ITHACA, N.Y. — After being in business for 18 years, the store Jabberwock is closing its doors for the last time on Friday after the owner says she could never recoup the losses she suffered during the years of Commons construction.
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Arden Russo said the shop — which sells locally made art, hookahs, and jewelry, among other things — moved last year from the Commons to West State Street, a few doors down from the State Theatre. But still, she said, it was not enough to pay off the debt she incurred during the construction.
“My business was a $300,000 business,” she said.
Jabberwock was located in a 3,000 square-foot storefront and employed seven people whom she paid $13 to 14 per hour before construction began.
She said Thursday night that she’s had to let go of all her employees and the shop is now located in a small area, just bigger than a walk-in closet.
“I think there was zero help that was given to us,” she said, noting that her rent went up three times during the construction.
She questioned how she could have coped with those raises when there were times pedestrians couldn’t even access her store. She also said that one-of-a-kind glass ornaments, worth hundreds of dollars each, constantly fell off shelves as jackhammers went off non-stop outside her shop. Her insurance did not cover the damages.
Russo said she worked 15-hour days, seven days a week to make her business a success, hoping it would be something successful she could pass on to her children.
“It was part of our life,” she said.
The store will open for the last time at 11 a.m. Friday and close at 8 p.m. A Jabberwock in Binghamton will still be open at 44 Court St.
Jabberwock is not the first store to go out of business and blame Commons construction.
In April, Natalie’s Boutique and The Potter’s Room said that declines in traffic forced them to close. Bloom in Ithaca, a children’s clothing store, also closed around the same time.
Declines in foot traffic hit over 60 percent of Commons businesses in 2014 , according to a Downtown Ithaca Alliance report obtained by The Voice.
But city officials have pointed out that the vacancy rate of the Commons is much lower than before construction.
In a previous article, Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said the Commons is averaging about a 5 percent vacancy rate. The typical range in the vacancy rate is between 3 percent and 8 or 9 percent, according to Ferguson. (The DIA measures vacancy rate by square footage.)
“Every year, we have businesses that come and go,” Ferguson said at the time. “This year is no different. Are there going to be one or two more than normal? Maybe. But we’re talking a couple, we’re not talking a dozen.”
The following was reported about business in the Commons last year, before construction was completed:
We called a handful of other Ithaca Commons businesses to see how they’re doing. From those other interviews:
— Gorgers Taco Shack
Traffic is really slow on the Ithaca Commons during the day, says Matthew Diamond of the Gorgers Taco Shack.
The taco shack is almost totally reliant on traffic from bars and nightlife, Diamond says.
— Casablanca pizza
Sales have plummeted by 30 percent at Casablanca pizza, according to owner Adil Griguihi.
“It’s very, very bad,” Griguihi says. Things have gotten so bad that the pizzeria has stopped paying rent in the last two months, according to Griguihi.
— Now You’re Cooking
“Everyone has taken a hit — big time,” says Jerry Martins of Now You’re Cooking, which is not closing.
“There’s just fewer people on the commons, like half the business.”
— Crows’ Nest Cafe
Business at the Crows’ Nest Cafe above Autumn Leaves is down about 45 percent, according to the cafe owner William MacDaniel.
“I’m basically hanging on by the skin of my teeth until it gets done, if it ever gets done,” MacDaniel said.
— Mansour Jewelers
The owner of Mansour Jewelers said he didn’t want to get specific and that he doesn’t blame the construction workers, who he says are doing their best.
But he said his business is suffering — he didn’t provide specific numbers — and traffic is “definitely down.” “Do you know of anybody who is up?”
— Sheldon Hill
The jewelry store Sheldon Hill on the Commons had its worst three months in six years in business this last winter, according to owner Stacey Payette.
WaffleFrolic says it continues to draw a steady number of diners, except for when the construction has made it physically impossible to get into the restaurant.
“We have a good enough following where it’s not affecting our business … except for when they make it impossible to get into the store.”
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