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Few businesses close, dozens open in Birmingham

By: Erin McClary | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 6, 2011

 The Blu Arch Collection, one of Birmingham’s newest businesses, has been attracting passers-by with its colorful merchandise.

The Blu Arch Collection, one of Birmingham’s newest businesses, has been attracting passers-by with its colorful merchandise.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


BIRMINGHAM — Roughly 30 new businesses opening within a year’s time in a lively downtown such as Birmingham isn’t too much of a surprise.

But in this economy, officials are heralding that figure.

Not to mention, said John Heiney, director of the Principal Shopping District, that while the city normally sees almost as many businesses moving or closing as it sees opening or expanding in a year, over the course of the past year, fewer than 10 have closed or moved out.

Since January, five have moved in — another astonishing number, said Heiney, considering that the first three months of the year are the slowest all around for businesses.

According to a month-by-month list issued to the PSD board, since April 1, 2010, 29 new businesses have taken stake in town, expanded or are slated to open within the next several weeks. And that figure only accounts for retail and retail service, not professional firms.

“What I think is significant, however — in the same period of time, typically, we’ll see what we call a ‘revolving door’ — 25-30 stores come in, and in the last several years, we’d see 25-30 doors close,” Heiney explained. “But what’s significant this year, in tracking store closures in the past year, while we’ve had 29 come in, we’ve only had nine that have gone out.”

Right now, the city’s retail space, or first-floor units, is 93.3 percent occupied — another good number, Heiney said. While this could partially be credited to the economy slowly regaining momentum and more shoppers hitting the streets, creating a healthy business climate, he said, there’s also a sort of “value to opening up in Birmingham.”

All of the offices in town are worth noting. Heiney said all of the employees of Birmingham’s law practices, accounting firms, medical offices and banks help retail business.

“We’ve seen major employers — new companies come in and existing businesses expand,” he said. “Those employees are out on the street at lunchtime, walking around, getting a bite to eat, maybe doing some shopping, and that really helps.”

Over a period of 10 years, this past year’s numbers have been the “biggest, positive gain” Birmingham has seen in a year’s time.

“Since Jan. 1, we’ve had five (new businesses open),” said Heiney. “That’s a strong number too, for the time period. Typically, we don’t see a lot of new businesses in the first quarter of the year — definitely not the first two months.”

Chuck Krause, who opened the Blu Arch Collection on West Maple with sister Betty Ruddy this past November, said he’s been pleased with the location.

“We’ve been open for four months now, and we’ve gotten a very positive reaction from residents, and people walking … they like our stuff and like our variety,” he said. “We’re real happy right now.”

The store’s collection features unique and contemporary art pieces, including sculptures, vases, bowls, jewelry, furniture and paintings.

“My sister and I grew up in Lake Orion, and we always enjoyed coming to Birmingham. It’s a great community that’s very walkable with unique shops you won’t find at malls,” Krause said. “There’s a nice sense of community with the people who live and work here that appealed to us.”

In the next several months, Birmingham will be welcoming a new car dealership, a wedding florist, a couple of bistros, a new restaurant and specialty shop.

Some of the businesses that have closed doors in the past year include Nail Studio II on West Maple, Baker Furniture on Woodward, Jennifer Convertibles on South Old Woodward, Ribbons on South Old Woodward and 1-800 Flowers on West Maple. Sharon’s Salon and The Annex both moved to new locations in the city.

‘There is some vacant retail space out there, but Heiney said the PSD is already working on filling it. That aside, he said he’s pleased with the business trends in the city over the course of the past year and so far in 2011.

“We have a very solid business climate in Birmingham right now for both retailers and professional firms,” he said. “I think it’s just a sign that the business climate here in Birmingham is strong and improving.”