Lots of Changes, Spring is Coming

I know I’ve been quiet lately.  It’s been cold. I’ve been busy with work.  I’ve been playing a computer game.  I have tons of  excuses.  But, really, I’ve just been in a kind of funk.  I blame the weather.  I don’t think it really was but it seems to be that the warmer afternoon today did me a world of good.  We had dinner at The Pub McKinney last night and today we walked down to the square to make a trip to Plum Creek Primitive.

I knew a lot had changed just in the last few weeks but, really, the changes are astounding.  This is always the time for musical merchants.  January is when a lot of leases expire and merchants move around. I’ll have to make another trip tomorrow to get a better skinny on the situation(s).  Today was just about enjoying the square. 

Mounted Patrol on the Square

Mounted Patrol on the Square

We went to eat at Churchill’s before stopping at Plum Creek.  We love Churchill’s and we usually sit upstairs by the window.  I was sitting there, thinking about the changes on the square and talking with my husband when I noticed that the splashboard at the bar still said The Londoner.  We came here when it was the Londoner too.  I don’t know if the splashboard was an oversight but I am glad that they left it there.  After all, the square is about history and it reminds me of our history with this place. 

New and Old Blending at Churchill's

New and Old Blending at Churchill's

Love the fireplace.  I have been hearing a lot about their Wednesday night trivia.  It free to play but there are cash prizes.  I asked the waitress what the turn out was like and she said that the entire area from the stairs to the windows pretty much fills for the trivia and then there is still a pretty good bar crowd.  I think I’m going to have to make it over some Wednesday night.  On a cold night, there’s a good chance I’ll catch the fireplace in use. 

They have a big shin-dig going on February 8th.  Kilts are encouraged.

Fireplace at Churchill's

Fireplace at Churchill's

After Churchill’s, we popped over to Plum Creek Primitives and Loco Cowpoke Salsa Shop.  Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who have made the Raspberry Wasabi mustard a staple kitchen item because there was a big display.  Fewer people are fans of the Pickled Green Tomatos, but that’s got to be because they haven’t tried them.  Yum!  

I caught a shot of the front of Canine Cookie Company’s on our way home.  It is next door to the 209 Downtown Spa and across the street from Loco Cowpoke.

Canine Cookie Company

Canine Cookie Company

So, here’s a list of the changes I noticed between dinner last night and lunch today:

Doll Haven – the space they occupied is empty.  I don’t know if they moved or just closed.

And The Party Never Ends – they have moved next door to Diggin’ It on Tennessee. 

Canine Cookie Company – as you can see from the picture above, they are in their new space.  This was previously Jay Core Historic Ligting Restoration’s space.  I don’t know yet where he has gone to.

Lulu’s  – the clothes shop next to Churchill’s, is closed.  It was connected to Arabella’s but Arabella’s is still open. 

The space next to Lulu’s is now open as The Portfolio, a nice boutique with women’s dressy casual, accessories and lots (and lots) of purses. 

Mama Emilia’s is closed.  It depends on who you talk to as to what’s up.  I think the preferred story is that they are closed for remodeling.  The number posted on the door goes to the owner’s voice mail (someone in my pottery class actually called).

I’m hearing that there are changes over at Malaga too but I need to confirm those first.

Sharla’s redo of the storefront that was The Cupfiller is coming right along and looking great.

Someone told one of the merchants that a Subway franchise was coming in where Lulu’s used to be but I think that there is something that prevents national chains from coming into the square so I wouldn’t get too up in arms over that rumor. 

As always, I’ll check it all out and pass on what I can.

Until next time,

Happy Shopping!

11 Responses to “Lots of Changes, Spring is Coming”

  1. Dennis Haberkern

    Subway IS looking at that spot where Lulu’s was. A friend of mine was looking at that space and was told about it. The realtor said Subway or any other big chain can move to the Square. This isn’t the first I’ve heard about Subway looking for a space in that area. I thought there certainly must be some sort of ordinance preventing the big chains from moving in, but according to that realtor it’s perfectly legal. If that’s the case, why aren’t they there already?

    • Beth

      I’ll have to find out. From what I heard, there was something that kept chains from coming in but then the gelato place came in and that is a national chain. I had assumed that there was some technical legal aspect to the ownership of the franchise that let it slip through, but maybe not. I don’t know how I feel about big chains on the square. I’d prefer to have our own people but then franchises are owned by our own people too. It would be nice to have shops that were open on Sunday but I don’t know that it would be worth the trade off. It seems like we’d no longer be unique if you could buy the same things here as in Watters Creek.

  2. John Ennen

    A few comments, if I may. 1. Your posts are very much appreciated. You provide the public a real value in your unselfish posts. And they are “non-affiliated”, bringing more credence to them! Nice job. 2. There is nothing preventing “national chains” from occupying space Downtown McKinney. It’s a decision on the part of the national chain and the landlord of a particular building. The reason for no national chains can be found in your observations about closing/closed businesses. 3. Downtown is on a downtrend. Despite some really nice additions…Square Burger, Sauce, The Pub, Gregory’s, Sharla’s Expansion, Hamm’s Relo, Local Yocal, etc….there are far more closing businesses than opening ones. And certainly far more that struggle than thrive. The issues are complex, and reasons vary. But when you look at the exit of venerated “brands” like Goodhues, Londoner, Herby’s (sic), Smith Drug, Clyde’s, Market Square, and MANY others, some of which you mention in this post, you’ll find that the answer is there are fewer visitors to Downtown than can support the business base there. The primary reason for this, in my opinion, is that the City has mismanaged the historic square area. Big time. The courthouse fiasco leads the list. This relo to North McKinney, cost Downtown merchants 100’s of potential daily customers, while costing the citizens of McKinney MILLIONS in construction and demolition costs. This is but one of the examples, and most notable, that help illustrate why merchants downtown continue, and WILL continue to fail. Lack of (foot) traffic is a KILLER for retail. And downtown has a notable lack of foot traffic. These are my observations from 4 years of owning and operating a business downtown, and additionally as a resident of 17 years in McKinney.

    • Beth

      Although I agree with much that you’ve said, I believe that the foot traffic is out there, begging to come in. The problem that I have, and I have heard the same from most of the women I’ve talked to, is that the shops are not convenient to shop in. For instance, most are open from 10 to 5 during the week. I work 8 to 5 and then have a 20 to 30 minute commute to get home. Even if I go straight to the square, most shops will be closing up if not already closed. Since I only have two days off, Saturday and Sunday, I have a lot of errands to run on Saturday and so often can’t make it downtown on a Saturday. If my family goes up to the lake, that will probably be on Saturday so that leaves me Sunday to shop and a LOT of shops are closed on Sunday.

      Shoppers like me want to come to the square and shop but it is extraordinary when we are able to. Some of the events, like Scare on the Square (and I think Krewe of Barkus is going to be the same), I have to actually request vacation time from work to attend. I love the square. I want to shop there. I do put in for the vacation time. But, if the only day I have to go shopping is Sunday and I know the boutiques will be closed, I’m more likely to go somewhere else … even if I’d rather be on the square.

      I know the city “gets” this. Someone there once joked with me that they thought that the merchants were marketing to the homeless and unemployed. No one can force the merchants to be open but I’m always hopeful that we, as consumers, can encourage them. If the TIRZ thing goes through in any form like they have been talking about and there are no restrictions on chains coming in, I’d almost put money on them coming in in droves at that point. We, consumers, are out here, with wallets and purses in hand. The foot traffic may not be showing up on the radar at the moment but I really think it is like trying to determine traffic flow on Central by counting passing cars at midnight.

  3. Mike

    I also appreciate you posts they really help keep us informed. If I may add to the discussion. The Subway would be coming to a building owned by the same people who brought Paciugo, they obviously do not share the same vision of keeping McKinney unique. At least Puciugo is from Plano originally and not everywhere you go. I think it is a horrible idea that will hurt our uniqueness. Maybe we need an ordinance! Secondly, the courthouse is a county courthouse, had nothing to do with the City or their decisions or money. Thirdly, Goodhues closed because the owners entrusted the management for the last 15 months to their nephew who was not educated or experienced enough to run that restaurant and a disgruntled chef. Their clientle noticed the change and stopped going. The Londoner sold because they sold two much alcohal versus food (by law more than 50% must be food), therefore, had to become a private club and the owner didn’t want to deal with that anymore (from his mouth). it continues to operate successfully as Churchhill’s, now owned by the former manager of the Londoner (she was not afraid to buy the business so sales must not have been so bad, Clyde retired …. We have quite a bit of foot traffic on the square, just not at all times of the day and/or week. In many cases the owners of downtown business, lack business because they want business when they want it. Owners get to choose their ours of operation, however, very few have products or services that are so desired people change their schedules, patterns or lives to be there when the owner of the business wants them there. We need to be available when they want to shop! Additonally, some of the businesses struggle because they do not continue to mold their businesses, try new things, creatively market (for little or nothing), participate in Main Street, Festivals, 2nd Saturdays etc. and build relationships with their customers that will entitle them to get great feedback on what shoppers are looking for. Finally, many businesses on the square look at other businesses as competion. We are all on the same team. We try to send every customer we can to at least one other business on the square in hopes that the more reasons they find to come to the square, the more likely we are to see them frequently. I look forward with great anticipation to the ever improving future for our square.

  4. John Ennen

    I’m not going to get into a long drawn out discussion about the “value” of Downtown business propositions. It’s evident that Downtown can not support the base of businesses there, or the Net would be growing, not shrinking. That’s the bottom line. There are fewer businesses now than 3 years ago…legitimate, money making businesses. Not small “owner/operator” businesses that employ few and create little in the way of added tax revenues due to their small size. That is, they don’t really have many employees, nor do their sales revenues generate much in the way of sales tax. The courthouse WAS a city issue, btw. The county owned it, yes. But they sold it to the City, which then promptly demo’ed it, without much of an effort to re-purpose it. So not very “green”…in an enviro or economic sense. Parking has continued to be the #1 issue for consumers coming to Downtown. And what has the City done. Nearly nothing. Other than pay for an empty, unused parking structure that blights even Adriatica’s desolate landscape. I think you have to look no further than the “Beirut Hotel” fronting the gateway to McKinney at 75 and 121 to understand the management issues created by the City. The Londoner was “run out” of Downtown, and btw opened two (or more) thriving restaurants in two other area cities. Mama Emilias, like Smith, Herby, Goodhues and many others…were iconic. And should survive if the climate Downtown truly was healthy. It is not. The City neither tracks nor shares “foot traffic” and/or visitor counts, largely I believe because they don’t support the rhetoric that Downtown is growing. Lastly, anyone waiting for the 40 year plan to “fix” the city “center” had better be in their 20’s. For all others, it will be far too little, too late. The eminent domain fight along Hwy 5 will make the Arlington Cowboy stadium eminent domain fights look like child’s play, greatly reducing the likelihood of success for such a broad-reaching project. Especially in this economic climate, where banks and lending institutions are NOT borrowing money for such projects. Our City coffers certainly don’t have the money…we’re charging non-residents for accidents now, to help defray costs of our under funded services groups! Downtown’s true opportunity for significant “fixes” came and went with the go-go late 90’s and early “aughts”. Now it’s mostly holding on for dear life. I hope it makes it for the sake of the many good people in and around it. But wouldn’t bet on it.

  5. John Ennen

    Beth – Very valid points about hours of operation. The issue is really related more to my earlier post though. The small “owner/operator” businesses that rely on their owner to largely operate the shop all the time prevents the business from being open at night and both days on weekends. The business can only be open 50 or so hours with this type of operating model. Because that business owner is also working “outside the shop” on accounting, marketing, sourcing, etc. There are only so many hours they can operate the shop. So instead of being open 80-100 hours like many of the larger shopping destinations, the small downtown merchants are open for shorter periods. It is a little bit of the chicken and egg, in that if they were open more, PERHAPS more business would come. But these small businesses can’t afford to take on the extra labor and costs of being open more hours if the traffic doesn’t come. Their financial statements are too fragile to absorb even short term (but likely long term) poor sales during these extended hours. Again, there are a number of very successful large and small businesses on the Square. Run by very astute business people and people who LOVE the Square and their customers. But by and large, in my opinion, Downtown is on a down-cycle. The sad irony is that because of its “unique” structure (small mom and pops mostly, with poor access to capital and not deep pockets) and real limitations, it will need to fight incredibly hard, and be managed extremely well over the next 5 years in order for it to turn up.

  6. Mike

    The county built the new courthouse and moved that traffic away before the city bought the building. If I was informed correctly, operation of that building, which had a very large energy footprint would not have been the “green” thing to do. The land is still there and has the potential to be used in a more positive manner. When it really comes down to it, “Successful people are willing t0 do the things unsuccessful people are not willing to do!” We work our business over a hundred hours a week and every day. If we wanted to work a nine to five we would punch the clock for someone else. If it is not possible to increase hours they could always change them, open later and stay open later, close a weekday and stay open an extra weekend day.

    • Beth

      I’m hoping that they will build something really unique and historic-looking in its place. Also on the plus side is that the movement of the courthouse also got rid of any good reason for there to be bailbondsmen in the area and reduced the draw for fast money/cash advance/pawn type operations.


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