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TELL US: What Would Make Main Street Better?

Patch wants to know what you would like to see on Main Street?

It seems that every time you turn around lately, there's news of a new business opening on Main Street in downtown Manchester. 

But, there's also no shortage of empty store fronts to be found on Main Street. And a host of retail, dining and entertainment options that the area lacks or could benefit from.

So Patch wants to know what you would like to see on Main Street? What's missing? What could be improved on? And what do you enjoy most about Main Street at the moment? 

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salk February 24, 2013 at 01:53 PM
retail, a bakery, a drug store, the post office.. Main Street can not be just eateries, and offices.
maureen February 24, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Needs a good drug store and also a good retail . Also important is a post office. This would help with getting people to shop and walk main street.
mary February 24, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Main street needs more commerce and infrastructure to encourage people to hang out for awhile. My suggestions: coffee shop, bookstore, toyshop, ice cream place, and benches on the sidewalk. I'd also lose the angled parking and replace it with parallel parking with a bike lane to make Main St. more bike friendly. Those angled spaces are a nightmare for cyclists. There's plenty of parking behind the buildings.
John Poutre February 24, 2013 at 02:48 PM
First, upgrade the library as proposed recently. You need people to go to that area, take out the library, you take out a good amount of people. And a national drug store, like CVS or Walgreens. Maybe not realistic as both have presence in town, but still would be nice if they would be down there.
jpk February 24, 2013 at 03:13 PM
brighter lighting along sidewalks and crosswalks. More clearly defined crosswalks that are visible at night. establish code standards for store front appearance. Develop a progressive dinner or lunch format involving the restaurants. This would get people moving from site to site along Main Street.
Nikki Arel February 24, 2013 at 03:38 PM
I'd love to see: shops open on Sundays; a coffee-bar that is open through the late afternoon hours when most of the breakfast/lunch places close and the dinner spots are not yet open; a drugstore would be convenient; maybe having the police on foot or bicycle; better lighting at night. My business is on Main Street and although there is a decent amount of foot traffic through the day, the nights are a bit dark. As a female, leaving the office after 8 PM many nights, I would like to see better lighting. For sure, things to keep: the variety of breakfast spots, the FREE parking!!!!, the long-term businesses, the number of banks, the (one) gas pump location, the library, the park, the quick light changes overall.
Jim Brochu February 24, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Saturday night "Blacktop Hops" in the Forest Street lot to benefit various Manchester causes (MARC, MACC etc.) would be cool. I, for one, would be proud to donate my DJ services for this. . .
Jen Bergin February 24, 2013 at 04:04 PM
A record shop, bookstore, clothing boutique, - something to bring people in and let them shop for a while. Also, more friendly parking regulations. Getting a ticket for staying too long on Main Street is not very inviting.
Jerry O'Connor February 24, 2013 at 06:11 PM
The two-hour parking limit is insane and counter productive. (If I want to have lunch downtown then browse a gallery, do some shopping, get a haircut, etc. I run the risk of getting a parking ticket because I stayed downtown too long!) Eliminate it and require tenants and business owners and employees to keep their cars in the ample off-street lots leaving the street parking for patrons. (This CAN be done!) And stop reminiscing about how Downtown was back in the 60's -- those days are DONE and cannot be brought back. Think instead about what kind of things will keep Downtown relevant and financially stable over the next quarter century. Don't think "outside the box," just throw the darn box away. How about a community consignment shop that would turn a portion of the profits over to local non-profits? People love to browse at tag sales and I hear the Historical Society will no longer be holding theirs. Specialty restaurants and shops will work -- anyone offering things people can't get anywhere else. But let's not encourage entrepreneurs that don't have sound business plans and adequate financial resources to meet the building codes and give themselves time to get established. Otherwise we'll just keep turning over the empty store fronts and other potential business tennants will be scared away.
Annette Peck February 24, 2013 at 07:03 PM
A main street needs several different kinds of stores. I agree, we should have a post office again on Main street and a drugstore. What about some kind of quaint general store or gift shop with a soda fountain and icecream or frozen yogurt. A coffee or bagel shop is a good idea. Why not ask Ken Kaplan of Kaplan computers to open a second store on Main street or some kind of electronic store. A bakery isn't a bad idea either. Keep the library on Main street.
Caryn Clifford February 24, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Walgreens and Medicine Shoppe are just a few blocks up on Main and Middle so I doubt another chain would want to open in Downtown. Landmark Cafe is now open into the evening so that's a great place to get coffee and pastries (and it has also started serving alcohol). I would like a small specialty grocer like Trader Joe's and an ice cream shop. I think a Ben & Jerry's would do really well. A specialty clothing store would be great but it would have to have good word of mouth and advertising to do well. I'm not sure what kind of rent the buildings on Main St are charging but is it too much for the business that comes through? Can the town help out with this? I think events like the first Thursdays are great and will probably draw even more people in the warmer months. How about a food truck event that will bring different flavors to the area?
Nutmegger February 24, 2013 at 08:29 PM
If people are going to continue to oppose the Mary Cheney expansion, I would love to see the town buy the Watkins Building and renovate the interior to make it a library. Assuming the structure could support the weight of the books (which should be easy enough to ensure with some reinforcement), I can easily see some walls being knocked down and turned into an open-floored library like the Raymond Library in East Hartford. There aren't enough offices in there at the moment to continue having that building anchor Main Street. It takes up a huge amount of space and could do so much better as a lively community center than continuing as the cold, half-empty space it is now. I think the loss of the post office (now the Weiss Building) and then the smaller satellite on the west side of the street meant one less draw for people to go downtown. Some type of public service building in that vein would be good. The contract office from the church turned too many people off due to its management, so a truly public facility -- again, it doesn't have to be a post office -- might help. (continued...)
Nutmegger February 24, 2013 at 08:30 PM
There is no nightlife on Main Street. That is perhaps its biggest issue. Instead of getting yet another breakfast spot (what is that businessperson thinking?), we need a coffeehouse with live music and more outdoor seating. In the late '80s and early '90s, they used to project family-friendly movies onto the big wall at the Forest Street parking lot. Bring that back to bring more families downtown.
jmf February 24, 2013 at 11:30 PM
A wine bar, tapas place. A toy store and book store. Also a nice woman's and children's boutique would be great.
Brian Hurlburt February 24, 2013 at 11:30 PM
A camera shop, a coffee bar, a men's store that sells quality clothing and shoes, a Bourbon bar, a wine bar. I mean no disrespect, but we don't need more stores selling low quality goods. The issue really is if Main Street can support any of our recommendations.
Cristian Barco February 24, 2013 at 11:51 PM
Maybe a new electronics store would be inviting or even better a nice pawn shop to add flavor. 2 hour parking I agree should be eliminated as well as that is an unfriendly approach to revitalizing downtown.
Nicholas DuBaldo February 25, 2013 at 12:57 AM
Jerry, If a customer receives a ticket for exceeding the 2 hour parking limit, they can bring the ticket back to whichever business they were patronizing and the ticket will be dissolved. Currently, business owners, employees and tenants are required to purchase either a long or short-term parking pass each month (or a 6 month block) and they are also required to park only in specially designated areas of certain parking lots. Unfortunately, some people feel that these rules shouldn't apply to them and selfishly park in spots reserved for customers. I also second your thoughts about encouraging entrepreneurs who have solid business plans and financial resources. I would like to see some sort of entrepreneurial resource available to guide potential businesses toward success or at least make sure they understand the logistics of making a business work, that it's not just opening your doors for business and having money come pouring in.
Jerry O'Connor February 25, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Nick: I know how the system works… I used to own a business on Main Street. But…. The Two-Hour Limit scares people away (no time limit at the Mall!) and there is virtually no enforcement on the owners/employees/tenants rule. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for entrepreneurs (okay, I may be biased, I’ve been a member since 1975 and my wife works there), ane they can bring a lot of other resources (retired execs who consult for free, real estate professionals, experts in specific retail areas, accountants and bookkeepers, IT folks, media and marketing pros, etc. and they can help arrange meetings with the Town and utility folks at convenient times so that a potential new business owner can see the full picture before they jump in.
M. Troy February 25, 2013 at 04:39 AM
A drugstore, Willys type of rest. aRegals type store and don't roll up the sidewalks at six. There is 2 bakerys on main 1 Idon't really know if you can call it a bakery Brass Key and another up the street but they don't advertise much. A all around gift shopould be nice etc.
Joel Mrosek February 25, 2013 at 11:53 AM
The comments above are thoughtful and on the mark. I will offer one more suggestion. I think we need to attract "anchor" type owners or tenants. Main St needs major employers to move the jobs to Main St and keep them there. If Manchester Memorial Hospital, Town Offices etc... can be persuaded to locate on Main St, that will create the demand for the secondary uses, like flower shops etc.. Main St needs people who work on Main St to support the businesses. The Town should move offices to Main St and encourage major employers to do the same. And then maybe the vitality will justify the comedy club I want!
tina bourke February 25, 2013 at 02:02 PM
I think it was UCONN had free seminars on how to write business plans, surveying the population, funding studies on approximate length of time businesses may turn a profit and need for savings, stats on success, or failure, resources, competition, costs for advertising, stats on trends etc. I thought if we could class it up a bit. The lights on the polls at Christmas time need to be brighter although I like the decor itself. Sept. thru Dec., are usually high retail months. I sort of see a redundancy of well, second hand shops? If they are doing good and bringing traffic fine but just saying. Night life other then taverns would be good. Something perhaps family oriented like the store with the really big car race track. Some may not recall as it is going back a bit. Technology store would be good for sure. We have the MCC arts center with comedy, music, movies but no consistency on signage? I always thought of a beautiful cement wedge at the intersection at the top of Main right in the middle of the road with bright beautiful flowers planted in it. Take the parking lot by the old S&H store or Forest, Main and have an Italian fest or ethic fest to bring folks downtown?
Christy driscoll February 25, 2013 at 02:20 PM
I agree totally with a lot of the ideas for Main Street said previously. Manchester should take a look at Stafford Springs downtown. A few years ago it was a ghost town with one or 2 restaurants, and now it is a vibrant downtown with restaurants, artist space, bars, ice cream shops, parks, a theater etc. It has a great, authentic feel that took advantage of the spaces they had such as old mills. It is used and the businesses seem to be busy and thriving. Special services/downtown committee should definitely talk to the planners who helped develop Stafford!.
tina bourke February 25, 2013 at 02:30 PM
One after thought is perhaps collaborate with Manchester Community College where it is a win, win for the student and the potential business owner. Perhaps students could get credit, not money, for helping potential business owners learn how to do plans, etc.
LSpaulding February 25, 2013 at 07:09 PM
What about something like they did in Burlington Vermont where they closed a road to vehicles and have a bunch of shops and restaurants? I love going there, Portsmouth NH, Portland ME - they have great stores and restaurants - mostly independent, artists galleries. Sad we don't have anything like that in Connecticut really, let alone Manchester.

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