hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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January 10, 2013

Surviving the growing pains of economic change

It’s all about growing pains.

For years after Haverhill’s shoe factories closed, the western end of downtown was a prime spot for businesses like antique shops to open. The rent was cheap because building owners were looking to fill up empty storefronts. A handful of successful businesses kept enough people coming downtown to create a customer base.

Antique shop owner Richard Tierney developed a deeper customer base through the grapevine of antique enthusiasts. Enough of them knew about his Antique World on downtown Washington Street to keep sales steady.

Tierney’s shop is gone now, relocated to Kingston, N.H. (See story, Page 1.) As the downtown began to evolve five or so years ago into a restaurant row with successful eateries and lounges, Tierney discovered the irony that more visitors to the area did not translate to more sales. The new people were coming for a good meal, a few drinks and social time, not to browse for antiques.

Tierney told the Gazette that his rent began to increase as property values soared with the area’s new-found success. A business that had been in Haverhill about 18 years was about to abandon ship and head north.

Today, Antique World is in Kingston, partnered with a company that sells hand-made jewelry. Tierney said business is going well, that his new location gets plenty of traffic, bringing him a solid customer base.

It’s too bad Haverhill lost a longtime business as the city’s urban center was reinvented. The good news is that Antique World landed on its feet and is finding success. Hopefully, other companies that left the downtown during its renaissanse are also thriving.

Change, especially the extreme kind which downtown Haverhill has experienced in recent years, is almost certain to bring growing pains.

But the pains appear to be worth it. Once-vacant old shoe factories are packed with hundreds of new condos and apartments. Restaurants and lounges in the Washington Street district are packed with customers most nights of the week. Shops selling arts and other items geared to the new wave of customers appear to be doing well.

At times of great change, there are always people who benefit and those who suffer, or at least are put at risk.

Thankfully, Tierney found success after his move. And the city’s center has also found success in its evolution to a thriving business community.

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