If you've walked around downtown Colorado Springs lately, you may have noticed "For Lease" signs on quite a few vacant storefronts. Some people see the vacancies as a sign of an economy that continues to struggle. Others are more optimistic.
Many of the downtown specialty stores and gift shops have struggled for the last couple of years. But the restaurants, cafes and nightclubs are doing well.
On a sun-splashed afternoon, before the rain, foot traffic is heavy in the downtown shopping district. But even so, on just about every block, one or two spaces are vacant. Aunt Ruth's Attic has moved to a new location. And a long-time downtown resident, the Chinook Book Store, closed down in May.
"It's hard to be downtown and not notice. There are definitely businesses that have closed and we certainly feed the absence of Chinook book store next to us." Ann Luckett is a manager at Terre Verde. She says she can only speculate on what's hurting business. "I do know rents are high sometimes and that, for a small business, can be a big factor."
Down the street at Michelle’s Homemade Candy Shop, the owner has a different take. "I look across the street and up and down---businesses always come and go," says Andy Michopoulous. He says that's just part of the cycle. "In the past few years, since 9/11 and the downtown turn in the economy, it's put a great strain on small businesses. Some of them haven't made it," he says.
Running a small business is always a struggle, but there are signs the economy is picking up. "Business is getting a little better. I think it will continue to do so," says Micholpoulous.
Vice Mayor Richard Skorman is also a downtown business owner. He says he's hoping these storefronts will fill in. He's optimistic, but he also wonders what the future holds since thousands of Fort Carson soldiers are scheduled to deploy again in the coming months.