A month later, Acorn Alley is booming

Ben Wolford

Downtown stores say business is going well

Business has been so good at stores along Acorn Alley that at least two of them have lost customers because of it.

“Some Saturdays we’ve had to keep people out of here because we were breaking fire code,” said Jenna Heinaman, an employee at Off the Wagon, a novelty toy store.

All 10 stores that are up and running have been flooded with consumer attention, Acorn Alley developer Ron Burbick said.

In the month since RLB Phoenix Properties unveiled several of the stores at the beginning of the semester, “It’s been excellent,” Burbick said. Only two stores – Dancing Beta sushi restaurant and The Arctic Squirrel ice cream shop – have yet to open.

He said Off the Wagon on East Main Street, a smaller version of two toy stores in Stow and Hudson, sold more in one week than the other two locations combined.

The Pita Pit, a corporation with 194 U.S. locations and more in Canada, was a hit.

“Their corporate people described it as the best opening they’ve ever had at a franchise,” Burbick said.

Burbick was the point man on a $6 million project to set up retail stores in a New England-style alley off of East Main Street downtown. After more than a year of construction, Acorn Alley has had a series of opening celebrations for its stores.

The Arctic Squirrel will open this weekend, Burbick said. Friday, though, it served more than 600 samples of ice cream to promote the store.

“They ran out with still about a half-hour or 45 minutes left at the function,” Burbick said.

At Jason’s Barbershop, the two Jasons who own it, Manion and Fabick, have had days when they’ve been swamped.

“On Saturday, people were walking out because it was too crowded in here,” Fabick said.

Manion doesn’t yet know whether being tucked into the back end of an alley will lend itself to increased business. But he has a hunch it will.

“(Business) has the potential to be better,” said Manion, who moved his barbershop from a storefront on South Water Street. “We don’t know if all our clientele has found us yet.”

Burbick isn’t worried. He says the design of Acorn Alley will draw customers from store to store.

“If you came to get a pita, you know there’s a cleaners and a barbershop here,” he said. “It’s really a group marketing thing rather than just one store standing alone.”

Dan Smith, Kent’s economic development director, said the city hasn’t determined how much additional revenue the success of Acorn Alley will create.

“Only time will tell what the sales tax will generate,” he said. The biggest thing is the new jobs created by the new stores.

Michelle Hartman, executive assistant at RLB Phoenix Properties, said by the time all the storefronts are open for business, Acorn Alley will have produced 100 jobs.

Contact public affairs reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].