Trying to keep business in the Churchill community
By: Jody Canaday
The Churchill Plaza parking lot is rarely full. Azul, a wine bar, has a for lease sign on the glass door. Koha Bistro has the same sign on its door, telling shoppers that the restaurant is no longer in business.
The plaza, which sits across the street from Churchill High School and the Churchill Sports Park, currently has several leasing spaces that are empty. The foot traffic that businesses in the area rely on is sparse.
All That & More, previously a child care business, takes up the largest empty store space. According to Vanessa Martin, who is the director for IME Dance Center, a dance studio in the plaza, the All That & More space has been empty for 2 years. Martin mentioned that Churchill Market also had problems with break-ins. The store recently installed steel doors to deter future theft.
Martin plans to move out of the plaza when her lease is up in May of next year. She says there isn’t enough foot traffic in the area. Martin says that being close to the high school has provided some traffic, but has not resulted in a lot of customers. The Churchill Plaza is hidden from drivers on West 18th Avenue. She hopes to move to a place that is more open to the main streets.
Shola Adeniji, who has owned Shola’s Quality Plus Dry Cleaning for 12 years, believes the plaza needs an anchor point to increase foot traffic in the area. “If we had a destination store, like Whole Foods, then people will hopefully see our store,” Adeniji says. Stores like Cold Stone, Adeniji says, could bring in more customers, but stores like that are in Oakway Center.
Thomas Price, who is the chair for the Churchill Area Neighbors, says when he moved to Churchill in 1997, the All That & More space previously was home to a grocery store. “Unfortunately, there’s something about this area that doesn’t sustain a grocery store well,” Price says. He says Trader Joe’s is on the other side [of town], but he would like to see a Whole Foods or a small health food store move into the area.
He’d also like to see a Saturday Market in the area, possibly on corner of the Churchill High School campus or in the parking lot of one of the nearby churches. Price also says that people coming home from work could benefit from produce stands set up on the roadside.
Businesses in the Churchill neighborhood will continue to operate, but residents and business owners in the area acknowledge the need for stronger businesses in the area. With a population of more than 10,000 residents, business owners and residents hope to find a way to attract more commerce to their neighborhood.