Filling the vacant spaces

Five Towns communities aim to attract businesses

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Central Avenue was alive with shoppers for Cedarhurst’s 30th annual Sidewalk Sale in July. Visitors from the Five Towns, surrounding communities and as far away as New Jersey streamed through the village’s vibrant business district.

On the west side of Washington Avenue, however, Lawrence’s portion of Central Avenue was less busy. That’s because several storefronts are vacant and Haute Couture is closing.

But the empty stores could soon be filled. Construction permits can be seen in a number of front windows.

Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman estimated that there are roughly 15 vacant stores in the village, a majority of them along Central Avenue, where most of the businesses are. The village does what it can to encourage merchants to move to the area, Edelman said. “We’re very cooperative about permits and such,” he said. “We want to bring in as much business as we can. It’s good for the companies, it’s good for Central [Avenue], and it’s good for the whole village.”

To attract businesses, Edelman said, the village would “absolutely” be open to working with the Lawrence Association, and it is now working with building owners to ensure that empty storefronts are well maintained until they are filled. The Lawrence Association, founded in 1928, has served as the village’s civic association, a liaison between residents and village government.

As a businessman, Edelman said, he thinks about the money that is lost when vacant spaces go unrented. “I know I’d rather have a store in there, paying less rent than I’d like, than have empty stores,” he said.

In Cedarhurst, the Cedarhurst Business Improvement District aims to attract and support businesses. Teri Schure, the BID’s executive director, described the organization as having “dedicated itself to assisting local businesses through a variety of events and initiatives. Over the years, the BID has been able to make a substantial contribution to the financial health and vitality of its members primarily through events like the Sidewalk Sale.” The BID, which replaced the Cedarhurst Business Association, is 25 years old.

In Hewlett and Woodmere, the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association works to keep commerce humming in those two Town of Hempstead hamlets. HWBA President David Friedman said the group provides all its members with free advertising on social media, helps companies deal with red tape when applying for permits and sponsoring holiday ceremonies, coordinates the Memorial Day Parade and awards scholarships to Hewlett High School students.

“We’ll help provide whatever resources they need,” Friedman said. “We really want to encourage them. We want to get businesses in-volved in the community, and schools as well.”

HWBA members are currently working to fill a vacancy in the shopping center at the intersection of Broadway and Everit Avenue in Hewlett. The space is in a prime location, Friedman said, across the street from Hewlett High. Starbucks, the previous occupant, moved less than a mile away, to the Peninsula Shopping Center, earlier this year.

Friedman offered some advice to the Lawrence Association, or any organization looking to support local businesses. “Encourage businesses to come, and support them once they’re here,” he said. “Set up ribbon-cutting ceremonies for openings, get in touch with a local newspaper to feature them and publicize everything on social media.”

Have an opinion about attracting business to the Five Towns? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.