Abbott’s Shoe Repair to close after 65 years

Melisa Soysal
Melisa Soysal /THE REVIEW
92 East Main Street is on the market for about $200,000.

BY
Staff Reporter

Prospective students and Newark newcomers admire the hustle and bustle of Main Street, while the long term store owner of Abbott’s Shoe Repair reflects on simpler times when the only restaurants were the Post House and the National 5 & 10.

Eric Mayer of Gilbert Holding Company has struggled to sell 92 East Main St. for almost two years at an approximate value of $200,000. Store owners leasing this space have not been informed when it is predicted to sell, leaving them with uncertainty of when they will need to close or move elsewhere.

Abbott’s Shoe Repair, located at 92 East Main St., is closing after 65 years of business. Regardless of when the building sells, Abbott’s will close in mid-July. Owner Phil Abbott shares that his choice to close his shop is unrelated to Gilbert Holding Company’s decision to sell 92 East Main St. Abbott feels he is putting too much time into a job all on his own.

“It’s because of my age,” Abbott said, wearing a brace on his right hand. “My hands don’t work like they used to and my knees are shot.”

Abbott has noticed major differences in Main Street compared to the earlier years of his family business. He has noticed an increase in rent, many vacant properties and an influx of new business. These trends have never affected Abbott’s Shoe Repair, since rent has never been an issue for him.

“My rent is comparatively cheap,” Abbott said. “Most landlords can get away with charging $2,500 a month but not mine.”

As a long-term resident, Abbott describes his love for Main Street during simpler times when he would ride his bicycle from his home in Brookside to his father’s shop. At this time, the store was located in the back of the building with a plumbing company in the storefront. When he began working for his father at 15, the only two places to eat on Main Street were the National 5 & 10 and the Post House.

“Newark is a great town to work in, my customers have been wonderful,” Abbott said.

“Downtown Newark remains one of the most desirable areas for commercial real estate in the State of Delaware and the market value of rental property reflects that,” City Communications Manager Kelly Bachman said.

While Main Street is a desirable place to lease, the price tag that comes with operating a business there is a hefty one. The price of leases are based on what property owners and landlords believe is fair market value. However, store owners and Newark citizens tend to disagree with these rates.

“We are committed to keeping the lines of communication open and working with storeowners to ensure they are successful at helping maintain a vibrant, welcoming downtown,” Bachman said.

Abbott’s storefront neighbor, Bloom, is an eclectic specialty boutique owned by Mimi Sullivan. After years of traveling due to her studies and career in fashion and design, she found Newark in 2004. Sullivan refers to herself and fellow store owners on Main Street as the “first floor community.”

“I love Newark,” Sullivan said. “The atmosphere, the older feel and the sense of community among store owners and customers.”

The old bungalow storefront that Bloom currently resides in adds to the bohemian flare of Sullivan’s inventory. She worries that when the building sells she will not be able to find a storefront with a similar style and price on Main Street. Throughout the early stages of her pricing process, Sullivan noticed that the most reasonable prices are located in commercial shopping centers or outside of Newark.

Sullivan had a storefront in Center City, Philadelphia at one point. She was confident that location would be the most expensive lease. However, rent inflation has caused the Main Street location in Newark to exceed Philly’s costs.

Sullivan’s favorite aspects of Bloom’s current Newark location include the amount of foot traffic the store gets and the variety of customers that visit the store. After 12 years, she still looks forward to new residents and students.

“My clientele changes every year,” Sullivan said. “Having UD right around the corner has been fantastic for business and gives me a larger demographic.”

Sullivan has noticed that her Newark location attracts a wider age range of patrons than her Wilmington store’s location.

“I love Newark, and the rent I am currently paying, so moving will definitely be difficult,” Sullivan said.

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