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Bill Radke: Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, Conn. has been called Rodeo Drive East. It was once home to Mom and Pop stores, and a Woolworth’s. Then Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany moved in. Stores could afford to be posh because Greenwich has been swimming in hedge fund and Wall Street money. But lately, some of that money has vanished. So Marketplace’s Amy Scott took a walk down the Avenue.
Amy Scott: The first signs that all is not well on Greenwich Avenue are the “space available” and “moving” notices in store windows.
Two doors down from one empty space, Marty Novel manages Little Eric. It’s a high-end children’s shoe store just off the Avenue. He shows me a pair of knee-high black boots.
Marty Novel: This is a fashion boot. Looks like Mommy’s boot, or you know . . .
Scott: So how much would something like that go for?
Novel: I think it’s $169.
Only $85 on sale. Novel says this is the first time in his six years as manager that business hasn’t grown.
Novel: Some of our cruise shoes and sandals aren’t selling as well because a lot of people I hear are not taking as many vacations.
Up the street, David Goldsmith runs Manfredi Jewels. He says as many as half his customers are tied to the finance industry. They’re not spending as much these days.
David Goldsmith: There are clients who last year or 2007, for Christmas season may have spent, let’s say $30,000 as a round number. And this year, maybe they spent $10 [thousand] or $15,000. Still an extraordinarily generous gift, but not at the scale that it was last year.
Nearby, a new restaurant aims to attract a newly thrifty clientele. Townsend Wentz is Morello Bistro’s executive chef:
Townsend Wentz: Sort of the market that we’re looking at is being able to provide great service and great food, but at a reasonable price. And it’s never been more appropriate than right now in the economy.
So, what exactly is reasonable in Greenwich?
Wentz: An entree for us is average about $25, $26.
It’s all relative, I guess. It’s easy to poke fun at Greenwich, which is pricey even when it’s on sale. But the Avenue is having real problems. High rents and the consumer slowdown have driven several national chains away.
Lin Lavery sits on the town board:
Lin Lavery: Major retailers that have left are the Gap, we’ve also just lost Ann Taylor, Borders. Banana Republic is gone, that’s another one that just left in the past couple of months.
On the bright side, there is more parking. And Lavery hopes the vacancies will allow new locally-owned stores to move in.
In Greenwich, Conn., I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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