Friday, November 07, 2003

Businesses filling Fairfield downtown vacancies


Businesses filling downtown vacancies

By Julie Gordon

-- When Devore McGrew was getting ready to open Mrs. Moon's Cafe, she couldn't think of a better location for her new business than downtown.

Not only is downtown growing, but it's a beautiful area with a lot of potential, McGrew said.

"It's more personal," she said, adding downtown is close to where she lives. "It has a friendlier feel to it. I like it down here. It's comfortable."

Mrs. Moon's Caf/ is just one of several businesses opening, expanding or relocating downtown, filling a wealth of vacancies.

Building owners are trying to attract upscale tenants downtown, said Karl Dumas, economic development project manager for the city.

"Instead of just allowing any type of tenant into that space, they're trying to get a tenant in there that will benefit everything that's going on downtown," Dumas said. "That's why you'll see some vacancies. They want to wait for a tenant that fits the image of what they see downtown. You could fill all those spaces tomorrow, but you wouldn't have the quality of tenant they're desiring down there."

Getting businesses to come downtown has been challenging because it isn't visible from the freeway, said Emily Low, Main Street program coordinator and director of the Fairfield Downtown Association. She said visitors tend to think of the Westfield Shoppingtown Solano mall as the center of activity.

Rents downtown are less than in the mall area because properties are older and there's less foot traffic, said Sue Violette, special event planner for the Fairfield Downtown Association.

Mrs. Moon's Caf/, a Mediterranean restaurant at 720 Texas St., Suite 101 B, opened in mid-October. McGrew brews Starbucks coffee and has a cyber cafe hooked up for wireless and DSL.

The goal is to cater to the crowd at Pepper Belly's, a comedy and variety club down the street, McGrew said.

"After 9 p.m. nothing else is open for people who want to get dinner, or go out for coffee or dessert" she said. "Have you ever tried to go out and get a meal at 9:30? It's virtually impossible. (Pepper Belly's has) been really supportive of us and we want to be supportive of them, also."

It took McGrew, who has been the restaurant business 25 years, a year to get Mrs. Moon's up and running. She had to learn about all the channels a new business owner had to go through, buy all new equipment, and put some TLC into the old building before opening her doors.

Her new restaurant will be joined by another new eatery opening in January - J.T. Gumbo's Cajun, Creole and Fine Southern Cuisine owned by Jim and Teri Green.

J.T. Gumbo's, at 622 Jackson St. behind Pepper Belly's, will feature live blues and jazz on weekends and evenings. The restaurant's motto will be: "Food for the soul."

Jim Green, who has been in the restaurant industry more than 20 years, said he likes that he'll be able to catch those who work downtown during their lunch hour.

"I think that downtown is emerging as a new people destination location," he said. "I believe that over the next couple of years downtown is going to emerge as a more lucrative business environment with an increased entertainment appeal for the Solano County area."

He added that he also plans to stay open late to help bring people downtown after business hours.

But there is more than just new places to eat coming downtown. There are also retail businesses expanding.

K&A Home Furnishing, 935 Texas St., opened a second location downtown a couple of months ago. And Second Time Around, 948 Texas St., recently ventured into a second business next door called Baby Comfort, which will sell new baby furniture to complement the children's consignment shop.

Danc-Sing Stars Studio, which offers tap, acrobatics, jazz and vocal instruction, has moved to 1125 Missouri St., said owner Carole Warren.

The new location is offering "Mommy & I" classes for moms with 2- to 5-year-olds.

"I think the downtown area is a little safer, more conducive to a family dance environment," Warren said.

Julie Gordon can be reached at

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