Post Office Square is becoming a mini ghost town. Three businesses - each serving completely different needs - have opted to close shop physically and sell via the Internet.
Laser Engraved Services, until recently found at 10 Post Office Square, moved out in mid-December. According to owner Tom Brennan, "The internet makes it PRACTICAL to NOT have a brick and mortar storefront anymore and it’s hurting downtown small town Connecticut."
His website reads: "Laser Engraved Services is now located on private property and is no longer located in Clinton, CT. We are focusing on industrial and commercial work in the future but will still be able to service our loyal local patrons by phone and email."
The move, Brennan said, is actually good for him. "I am happy, save for the debt run up while operating out of the store."
He has a trailer on private property, so he won’t have any customers at the new location. The phone number, website and email address remain unchanged.
"I am still doing work for some of my loyal customers by meeting them at Malone’s Coffee Shop, or in downtown Clinton and delivering, picking up items. Most of my work will come and go via UPS in the future," he explained.
The engraver's former neighbor at 11 Post Office Square, Timeless HOME Consignments, moved out shortly before he did.
Owner and decorating consultant Rachel Schemmerling said, "Post Office Square and downtown Clinton are certainly in need of some assistance...it's a dying area. I hope that the town can find a way to breathe some life into that area."
The consignment store closed in October, a year after it opened. Schemmerling added Facebook to the mix when the shop opened and it's been her best advertising.
"I loved my lil' shop...and it was doing very well. It just made more sense to not have so much overhead. The neighborhood there needs an infrastructure overhaul. There is no sewer system to accommodate a new restaurant or like business. If the town invested in this...and perhaps upgrading the buildings, parking...and image, it would attract more business. Take a look at Deep River and how they kept their identity but upgraded the area to make it more appealing for new business and customers," she said.
Schemmerling hopes to launch her new website in mid-January. When the site launches, it will interface with Facebook so she can sell directly off of both. She currently has a warehouse but is not sure how much longer that will be so.
In 2013, Timeless HOME Consignments will be offering a new concept called IN HOME consigning. Schemmerling explains, "We come to you and take photos of your items and sell them for you online."
Clinton Music Center, found at 1 East Main Street until last May, is now an online and by-appointment-only business.
The transition was smooth, according to owner Catherine Zamecnik.
“We have a reputation for repairs and that’s where most of our money was made when we were at the storefront anyway,” she explained.
The repair service continues and they have inventory online. Most inventory, however, is sold through Craigslist and eBay.
Business is done out of Zamecnik’s home. There are no more lessons because of liability but former teachers do give lessons in people’s homes.
For repairs, customers can visit her home or she will pick up and deliver.
Before the storefront closed, online sales really weren’t done.
“There was just so much overhead with the store and, honestly, people just go online.” But the prices one finds online, she said, “are just not sustainable for a storefront.”
“If I tried to charge a couple of dollars more, people would go crazy and bring in their iPhones to show me what they saw it for on eBay,” she said and added, “I can’t sell things at that price and still pay rent and electricity and everything else.”
With a brick and mortar store, Zamecnik found, she had to have considerable inventory and vendors had to be paid up front. "Eventually, I was just getting enough money in to pay for the inventory, pay for the overhead. I didn’t have enough income except for coffee money.”
She just wasn’t bringing in enough money to replenish inventory enough to have an online store. Zamencnik said, "I just couldn’t get to that level with prices of the internet stuff not allowing me to refurbish inventory and keep on going."
Most customers are still local, and she has quite a bit of stock in her home.
“I have stuff tucked away everywhere here." A front-exposure basement with a slider that walks out onto the driveway works well.
“When people come in, things are in a glass case. The store is all set up in our basement. It’s a very separate part of the house and when people come in it’s like coming into a store and not intruding in a house.”
While the new way of doing business is working out, Zamecnik still needs a second job. “It’s just the way it is,” she says.
“There’s going to be a couple more stores closing on Route 1 because of the massage parlor the landlord put on the corner where my store was,” she informed and added, “Clinton Music Center is now going to be Serenity Asian Massage, even though last year there was the arrest for prostitution.”
Zamecnik would like to change some of the zoning regulations “because I’m appalled.”
"Clinton is a beautiful town. We are on Route One. It’s historical homes but the people in this town don’t care. It’s dead. Nobody wants to fix anyting, nobody cares or appreciates it and I don’t see any way that businesses are going to come back to Clinton with this kind of attitude.”
Timeless Home Consignments is found on Facebook or by calling 203.500.9500 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Clinton Music Center, click here.
To reach Laser Engraved Services, click here.