22 thoughts on “Free-For-All Friday 6/22/18”

    1. And Souper Jenny too. And the Associated Credit Union. Lots of prime spaces opening up.

      How much IS rent for a store in downtown Decatur? A gift shop I loved left and the owner said it was because rent was $10,000 a month. She had even mortgaged her house to get money to pay the rent, and was about to lose her house because if it. But that was years ago. Rent must be more now.

      So why is rent so high? Wouldn’t the owner be better off getting less rent for an occupied store, rather than NO RENT for months with empty stores?

        1. Read this on Nextdoor.com yesterday. True or not?? Does anyone know for sure?
          The posting said:
          More Business to Depart Downtown Decatur
          Sad to report that both Souper Jenny and Associated Credit Union will leave the Decatur Square due to escalating rents and the lack of free customer parking by the end of 2018.

          1. I searched “jenny” and “souper” on Decatur Nextdoor and found no such reference. Could you post the link?

            1. I found it. It doesn’t cite a source but one of the commenters says a manager there said business was well below their other locations and patrons cite a lack of free parking as the reason. Lots of other comments in the thread too, grumbling about parking and how the lack of free parking will kill Decatur. They’re perhaps unaware that many of our most successful and longstanding businesses have zero on-site parking spaces. But it sure is fun to gripe!

              1. OK, the Credit Union I can understand, although places like that have less and less walk-in business, but there are always people at SJ when I go by. It’s the kind of place that locals and walk-ins would go to. SJ knew when they came what the parking situation was.

                1. Okay, the friendly folks at Souper Jenny confirmed they won’t be renewing their lease when it runs out in February. They feel their business is made more difficult by downtown’s “parking situation.” I suspect that refers to there not being readily available parking within eyeshot of the restaurant but they didn’t specify. There’s plenty of parking downtown but it’s not always intuitive for a quick in-out.

                  There was no mention of escalating rent and they said they’re looking for near-by opportunities better suited to their needs so they can stay in the area.

                  1. This is even more frustrating due to the fact that there are hundreds of spaces available at the Decatur Town Center absolutely free for up to an hour during the weekday. It is at most a 3 minute walk to Souper Jenny’s front door. Also, usually plenty of street parking on Clairemont if not right on Ponce.

                  2. Thanks for confirming, Scott. That would be another tough loss, especially if they can’t find a workable location and leave Decatur entirely. It does seem like the kind of restaurant that does a lot of takeout business, so I can see how the lack of parking would be detrimental (those four or five spaces in-between the former AIA and Emory clinic not withstanding). But I also agree with Scott and Steve that many, many Decatur businesses, including many restaurants at a comparable price point, have had no problem thriving for years, even decades, without parking. So that isn’t the only issue at play here. Also agree that SJ knew what it was getting in that spot. Nothing’s really changed since they moved in (except maybe the rent).

                    I do wonder about the mindset of building owners with spaces that have sat vacant for a long time yet do not adjust rents. OTOH, how are we to know what those rates are, other than by asking individual businesses, who may not be paying the same rate as their neighbors? Even if we are operating on a correct set of assumptions (which is unlikely), it’s understandable that the building owner is afraid that by lowering rents to encourage a current tenant to stay or entice a new one, she may be setting a precedent that sets off pricing problems with all current/future tenants. Which I get. But seems like there could be some sustainable calculus that keeps rents reasonable (or even a hair north of reasonable) while still allowing the owner to make a fair income.

                    1. From a landlord perspective, it’s important to remember that property owners are responsible for the carrying costs of their buildings not just during boom times but bust times as well.

                      When times are flush, people are quick to complain about “landlord money grabs” when they charge what the market will bear but I never hear anyone offer bailouts to landlords when the economy, and tenants with it, dries up. Thus, it falls on the building owner to maximize their opportunities while they have them to help pay their way through when they don’t.

                    2. Parking is a frequent excuse for businesses that were failing anyway (most recent example is Tazikis who was paying Chipotle rent and not doing Chipotle business). There is usually something else going on. Some of the longest running and most successful Decatur restaurants have zero parking and seem to be thriving. In SJ’s case, the new building owner just built a new entrance to the building garage right off of Ponce.

                      I frequent SJ’s and by my estimation from sitting in there 75-80% of the lunchtime regulars walk or are in the area where parking is not really an issue. If they moved off the square, to a location with plentiful parking, would these regulars eat there? Not if its not in walking distance. Seems strange. Hopefully, this is just a negotiating ploy to try to get better rent terms.

                  3. Agree with your previous comment that many of Decatur’s successful eateries don’t have on-site parking, but perhaps they would be even more successful if they did. I don’t often see the lots of restaurants that do offer on-site parking with empty parking spaces during prime hours.

                    And I think that “readily available parking within eyeshot” is more important to potential patrons outside of a reasonably walkable radius and those with limited time (for example, strict lunch break) than many recognize. A “3 minute walk” from parking space to front door mentioned in a later comment is only a very small (and misleading) portion of the time required to enter a parking garage, locate a parking space, get to the destination, order and complete a purchase, return to a vehicle, and depart the parking facility. I totally see how potential customers outside of an easily walkable distance and with limited time would be discouraged.

              2. I don’t understand, I thought everyone in Decatur biked and walked everywhere so parking wouldn’t be an issue. That’s why we’re eliminating half the lanes on Commerce Dr right?

      1. Re why owners keep high rents despite vacancies: I have always wondered that too.

  1. Here’s what I don’t get: how does SJ or any other retail business survive in downtown Decatur with such limited hours of operation? 5 hours a day and closed on Sundays? Even the mighty Brickstore would struggle to make that work.

    1. It’s a fair question. Since they stopped doing Thursday nights, when we’d regularly go as a family, I don’t get there as often as I like, despite working from home.

    2. That may explain the real issue, which SJ won’t admit to. Again, lack of research on their part. I can’t think of another similar business here with those kind of hours. What made them think it would work? So, even though it looks like there are always customers, the lack of business hours doesn’t allow critical mass overall.

      1. SJ’s hours seem to be the same at their other locations. Although it’s certainly possible SJ suffered because of “lack of research” concerning their potential Decatur customer base and those customers’ preferred mode of transportation, IF the other locations have on-site (or more convenient) parking and IF those locations meet their business goals, it makes sense that an absence of on-site parking might be a contributing factor to this location not meeting those goals. Of course, other factors may be as or more important.

  2. How is F2O doing in that spot that was once seemingly cursed? I think they are comparable to SJ in that, though open for dinner, they are also dependent on lunch. More options and a lower price point than SJ, so perhaps a better fit for the daytime Decatur demographic.

  3. I love the fact that it’s still 6/22/2018! I have gained a week in my life just by coming to Decatur Metro!

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