Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The New Portside

Today's Blade poses the question, "can the market make it?" With the eleventh manager in ten years, one wonders if we would do any worse if Paris Hilton was driving the bus. While the savior has changed names from 5/3rd Field to the new arena, the idea is the same - the masses generated by the new entertainment will flock to the market. Let's face it, when people are done with a hockey game, they're not going to walk to the market to do some shopping at 10:30 at night.

To the paper's credit, they make the point that the market must draw folks away from the "strip malls or suburban markets." While it's true that you can't offer the same thing as a supermarket, or a strip mall, and expect people to come downtown, that's the very reason the market is doomed to fail.

Once upon a time, shopping malls were a prospering entity across the nation. Record stores, pharmacies, curio shops, and the inevitable Spencer's were ready to serve people from all walks of life, offering in one convenient place most everything outside of groceries and durable goods. Then, along came a little invention we'll call "W-cubed." Withing a few years, the speciality markets that made up so much of the mall were gone, marketing their goods on-line and reducing their overhead at the same time. As more demands were made on people's time, driving to a mall, finding parking, and walking around to get that new cassette (what came before CD's for all you children out there) just wasn't possible. As a result, stores pulled out, and malls went under. The only malls that are succeeding today are those catering to an upscale market - with convenient parking and proactive security. Only those with the time and money to browse are going to make a fiscal success possible. That demographic doesn't want to surf online to find their goods, and are unconcerned about the price tag, so a high overhead is not such a great concern.

Such was the atmosphere Portside entered into. While attempting to bank on "unique" items, the fiscal reality was that the rent per square foot was beyond the ability of any store to pay. The reason everyone expected Portside to succeed? The convention center was going to bring hordes of people downtown. Did it happen? Well, even COSI is failing fiscally there - and this is a genuine "family" attraction. Portside lacked convenient parking, and the upscale lady of the home didn't feel safe going downtown.

The Erie Street Market will not succeed unless there is a residential foundation in the vicinity. Poor parking will not allow for the numbers needed to succeed there marketing in a strip-mall fashion. Trying to thrive on "unique" items will lead the market down the path of Portside - stores will be competing with on-line companies to sell to the masses, and the elite don't want to fight the traffic, parking, and hassle of downtown, not when there are other options.

The only thing that the Erie Street Market has going for it are good intentions, and the wallets of Toledo. While good intentions are nice, they don't pay the bills. Sadly, until the leaders of Toledo are willing to shoot the horse with the broken leg, the citizens will have to saddle up and pay the vet.


Lisa Renee said...

Well written post, I was reading about what Columbus did with a similar market place and they have been more successful but as you aptly pointed out I think the difference for Columbus is more residents near that location.

The main draw for most people to the Erie Street Market is the Glass Outlet, especially now there is very little reason to visit. My last walk through was very discouraging compared to what used to be there before.

Hooda Thunkit said...


A flawless analysis, bravo!