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Kingwood loses downtown businesses

KINGWOOD — Within the past three months, Price Street in Kingwood has lost three businesses.

Vapor Hut closed its doors in December. In January, the Brew Ha Ha closed, and in February Designs by Dee owner Dee Hartman left Price Street and went back to being a home-based business.

Debra Kelley, owner of Loved Again Consignments on Price Street, said business is down.

“I’ve been here for three years and have watched everything come and go,” Kelley said. “The only thing that keeps me busy is people looking for gowns and dresses for weddings and other formal events. That’s my twice-a-year staple.”

She said selling clothing, purses and jewelry is her bread and butter that keeps her in business throughout the year.

Lost business is not the only problem facing Price Street. Last year, one commercial building was torn down and another is in the process of being condemned.

Kingwood mayor and business owner Jean Guillot said he believes the town needs to attract the type of businesses to Price Street that creates foot traffic.

Guillot is the owner of The Inn, on Main Street.

Hartman agreed. She said the lack of foot traffic was the deciding factor in her move. She and her husband, Terry, sell original art, handmade teddy bears and CBD products. They also do alterations, sewing, vinyl designs for shirts and do custom embroidery.

Hartman said her business was not showing a profit. She said all of the money she made was going for rent and to re-stock.

“I agree we need something to bring people down here,” Kelley said. “The only foot traffic is going to the courthouse. Maybe a dollar store because they are affordable or a sports bar where people could go for TV, wings and a couple of beers.”

She said another concern is losing the city’s historical district.

“We don’t want to lose too many buildings and lose our historical district,” she said. “I understand we have to have a certain number of buildings to keep that designation.”

At an earlier meeting, Kingwood Councilwoman Michelle Whetsell, who represents council on the Blueprint Community Committee, said she would like to see some specialty stores open on Price Street.

“Handmade crafts, a health store, another eatery. Maybe a furniture store or even a name-brand shoe store. Businesses that come in would have to be unique.”

Hartman said she didn’t believe craft and art stores would generate the foot traffic needed to keep family-owned, small businesses like hers open.

“Little family businesses need something to attract people downtown,” Hartman said. “Something like the old Mary’s restaurant that offered a decent breakfast, lunch and dinner would be good. it was always busy.”

Guillot agreed. He said an anchor business that created foot traffic would benefit other small businesses located on the street.

“A dollar-type store would be good,” Guillot said. “Art and craft spots are nice but they don’t offer the type of business that brings people downtown.”

He said he believes the 1% sales tax the city is charging could be used to promote and generate business.

“The first step is to purchase a street sweeper to keep the streets looking nice,” Guillot said. “The more business we attract, the more tax benefits we receive. It’s in the city’s interest to help generate business.”

He said he believes businesses that offer services not currently available would be beneficial. He said online business hurts local business.

“A lot of services are available online,” Guillot said. “You can sit on your couch and order something and have it delivered in two days.”

He said there’s not an easy solution for attracting business to Price Street.

“You have to have people with disposable money to spend,” Guillot said. “This problem is not unique to Kingwood.”