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Brick And Mortar Stores Close Doors

Clinton Music Center, Timeless Home Interiors and Laser Engraved Services live on but by Internet, phone and email.

 

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.”

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Timeless Home Consignments is found on Facebook or by calling 203.500.9500 or by email at timelesshomeconsign@gmail.com.

For more information on Clinton Music Center, click here.

To reach Laser Engraved Services, click here.

Jane Scully Welch December 31, 2012 at 09:06 PM
When oh when will everyone stop blaming Town Hall for Post Office Square...or Main Street...the owner of the building that remained empty until just now...is one Mr Bill Chittenden. He has just..once again..rented space to a massage parlor....though this time it is right on the corner of Main and Post Office Square....and today there is an enormous picture of a man and a woman getting a massage....it is in such poor taste...I can not believe that a man who has called Clinton home for so many years...would allow that in a store front he owns. We spoke with him today...he claims he can not communicate well with her because she speeaks chinese...he told her we did not use signage like that in America? He too has to pay taxes...so he needs the rental fees...but after what happened with the last massage parlor.....would you rent to another one??. The other side of the square looks pretty good...Lupones would love to fix their lil lopsided building, but P&Z holds them back due to septic...or lack there of..............and the Lupones have renovated many a building in Town...The Labbadias are renovating the old rectory at 14 West Main....come on property owners....have pride in this Town....if you can not afford the taxes..sell the building and move on!!!
Robin January 01, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Absolutely disgusting, I am embarrassed to say I live in this town. I am so saddened to see all these fine businesses have to leave due to the poor judgement of the Fritz administration & town's zoning laws (or lack thereof.) Instead of focusing their efforts on a downtown revival & dealing w/ the waste-water problems and much-needed sewers - instead, they are putting all their eggs in one basket w/ the new Morgan monstrosity and budget killer. Quite frustrating indeed, how long it takes for anything to get done in this town.
R Alvin January 01, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Robin, see my first comment, Willy nor the town owns the property. If you are outraged then go to a planning and zoning meeting and express yourself. Protest the store front, write the landlord or call him he lives on Leffingwell rd.( Bill Chittenden).
Brian Macauley January 01, 2013 at 12:58 PM
If there is any legal recourse available to prevent the opening of the massage parlor, it should be pursued by town government. That particular storefront is the gateway to Post Office Square. Obviously the landlord is incapable of making responsible decisions as to tenant selection.
Sandy Lewis January 01, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Robin, the town is in dire need of a school. The voters have agreed to it, it will benefit the average IQ of their offspring, and it will improve real estate sales. Mr Alvin is wrong though ....administrations guide policy that improves or detracts from that which they manage. If we simply gave the current administrstion a years leave-of-absence, and borrowed the effective administrative minds of those that govern towns like Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, Madison, Chester, Deep River, etc etc etc ....they would transform a naturally gifted geographically located shoreline town into something is people would be proud of, and turn it into a destination; just as they have done theirs. In the mean time, its massage parlors and tatoo shops for Clintucky.
Art Kuever January 01, 2013 at 02:44 PM
The wastewater issue that you speak of has been around since the early 80's and has nothing to do with the current administration. This can also be said of the building in which the high school resides. I agree with you on the point of the zoning laws, maybe they need to be looked at but I am sure that will take time to come up with a plan that will work for all.
Art Kuever January 01, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Even with who you are calling the "effective administrative minds" any plan would require money, and there are some that will not approve any money being spent, period. If the new building for the school had not been approved, no money would have been approved to solve the roof issue or bring it up to code we would have just kept patching. There were chances back in the 80's when the state was giving out up to 90% reimbursement to towns for improvements and our town did not approve the 10%. So, if everyone is so upset with the current administration everyone will have a chance to vote them out. What is to be said for all the administrations prior to this one that also did not address the issues that everyone is complaining about.
Valentina DeMayo DaCosta January 01, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Great points Sandy & R Alvin! Thank you for clarifying any grey areas & taking the time to post.
Kirk Carr January 01, 2013 at 04:00 PM
If down town was thriving and businesses were flocking to Clinton instead of fleeing, the powers-that-be in Clinton would rightfully share credit. By deflecting accountability, attributing failure to the Internet and circling the wagons around the status quo, the real underlying issues are not confronted. The leaders of Clinton have set spending priorities ahead of investing priorities that would produce the returns that both releave taxpayers and support civic spending. The time is coming for Clinton to try something different. The consequences of putting spending ahead of investing are going to be painfully sobering and very challenging to correct. But those in denial are not suited to leading Clinton out of the hole they have dug.
Jay January 01, 2013 at 04:32 PM
The various boards and commissions have already approved the new massage/ therapy store. There is no evidence of criminality or wrongdoing by anyone except the damaging inferences and statements being made and the apparent harrassment of a local landlord. The immediate Post Office Square area has seen literally a dozen or more retail operations in the last six plus years. None, but for the long standing barber shop , dry cleaners and the infamous Jade, survived !. Strangely, a little over a half a century ago, the A&P, located in a two story building next to the Comcast office, went out of business shortly after the brothel upstairs was raided and closed. Mayhap it would be wise to cease the potentially defamatory caterwaling and allow a successful and legal business model to operate in this proven dead zone.
Chris January 01, 2013 at 05:43 PM
The Planning Committee of the Clinton Planning and Zoning Commission has been mandated to draft a New Town Plan of Conservation and Development (PCD). The Town Plan is the legally mandated guide to what we want out town to become: it serves as the basis for zoning and other land use regulations that control development; it guides the formulation of public policy relating to infrastructure investments such as roads and recreational facilities: and it indicates our expectations to those considering an investment in Clinton. We know that the only way a Town Plan has a real chance of being implemented is to involve the participation of the stakeholders: residents, property owners and business people. We need your help— your ideas about what our vision should be, your thoughts about the specific goals and objectives that would move us towards that vision, and we need your help developing the activities, policies and even the institutions that are capable of meeting those goals and objectives. Technical expertise is welcome but not required.
Chris January 01, 2013 at 05:44 PM
We will be posting some of our initial thoughts on this blog. http://revitalizingclintonct.wordpress.com/tag/revitalization/ We will also be creating an email address and a link to documents posted on the Town website by end January. In the coming months we will be holding a series of public meetings to solicit both ideas and active participants. We welcome your thoughts and solicit your participation. Please follow the link to our State PCD. http://www.ct.gov/opm/cwp/view.asp?a=2990&q=383182&opmNav_GID=1807 There must be “cross acceptance” between the Town, Regional and State POD for grant awards. Elements of the State Plan look to aggressively pursue Smart Growth, Transit Orientated Development (TOD) and implement the Complete Streets legislation.
MrsSmithWatchingWashington January 01, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Go to greatschools.com and you can compare Clinton schools, in many ways, from educators to test scores, with other schools in the area. Madison and Guilford, for example, got a total score of 10. Clinton got a 6. I don't think building a new school is going to fix much wrong in our school system, nor will it accomplish what Sandy Lewis stated "...the town is in dire need of a school. The voters have agreed to it, it will benefit the average IQ of their offspring, and it will improve real estate sales". You chan't change someone's IQ!
Phil Sengle January 01, 2013 at 08:27 PM
The bottom line is that this article is a condemnation of Clinton's economic situation and the policies that allowed it to happen. I am amused by those who rise to defend Mr. Fritz. While these problems have festered for years, well before his tenure, he has done nothing to put us on a path of growth. We spend but never invest on anything that will bring us economic growth and new tax revenue. Take waste water treatment for example. Having proper waste water treatment on Rt. 1 and 81 would allow for economic development. What did Clinton do. We rushed the school to get approval before the cost of a waste water system was known. The reason being that the 2nd project getting to referendum will be much harder to get approved due to affordability issues. Without economic development (increase in grand list) taxes will continue to rise, businesses will continue to leave and housing values will decline, causing the mil rate to go up, which will likely cause an endless cycle of budget defeats and business losses. If we were an Island we could live like this for a while, but we are not. Now back to our First Selectman. While this is not all of his fault, he needs to take leadership on economic development to reverse the course we are on. If not him, then who?
Art Kuever January 01, 2013 at 10:40 PM
I am happy that you are amused with the support, not defense, of Mr. Fritz. It is well documented that there are two sides of how people think the town should "invest" to bring Clinton the economic development that everyone seems to want. If the investment happened when these issues became known, we would not be paying for it now. With this administration at least one of the issues is being resovled, the new building to house the high school. I believe that this will bring families to this town, thereby creating the need for new business to attrack these families to our center of town rather than everyone leaving to go to surronding areas. I don't believe that solving the waste water issue will automatically cause economic growth. Some seem to think that once this is solved restaurants will move in, where? Who is going to pay for these locations to be hooked up to the system? the landlords that are willing to rent to anyone to cover the tax, I don't think so. For a restaurant to move in anywhere there will be alot of start up costs and who is going to take that risk with no one to come to town to patronize them. Unfortunately, you can not tell me your way will work for certain and I cannot tell you my way will work either. At least one investment is being made, now let us work on the other. The bigger issue is the overall design of our town, no parking on the store front, lack of signage to direct people to parking and such.
joan January 01, 2013 at 11:05 PM
Talk about bringing in new businesses, is it true that the Lee company has backed out of moving into the Unilever building? Who will be moving into again, another vacant building. This town has run more businesses out, than any other town around. Yet, some seem to think that this new ugly school with all these weird roofs, is going to bring more families to town, I don't think so. This town had better do something about the waster water system, and getting some decent businesses in town before they do anything else.
Art Kuever January 02, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Why doesn't the town take the Unilever property by eminent domain, make that the new high school by renovating the current building there and use the newly acquired parcel as the waste water treatment plant. Then sell the current high school location to new businesses that will come because we have the waste water plant that has, evidently, been holding this town back for the past 30 years that it has been being talked about. Then we have no more issues and the people will come flocking to our town.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Not entirely accurate. You can say that "w fritz & friends" do not have their priorities straight, you can say that your taxes have continuously risen during his time as First Selectman, you can say that they have done virtually nothing to improve the local economy but you can't put all the blame on them. He continues to get re-elected so those casting votes for him must shoulder blame as well.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 01:52 AM
The town hall renovations were included in a $9.4 million bonding package that received practically no publicity. Therefore, a paltry 600 residents showed up to vote. Don't you agree that these important, huge expenditures deserve more publicity? There are countless comparatively insignificant topics that get all kinds of publicity but a $9.4 million bonding package gets minimal publicty? Only in Clinton, so it could pushed through. And, let's not forget that those renovations to town hall were packaged together in an unprecedented long all-or-nothing laundry list of projects like the soccer field. Surely you're not so naive as to believe this isn't calculated. You want to blame property owners but why would those property owners make any further investment if there is no interest in locating businesses in Clinton and their property taxes continue to rise steadily while nothing has been done by the administration to improve downtown?
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:00 AM
In the past 20+ years, the town has had only 2 First Selectmen; J. McCusker and W. Fritz. We got here because residents continued to re-elect thes two individuals. If you are dissatisfied with the way things are going, elect someone else. it's not a matter of blame. If it's not working, make a change.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Obviously, this is a toungue-in-cheek comment but the underlying truth is that Clinton is clearly unable to attract the mix of businesses that a community would like to see and the problem is getting progressively worse. Clinton won't be fine until there is a change in administration and philosophy.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:08 AM
Everyone in clinton would like to see growth and improvement but the current administration has shown that it is incapable of accomplishing that. Yes, we all know that Clinton is a beautiful place with enormous potential but how many years is it going to take to realize that nothing will change until there there is a change in administration and philosophy?
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:21 AM
Laura, the Planning & Zoning Commission has been dysfunctional for years but the chairman has finally been replaced. The new chairman is Anselmo Delia and the new vice-chaiman is Alan Kravitz. I know that they are planning to put together a new town plan of development and the first step you should take is to attend their regular monthly meetings and share your concerns. We all kniow we can do much better but please don't place all the blame on property owners who can't fill their advertised vacancies for many months. Keep in mind that their property taxes keep rising and this is investment property. They can't have their property just sitting vacant. I'm sure there are many other types of business that Mr. Chittenden would have prefered to lease to but, after many months of advertising, you can't blame him for wanting to fill the space. I'm sure the police department will be closely monitoring Serenity Asian Massage. I hope someone can convince them to remove that sign, though, because it's totally tacky.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:39 AM
P&Z is not holding anyone back "due to septic". It's not within their perview to resolve the septic issue. The solution was identified just before Fritz took office and it includes purchasing the Schiogay property for wastewater remediation. Shortly after taking office, Fritz announced that the Sciongay property was no longer an option because the state found it unnacceptable, but that wasn't true. After many more years have passed and hundreds of properties have been evaluated, the Sciongay properties remains the viable yet still ignored solution. I understand that an attempt is underway to somehow revisit the number of affected properties and try to reduce that number but that's absolutely ridiculous and very shortsighted. The town needs to acquire the Sciongay property and proceed with a responsible wastewater solution. If Mr. Chittendon has leased his property to a legal business, so be it. I'm sure the police department will be keeping a watchful eye on that operation and, if anything illegal is going on, that business will also be shut down. But, the sign is in very bad taste and I intend to share my opinion with the Planning & Zoning commission. I hope others will do the same. The signage regulations in Clinton have not been properly enforced and should be amended to prevent this type of innapropriate, unnattractive sign.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:46 AM
The Planning & Zoning chairman and vice-chairman have finally been replaced. The new chairman is Anselmo Delia and the new vice-chairman is Alan Kravitz. These are two fine, knowledgable men and I believe you will witness a tremendous improvement in the commission very soon. As far as the Fritz administration, it remains to be seen how long the town will continue to tolerate the policies that make you embarrassed to say you live in Clinton.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Art, please take the time to read the $500,000 setic analysis that is available at the land use office before excusing the current administration. I'm sure you will find it enlightening and it will affect your opinion.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 03:49 AM
Robin, I agree with you that our current administration is largely innefective and that our naturally gifted locale is being reduced to a declining community that is, frankly, embarrassing. But, with regard to a new school, the City of New Haven spent hundreds of millions of dollars building new schools recently only to see their test scores decline. Yes, Morgan needed to be addressed as it has been allowed to deteriorate inexplicably, but spending $65 million on a new building on contaminated soil will not raise anyone's IQ or test score. It will only raise taxes considerably. We should also be concerned with how much money Clinton will ultimately receive from the state towards this new building, in light of the fact that the state will be facing a projected billion dollar deficit in 2013. I attended two presentations by the building committee and it's amazing how much less attractive the current drawings are than the original drawings that were presented to voters. What was the purpose of the original drawings, anyway? I think we all know.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 03:52 AM
Agreed. The biggest problem is clearly not the building but what is taking place inside the building. That should be the first priority.
VIN CIMINO January 02, 2013 at 04:05 AM
That's an interesting scenario, Art, but I'm sure the Richards nursery property was evaluated for wastewater solution potential and found to be inadequate. Regarding the current Morgan property, you'll notice that absolutely no buyers have surfaced, probably due in part to the fact that it contains an aquifer that severely limits the type of enterprise that be located there.
Chris January 02, 2013 at 08:18 PM
The Morgan school site has not been put on the market. It is currently zoned residential. P&Z and the Planning Committee are waiting for a report from CT Water on the aquifer and where it extends into the property. The Planning Committee is looking to rezone the site and possibly the surrounding area based on future needs of Clinton. We are interested in ideas for the entire Rt-81 I-95 interchange area. What do the citizens of Clinton want? Reducing the tax burden has been heard most. This opens an entirely new conversation. What kinds of businesses are going to do this and keep the money in the community? What kind of businesses will bring jobs to the area? Not just minimum wage jobs, but jobs demanding livable salaries. Let’s not leave this up to developers to decide what Clinton needs. Let’s be proactive and zone the area for what we need and WANT! One way to do this is with form-based codes. They encourage public participation because they allow us to see what will happen and where. The can get specific as to the look and design of the buildings to be in keeping with their surroundings. Form-based codes encourage independent development by multiple property owners. Not just big box stores, which we have little control of the type of stores typically proposed for such parcels. Get involved, attend a meeting or send your thoughts to the Planning & Zoning Commission at Town Hall or email the Planning Committee at ClintonPlanningCommittee@gmail.com

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