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Downtown says goodbye to businesses as vacancies increase

If you’re a Bowling Green resident, chances are you frequent downtown all the time. Next time you’re there, look around a bit.

Have you noticed the more than 20 vacant spaces throughout downtown and lining Main Street? Just last month Skyline Chili and Cosmos added to the desolation by closing their doors.

The increase in vacancies have some wondering if the economic decline of Ohio – the kind politicians have directed our attention to in recent years – has finally laid hand on downtown Bowling Green.

Local business owners don’t think so, and most openly welcome the change.

Long-time owner of Cycle Werks David Pickering said that in his case, making it downtown is more about finding one’s niche in a specific industry and less about the economy in the large sense.

Having been in business for 25 years at 248 S. Main St., Pickering has been witness to competition with greater longevity than his die out and move on.

After opening Cycle Werks, Pickering saw the end of a nearby bicycle shop that had over 30 years under its belt, and just last year, Beartooth Mountaineering, a sports gear and equipment shop from Sylvania, Ohio, closed its doors after only two years on Main Street.

Greg Halamay, owner of Finders Records ‘amp; Tapes, said the changes to the area in the past 10 years have largely been positive, noting the benefits of Heritage 2000, a group founded in the ’90s to boost tax support for revitalization efforts in the downtown district.

‘Things go in cycles, and transitions are usually good,’ said Halamay, whose store has been serving media lovers since 1971.

Heritage 2000 quickly adopted a statewide program to better the downtown region, known as Main Street Bowling Green, which, according to its Web site, is a non-profit organization that works with the city and business owners ‘to expand the Central Business District as a viable business, cultural and recreational locale for the City of Bowling Green.’

Earlene Kilpatrick, director of Main Street BG, stressed its program is so far a success and certainly doesn’t see eminent doom in the district’s future.

And while more vacancies exist this year than last, Kilpatrick chalks it up to the cyclical nature of business trends. She said the coming and going of businesses isn’t unexpected and is quick to point out that there are more reasons at fault for what appears to be a cold shift in the area market.

Owners face retirement, personal health issues and relocation, which are all reasons to see businesses go, Kilpatrick said.

And recent closings are not indicative of a declining economy.

Still others, like Charles Peckinpaugh, would like to see Main’s unused space put to good use, and soon.

‘(These buildings) need to have occupancy, by nature, to draw in various things,’ said Peckinpaugh, owner of Studio 157, a business that does everything from sell cameras to frame pictures.

Pickering agreed with the sentiment, but feels that the vitality and attractiveness of Main Street is also lost on store-front businesses not offering goods or services. Commercial buildings, like the one next to Cycle Werks that serves as a non-public banking archive, are hindering downtown, according to Pickering.

‘People don’t want to come to Bowling Green and shop if it’s just a bunch of offices and professional buildings – that’s not what brings people downtown,’ he said.

Kilpatrick said that a few retailers and restaurants are currently looking into prospective downtown locations, and mentioned interest in a Civil War museum as a possible occupant in the future.

‘I’m very optimistic in the fact that we’ll see a majority of these vacancies filled,’ said Kilpatrick.

The Skyline building is being remodeled under new ownership and is planned to reopen as a pub.

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