As a former small business owner I sympathize with the struggles of small businesses competing with large box stores with plenty of free parking and their large selection for consumers to choose from.
But to revive downtowns has been unsuccessful for decades now, but now and then you read of a town trying to bring their downtowns back to life sometimes with some success at first, then empty store fronts again.
Look how many times downtown Salisbury has tried to revive the Plaza, Dover, Milton, Seaford. Unless you are located near the boardwalk at the beaches your chance of surviving as a small business is odds on against your success.
A decade ago Seaford received a grant to change up their downtown with new underground lights, brick cross walks, and a new design in parking. A director was hired to bring businesses back to the old district with some success; now a string of empty stores.
Now the state is throwing more money to three communities out of 9 who applies for some $50 million in grants to start the process over again. Congratulations to Seaford for being one of those three selected, and I wish them all the success in the world.
However I am not betting on any long term success. Seaford has an vacant Nylon Capital Shopping Centre that was once the pride of western Sussex, another complex on U.S. 13 with vacant stores including a former Sears anchor.
In my experience as a former Economic Development Director for Sussex County, we learned downtowns would never be the experience we saw in the late 50’s before the malls with their bristling dress and men’s shops, drug stores, grocery stores, but could have limited success with service stores, as in a law office, small deli, insurance offices some of which are located downtown Seaford, but these stores don’t draw the foot traffic to entice retail business.
You need the banks, drug stores, the Family Dollar, or Dollar General, larger businesses to attract the foot traffic that will walk to the other stores while they are shopping the larger stores in that same business district.