Four new Boardwalk Shops to be added to downtown Batavia retail concept next year
Four small, house-style stores are expected to be added to downtown Batavia next year, expanding a new retail concept that officials say has boosted foot traffic and spurred economic activity during its inaugural season.
Eight startup businesses began operating in June at the Batavia Boardwalk Shops, a project spearheaded by Batavia MainStreet that aims to offer interim-level space for entrepreneurs who might not be ready for a brick-and-mortar location.
The concept has exceeded expectations so far, officials said, drawing large crowds to the shops at 114 E. Wilson St. and prompting some participating business owners to begin exploring more permanent storefronts.
In June alone, the shops completed 4,368 transactions and generated a total of $69,537 in sales over eight days of operation, said project manager Bob Hansen, who also owns Funway Ultimate Entertainment.
Project leaders are now looking ahead to the boardwalk's second season, with hopes of building four more shops to bring the total to 12.
Aldermen this week unanimously approved awarding Batavia MainStreet a $32,000 grant to help cover construction costs. The money will be taken out of state funds retained by the city at the end of a previous economic development program, city Administrator Laura Newman said.
"I think the Boardwalk Shops have been even more of a success than anybody initially anticipated," Newman said. "It gives us confidence that adding another four can only be a good thing."
The city had previously awarded $110,000 to help fund the first phase of the project, Hansen said, which also was made possible by donations, volunteer time and a partnership with Batavia High School students.
Entrepreneurs have to submit an application and business plan each season to be considered for one of the sites. The shops are meant to be temporary, with the hope that some businesses will move on to larger-scale operations and project leaders will receive a new batch of applications.
Mayor Jeff Schielke said he was skeptical of the concept at first but has been "made a true believer" after witnessing the shops in action.
"I would describe this as a movement-maker for Batavia," he said. "It works quite well, and it's really caught on."