Downtown Sees Business Boost

By Scott E. Kinney, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, May 11, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]

HAMPTON -- Not long ago the scene was somewhat grim.

Shortly after New Year's Day 2006, H. Alfred Casassa announced he would be closing the doors of Colt News Store, a popular meeting place and landmark of downtown Hampton for more than 60 years. Other smaller shops in the area that didn't have the benefit of Colt's longevity were also calling it quits.

But now, merely a little more than a year since the popular store's closing, the economic landscape of the downtown Hampton area has changed.

Several new businesses, many of them retailers, have sprouted up in the surrounding area of Depot Square. Among them are Me & Ollie's, Liberty Tax Services, Peaceful Life, Pottery at Your Place, The Little Vintage Shop, All She Wears, and Present Perfect. Those new businesses have breathed new life into what appeared to be an ailing downtown district.

Edie Argo, owner of Present Perfect, has been in business for nearly four years. Six months of that time has been spent in the former home of Colt News Shop. Argo said her move was a positive one allowing her to offer an even larger variety of gifts, furnishings and apparel to her repeat customers.

"I have expanded my clientele," she said, "and I've seen an increase in sales."

That increase on a monthly average has been from 48 to 52 percent over last year.

All She Wears owner Sheila Fleming has also experienced success since opening her doors in February of this year.

"I'm getting terrific feedback," said Fleming. "Many people are saying that Hampton is now like Hampton was years ago and every day I have sales."

The area's most recent addition, Little Vintage Shop, has brought a new clientele to the area, those looking for antiques. The store opened its doors on April 14.

"We've had a lot of positive comments," said Beverly Stoughton, co-owner of the shop. "People have said Hampton has needed stores like this one."

Bob Cohen, owner of Cohen's Jewelers, which has been in operation for more than 18 years, said the latest addition of new businesses can only help businesses both brand new and those that have been in the area for years.

"We're definitely going to feed off one another," said Cohen.

Midge Dawes, owner of Naturally Silk, agreed with Cohen's assessment.

"There are some places to shop down here," she said. "Instead of going to the mall, you can come here."

The influx of new business has made the downtown area a very shopper friendly place. With municipal parking conveniently off High Street, the whole district is within the window shopper's reach.

Several of the area retailers questioned didn't perceive the high traffic of Route 1 as a deterrent for shopping. Many in fact asked what better place to be than one that sees as much traffic as the downtown area.

Another attraction for the influx of new retail shops in Hampton Village is the viable lure to summer tourists, offering them a rainy day destination.

Several downtown businesses, old and new, along with those from around town as well as from North Hampton and Hampton Falls will be participating in "A Day in the Hamptons" to be held Saturday, June 9, from 1-8 p.m. The event is being sponsored by the Atlantic News in conjunction with Hampton's Recreation Department and several local businesses.

Michelle Connelly, owner/ publisher of the Atlantic News said the public can expect "a day of fun, food, entertainment and giveaways from local businesses."