By: Nicole Ogrysko
Six new stores are coming to downtown Ithaca this spring, as two local business owners are looking to revitalize the empty spaces in the old Ithaca Journal building.
John Guttridge and David Kuckuck, partners of Urban Core, LLC, hope to bring new life to the businesses left abandoned after many owners were forced to close during the economic recession in 2008.
“The way that retail is done at a local level is changing,” Guttridge said. “Why would you go to Blockbuster when there’s Netflix available? Why would you go to Borders when there’s Amazon? Ultimately, what people are looking for in a shopping experience is different. They’re looking for something that you can’t get online, something that you want to touch and hold in your hands before you buy it.”
Their first store, Life’s So Sweet Chocolates, opened last week in the redeveloped warehouse.
When they purchased the warehouse in March, Guttridge said they were encouraged to demolish the area and build parking, but they saw the space as a place for downtown shopping.
The plan is to redevelop the alleyway off of Green Street into tiny retail stores with 265 square feet, as opposed to the 1,100 square feet spaces that are typically found on the Commons, Guttridge said. The alley will allow for open air shopping and conditioned spaces depending on the whether for a year round operation.
Guttridge and Kuckuk are looking for tenants now and hope to find a local cafe owner to open one of their first spaces. The ideal tenant would stay open year round for about six days a week, Guttridge said. The partners plan to sign leases in the coming months, construct during the winter and open in the spring.
“We’re also trying to provide a cool shopping experience or a cool dining or cafe experience,” he said. “We’re really looking for people who are sort of a micro-business, with one or two employees who are selling things that are compelling or different.”
Though some residents said the plan seems promising, they are concerned about finding parking the area near the new stores.
“I think it could be cool,” local Steve Gattine said. “It depends a lot on what they end up putting there. The parking obviously isn’t wonderful down here.”
For now, Guttridge hopes his new stores will cater to shoppers looking to buy local and support a growing Ithaca economy.
“Between what we’re doing here and a number of other downtown projects, this is a really exciting time to be downtown.”