There are several patterns emerging, and this is a healthy trend according to Todd Barman, a consultant from National Trust Main Street Center, who visited downtown Harrisonburg in late June. Todd observed that our downtown already has an outstanding list of quality restaurants offering a wide variety of ethnic and specialty menus.
Other niches that he observed build on existing strengths and opportunities. For example Todd sees outdoor recreation as a logical niche, with several existing businesses catering to this clientele and the many awesome attractions in the surrounding area. Runners Corner and Shenandoah Bicycle Co. will soon be joined by Rocktown Bicycles. Related businesses are new fitness centers Crossfit Harrisonburg and Fitness Bound Living.
Building on the success of the Explore More Discovery Museum, businesses that cater to families and children such as You Made It, Dragonflies Toys, Glen’s Fair Price Store and Cat’s Cradle are good matches. In our downtown Arts & Cultural District, Court Square Theater, OASIS Fine Art and Craft, and You Made IT are being joined by Larkin Arts.Another strong niche is ladies clothing and accessories, which has blossomed over the last few years.
Each of these specialty niches is already becoming established, and additional new businesses that fit into many of these categories are considering locating in downtown. Opportunities exist to create additional niches and specialty markets. When a strong niche is established, local people will think of downtown when ready to shop for related products, people will drive a longer distance to comparison shop and tourists will stay longer and spend more money. The future of downtown retail looks even brighter.