In for a Dollar

21Nov14

The mystery is over and the rumors were true.

cvs_oldIt’s now official that Dollar Tree has signed a lease agreement and will be filling the long-vacant spot at 376-378 Main St. in downtown Wakefield formerly occupied by CVS.

We should welcome our new neighbor. Anything would have been better than nothing in that prime retail space, which has been empty for years, and Dollar Tree is better than a lot of the possible uses that could have gone in there.

Of course, there are those who will turn up their noses at Dollar Tree, preferring the look of some high-end boutique that they could patronize maybe once or twice a year and then wonder why the store couldn’t make it.

But our snootier neighbors need not despair. There is still other retail space available on that block and elsewhere in the downtown. Anyone is free to approach the owner about leasing space for a cheese shop, trendy book store or upscale coffee and wine bar – as long as they can stomach watching as the plebeians flock by on their way to Dollar Tree.
main_street_sixties
I know, I know. The discount “five and dime” stores that once existed in every downtown in America and were good enough for our parents and grandparents shouldn’t necessarily be good enough for us. We can do better. Except that “we” didn’t spend $1.6 million to purchase the property. And “we” didn’t spend the entire past year trying to find a viable tenant capable of paying rent on a piece of prime downtown retail space.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has already given the property owner the needed parking relief for a range of potential uses for the building. All that remains to be worked out is signage and sprucing up the façade.

The building owner has already met with local representatives of Wakefield’s fledgling Main Street Program. One of the communities showcased as an example of a successfully revitalized downtown is Beverly, Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Wakefield brought the executive director of Beverly’s Main Street Program to Wakefield to give us a pep talk about that city’s downtown success story.

family_dollarCan you guess what kind of store Beverly has at 224 Cabot St., right in its attractive downtown? If you guessed a dollar store, you would be right! And there’s another one right in downtown Newburyport, that low-rent dump. Apparently, a dollar store was good enough for them, too.

Dollar Tree will be a solid retail anchor for the downtown and will draw foot traffic to the square. More foot traffic and activity is good for all downtown businesses. It’s also good for attracting new businesses – maybe even that future coffee and wine bar.

[This column originally appeared in the November 20, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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