Jul 16, 2010 Ami Olson Uncategorized
The interior of the McAurther, Cooney and Wirth building is still under construction, but the sign is mounted and hiring has begun for the Armory Square Urban Outfitters store, expected to open Aug. 19.
To shoppers, the Walton Street storefront will mean three floors of hip, affordable men’s and women’s clothing and a mix of eclectic furnishings and incidentals, mostly geared toward 18- to 30-year-olds, (think “apartmentwares,” not “housewares”). But for the overall downtown economy, the presence of the international chain will provide both an anchor to the Armory Square business district and a sort of jumping-off point for consumers who may not have ventured downtown to shop before.
David Mankiewicz, executive director of the Downtown Committee and Centerstate CEO senior VP, said with the opening of UO comes a sense of validation.
“Twenty-five years ago, the first Armory Square pioneers were going in there, and work was just getting started.” Mankiewicz said. “They’ve built Armory Square into a place where a major retail store says, ‘this is somewhere we have to be.'”
Part of the neighborhood’s charm is that the overwhelming majority of businesses are locally-owned and independent. There are currently only a handful of national chains in the Armory Square neighborhood, among them, Starbucks, Subway and Hugo Boss.
Business leaders recognize that to keep the boutique feel, a balance must be maintained between independent businesses and national retailers.
“Our goal will be to keep positive mix with lots of local stores and local flavor, because that’s what is really important,” Mankiewicz said.
An anchor to build around
Urban Outfitters’ presence in Armory isn’t adding a competitor, Mankiewicz said, and by and large the existing independent business owners agree.
Instead, it brings name recognition and an anchor to the neighborhood, a destination for out-of-towners or for students to come down off the hill. The idea is that once they venture downtown, guided by the UO glow, consumers will discover the independent retail shops and restaurants and will keep coming back.
But Mankiewicz is quick to point out that the addition is a give and take.
“I think we can also say that Armory Square is going to be good for Urban Outfitters, too,” he said, “It’s a great environment for them to come into.”
Not the only new kid on the block
When Urban Outfitters unleashes its hipster-cool onto Syracuse next month, just as students are flooding back in for fall semester, it will join the ranks of more than a dozen new businesses in Syracuse.
La Taqueria, on Clinton St., opened for business Monday July 12 and didn’t even have time for a soft opening.
John Vigliotti, who co-owns La Taq with his father Frank, estimated the tex-mex joint had served upwards of 250 customers Monday, thanks in large part to a lunch crowd with a big appetite.
“And we didn’t even advertise — we didn’t hand out one menu (prior to opening),” Vigliotti said.
John and Frank Vigliotti are no strangers to the food business. Frank opened Franco’s Pizza in Camillus in the 1980s, and since then the family has added Peppino’s Pizza and Dolce Vita to its repertoire.
The progress in Armory Square is exciting, as is Urban Outfitters’ arrival, John said.
“I’m extremely happy they’re moving here, it’s going to be an incredible draw,” he said.
Life after UO
Restaurants are often recognized as the first sign of a rebounding economy, but the slew of new eateries may soon be followed by more big-name retail interest.
According to Mankiewicz, while Urban Outfitters representatives were shopping for the right Syracuse space, they hinted that a group of seven or eight other national retail chains typically show interest in the areas UO chooses to set up shop — they let Urban test the waters first — though the reps wouldn’t drop any names.
Want to help drive development downtown?
“It’s really all about where you choose to spend your dollars.” Mankiewicz said, whether its dining, shopping or enjoying cultural opportunities.
“Support them. Support them, support them — they’re new and we want to keep them.”