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Three stores in Shops at HarborCenter will close

All three retail stores in the Shops at HarborCenter will close by the end of September, a spokesman for Pegula Sports and Entertainment said Thursday.

Clayton's Toys & Gifts, Fowler's Chocolates and Red Siren will close their HarborCenter locations, roughly two years after they opened.

"We are having ongoing discussions with several potential tenants and hope to soon unveil new retail offerings that will join the Healthy Scratch in continuing to enhance the Canalside district at the Shops at HarborCenter," Don Heins said in an email. He declined to comment further.

Tim Hortons will remain open in addition to Healthy Scratch, an organic cafe owned by Kelly and Jessie Pegula.

Pegula daughters open Healthy Scratch organic cafe at HarborCenter

Employees at Clayton's, Fowler's and Red Siren said traffic has been hit or miss at the shops and that sales have been mostly miss.

Ted Marks, owner of Fowler's chocolates, said he had high hopes when he opened the Canalside location, but things did not go as well as expected.

"Every time you open a new store, it's a gamble," Marks said.

Contributing factors included poor visibility and accessibility.

The stores, which were located on an interior corridor rather than having their own storefronts that exited onto the street, were not highly visible from the outside. Despite their interior locations, the stores were not directly accessible to hotel guests, who had to exit the hotel in order to enter the shops.

 

Ultimately, foot traffic and revenues were disappointing and didn't justify keeping the Canalside space open.

"You could make 100 different guesses about the reasons for that, but that would be speculation, and I don't want to get into that," Marks said. "Our decision was based on foot traffic only."

Fowler's has retail locations in Hamburg, East Aurora, Town of Tonawanda and Cheektowaga, as well as on Main Street and Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. It also has its factory headquarters on River Rock Drive.

The stores were located in the middle of one of downtown's trendiest locations – Canalside, next to KeyBank Center. But security does not allow packages inside Canalside events, such as the Thursday outdoor concert series, shows at KeyBank Center and Sabres games. That tended to thwart purchases by pre-show crowds.

Clayton's Toys and Gifts offered free gift wrapping and kept its pricing the same as its store on Main Street in Williamsville.

"Our best day was when people came to see the big, inflatable duck in the water," said Kellie Klos, an owner at Clayton's.

Klos said the shops worked together as a unit with HarborCenter representatives to try and make the strip successful. It was a "mutual decision" among the shops and their landlord to call it quits, she said.

"We were just too early. Sometimes being the first one in doesn't work out," Klos said. "But in five years, especially as more people move downtown, that area is going to be amazing."

When asked if she's considering moving the second location elsewhere, she said she's not counting out a move somewhere else downtown but she's focused on closing the HarborCenter shop first.

Modern Nostalgia, a clothing retailer on Hertel Avenue, vacated the strip last year. The Healthy Scratch filled that vacancy. Red Siren recently opened what owners referred to as a "pop-up" location in the former Hero Certified Burgers at 976 Elmwood Ave.

The closures will leave three retail spaces of about 800 to 900 square feet empty.

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