Downtown’s Retail Needs

by Michael R. Allen

An article in today’s Post-Dispatch (“Retailers say downtown area will catch on”) includes this puzzling spin:

Although more retail shops are opening their doors, merchants are concerned that most of the businesses currently under construction are not the type of unique specialty stores that would boost downtown’s image as an eclectic, artsy shopping area.

That’s strange because the biggest complaint I hear from downtown workers and residents alike is that there are not enough regular plain old businesses to meet daily needs. There is no office supply store downtown. No pharmacy. No donut shop. No general new book store.

Not sure what merchants want, but other people using downtown want it to function as a place where necessities can be procured without driving to Hampton Avenue or further west. Most people buy an imported vase once a year, if that. Everyone needs paper clips, a toothbrush or a quick meal more frequently.

I’m glad that downtown is a retail destination, but I’m disappointed that its retail options don’t meet the needs of many of its daily users. While workaday shops don’t make for the most exciting ribbon cuttings, they make a sustainable neighborhood.