Lagging business in downtown Hagerstown led to recent decisions to close two of the city's iconic downtown shops in favor of shopping-center locations on the outskirts of the city, business owners said this week.
R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, a downtown merchant since 1902, ended retail activity at its shop on the square July 1, moving all sales to its Stonehouse Square store off Leitersburg Pike, owner Tom Newcomer said. That store, at 12814-G Shank Farm Way, opened in 2008.
Lena's of Hagerstown, a clothing boutique at 59 N. Potomac St., will soon make a similar move. On Oct. 1, after more than 50 years at its downtown site, Lena's will close its downtown store and move to 1303 Pennsylvania Ave., the former site of Benjamins Art Gallery, Manager Lori Ruda said.
For the jewelry store, the decision may be a temporary one, Newcomer said. R. Bruce Carson Jewelers did renew its five-year lease effective July 1, but for now is using the site only for a bookkeeping office and as workspace for one of its jewelers, he said.
"The thought was the downtown really wasn't doing the business versus the new store, and so essentially we thought we would just for now, sort of put it on hiatus, if you will, and ... we would see what would happen with the downtown a little bit before we would take any further action," Newcomer said.
For Ruda, the decision to move Lena's was a matter of survival.
"We realize this is kind of an icon, so we struggled with that ... but it's gotten to a point where we either move or consider the less-desirable option," she said.
She said the downturn in the economy has hurt sales, but so has the atmosphere downtown.
"It's just totally dead," she said. "There's no draw downtown anymore."
Of the businesses promoted as "The Uptown Shoppes of Downtown Hagerstown" on a mural on the side of the Lena's building, many are already gone, Ruda said.
"We've kind of hung in there," she said.