Editor’s note: This article has been reprinted with permission as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
Kim Redeker opened The Sweet Granada chocolate shop in Emporia, Kan., in 2004, in a storefront that had been vacant for years. She was an early foot soldier in a push to revitalize Emporia’s downtown.
Other specialty shops, restaurants and bars popped up — the Bourbon Cowboy bar, a bike shop called Gravel City Adventure & Supply Co., Dynamic Discs for disc golf. By early 2020, the vacancy rate on Emporia’s Main Street corridor had dropped below 10%, compared with about 40% in 1991. “It has been a sweet ride being part of that redevelopment,” said Ms. Redeker. Until recently, she had a staff of 16.
As of today, a couple of Emporia’s businesses are shutting their doors for good. Others are being propped up in part by government aid and private donations. One Emporia official estimates that 20% of its Main Street businesses are at risk.
Many small-town downtowns experienced something of a revival in recent years, thanks to businesses like Sweet Granada. They brought much-needed growth to spots that for decades had lost ground to larger cities, shopping malls, big-box stores and, most recently, the internet.
For the full story, see Tuesday's Emporia Gazette print edition or visit: https://www.wsj.com/articles/americas-main-street-revival-goes-into-reverse-cutting-a-small-town-lifeline-11601833783