Last night I attended my first Charlestown Business Association meeting, and it was really quite interesting.
Last year, in an effort to better understand the local business climate, Charlestown conducted a market research study and determined that its residents spend about $225 million per year [collectively] on retail goods and services, yet only $54 million is spent within 02129. Where does the other $171 million go, and how can the CBA keep it from leaving Charlestown?
In order to answer these questions, and to better meet the needs of its residents, employees, and visitors, the CBA fielded a public survey to all 7,524 households (via inserts in the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and various public locations), and received a total of 1,095 responses (or, a 15% response rate - quite successful by market research standards). The survey sought public input on the future of Charlestown's Retail, Restaurant, and Service Districts, and the responses were quite revealing.
Charlestown residents overwhelmingly want more retail/shopping/restaurant/services within the 02129 zip code. In particular, they want more dining options, including:
- Casual restaurants
- Prepared foods
- Gourmet/health/specialty foods
- Fish store/butcher shop/wine shop
Additional spa/fitness/yoga options also ranked high (I've yet to try the much-praised Charlestown Yoga), as did a hardware store.
Interesting aside: there was an Aubochon Hardware in the neighborhood at one point but it failed to recognize the needs of urban dwellers and subsequently went out of business (I guess it's first ad in the local paper promoted "ways to optimize your lawn" - not a priority for us city folk!). Any enterprising souls out there should take a page out of the True Value handbook and replicate the success that chain has had in the North End and Beacon Hill, by selling a wide variety of housewares in addition to hardware.
Other ideas, but definitely lower priority, include gift/specialty stores, home furnishings, clothing & accessories, hobby, and children's shops. Additional feedback I found interesting (thanks to the marketer in me) was a desire to better plan the retail layout. For example, place gift shops next to restaurants in order to encourage pre- and post-meal browsing.
So where do they want these establishments? Primarily in the Main Street, City Square, and Navy Yard sections of town. While Sullivan Square and Rutherford Ave are ripe candidates for expansion, most residents view the more historic areas as likely candidates for building out shopping/dining options that would encourage more foot traffic throughout the area. And the general sentiment around the Bunker Hill Mall is that it needs an overhaul - of the stores, the physical setting, and the safety concerns.
Regardless of what goes in, one thing came through loud and clear: the residents of Charlestown want to maintain the historic feel and unique character of the village. While they'd like more options for keeping their business in town, they don't want to overwhelm the area with large/national chain stores that would further congest the downtown area. Instead, they want a thoughtful collection of shops that offer upscale goods at good value. I think it's wonderful that local business leaders and politicians are taking this into consideration as they devise plans for expansion.