Cleveland Candle Co. is one of the newer arrivals on Coventry, landing in May 2016, before the departure of Big Fun and American Apparel. Recent closings contributed to the shop’s 40% decrease in foot traffic, said president and co-founder David Gin, who said he’s nonetheless hopeful that Coventry is merely enduring the quirks of a routine business cycle.
“For the most part, it’s bottomed out,” said Gin. “Districts lose momentum, and right now we’re in a down cycle. It can’t get worse.”
Coventry is Cleveland Candle Co.’s third location, alongside Mentor and Ohio City. Gin’s shop is a miniature makerspace where customers create their own candles, choosing from among 200 different scents. The workshop experience extends to lip balm, bath bombs and painting classes.
Though Cleveland Candle Co.’s maker model has made it a destination for returning customers, Gin still needed to trim staff at his Coventry location. He also said he believes Cleveland Heights is putting more emphasis on Cedar Lee while Coventry continues to slump.
“I understand that, but I feel like when everything went down here, efforts shifted to where there’s momentum,” said Gin. “With more empty storefronts, we need to get some of that effort here.”
Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac’s Backs-Books said the internet has chewed into specialty brick-and-mortar shops like Big Fun. A Coventry staple since 1982, Mac’s Backs enjoys a loyal clientele as well as a steady stream of visitors from the adjacent Tommy’s eatery. Even with the modern prevalence of online shopping, DeGaetano is confident the district will entice a new generation of small businesses.
“We haven’t seen this amount of vacancies in awhile,” she said. “It’s a natural progression of businesses moving and a pause before new ones come in. Coventry is still a great place to do business. We’re easily walkable and compact with a neighborhood that has always supported us.”
Coventry is in a better position now compared to previous years of retail upheaval, DeGaetano added. In the early ’80s, the street was mostly bereft of parking and had no SID supporting local entrepreneurs. City planners should be targeting new businesses offering an interactive experience that shoppers can’t find anywhere else.
“There are so many makers, crafters and DIY people producing great stuff,” she said. “Anyone that has a concept like that with unique products will do well down here.”