom isn't over. Several more businesses, including Urban Outfitters, a restaurant at the renovated Sherwood House and Art's Delicatessen, are expected to open over the next several months.

"I think it's a sign that our town is very attractive to business owners," LeRose said. "I think it's another signal that our downtown is strong. The fact that we're able to attract the caliber of retailers we've attracted is a very clear message. It can only get better from here."

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