A children’s store has turned into a boutique bakery. A longtime donut shop transformed into a to-go lunch counter. A former office supply store is being remade into a miniature mall modeled after a Roman courtyard.
As some older businesses close along Commercial Street, worrying some of an emptying downtown, an influx of replacements has been changing the fabric.
Eryn Tomlinson and Jackson Boone started out in a small cart on 11th Street near City Hall, until their location went up for sale. The couple was hesitant, but took the leap in November and built out a new storefront for Nourish Juice Bar at the eastern edge of downtown inside the Astor Hotel Building, next to a new housewares shop called Chariot.
“I didn’t know how we were going to do in the cart throughout the winter,” Tomlinson said. “I think it would have been rough. Here, it’s been kind of a nice place for people to come get out of the rain.”
Locals were distraught when Lindstrom’s Danish Maid, a staple since 1986, closed in 2015 after the hospitalization and eventual death of co-owner and baker John Lindstrom. The shop’s replacement, Good to Go, has seen a positive response and a strong showing since opening six months ago, said owners Heidi and Daniel Dlubac.
People have to remember that even Lindstrom’s replaced previous businesses, Heidi Dlubac said.
“I feel like the new businesses have helped fill a need,” she said of new shops like the juice bar. “These are businesses that cater to the tourists and locals.”
Since Lindstrom’s closing, two new boutique bakeries have opened along Commercial Street, including Table 360 Bakery & Bistro in the former Curious Caterpillar children’s store, and Aleesha Nedd’s shop The Naked Lemon in the Spexarth Building on the west end of downtown.
Nedd, 27, who grew up in Astoria, moved away for college and came back, said there’s a lot more going on downtown now than when she was a teenager.
“I just think there’s room for a lot of what people are interested in now,” she said, adding she sees a lot of growth in the local food scene.
The Pawnshop and More, opened in the former A Gypsy’s Whimsy Herbal Apothecary, faced somewhat of a backlash over the store’s gun sales. But owner Gary Hunter and Manager Jon Shivers said the community reaction to the store has so far been positive, and even was helped by the publicity. The pawn shop’s opening in Astoria was partially driven by the number of coastal residents traveling to his location in Longview, Washington, Hunter said.
A Gypsy’s Whimsy moved across Commercial Street, and a similar store, Kit’s Apothecary, opened to the east on the same block, next to cosmetics store Muse Beauty Bar.
After the antique store Posey-Reed moved from Commercial to 10th Street, Fruffels co-owners David Kiedrowski and Thomas Lawler saw an opportunity to escape the escalating rents of Cannon Beach, moving their boutique department store to Astoria last summer.
New businesses hoping to make it downtown need to find a niche to avoid recreating what other stores do, Kiedrowski said, adding that downtown needs to look at an illustrated street map of businesses for visitors.
Since the closing of Adagio last week, Hobson Building co-owner Miriam Rose said she’s had a lot of interest in the space, and already has a new type of retail business close to signing a lease.
“Old moving out and new moving in is usually a positive,” Rose said.
After Abeco downsized from its expansive storefront on Commercial Street to the former Link’s Outdoor store just west, Portland vintage dealer Bill Hicks acquired the building. He hopes to reopen the former Abeco as soon as April as Astor Court, a miniature mall he is building for all types of businesses too small for their own full-scale storefronts.
“I can see how in the wintertime, without the tourists, it’s hard to keep the Main Street alive,” Hicks said, adding he hopes the smaller spaces can help smaller businesses remain viable.
Representatives from the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association have cautioned patience when looking at the closing and opening of businesses. Sarah Lu Heath, the association’s executive director, has pointed to new projects such as the two buildings at Ninth and Commercial streets formerly owned by Mary Louise Flavel being purchased and refurbished by new owners as signs that downtown is progressing. Wild Roots Movement & Massage recently opened in the M&N Building being refurbished by Michelle and Marcus Liotta, with jewelry store Terra Stones following soon.
The success of development on Commercial Street has also spurred more activity off the main drag in places like the Astoria Riverwalk and Duane Street, Heath said.
“The core of downtown is important, and its success has led to the expansion of those boundaries off of Commercial,” she said. “We’re having some turnover, but that’s natural.”