Papillion Mayor David Black says recent turnover in downtown Papillion presents more opportunities than it does challenges.
Multiple businesses have moved out of the area in the last year, only to be replaced by several new ventures.
“It’s sad that a business closes,” Black said Friday. “But once in a while, a little bit of turnover creates a little bit of vacancy. Any healthy market needs some level of vacancy for people to come into. If everything is filled, there’s no new opportunity.”
Junque Factory and Papillion Hardware are among businesses that left the area.
The owners of Papillion Hardware retired. The owner of Junque Factory relocated to focus on another business.
“With any town, there’s always going to be turnover of business. It doesn’t matter how big or small the town, that’s just part of the business world,” said Kim Ahlers, owner of Kajoma’s and president of the Historical Downtown Papillion Business Association.
Savannah’s, a boutique selling women’s accessories, is also leaving downtown.
The store opened in April 2010. Owner Lynn Mayer said she expects to close the store by the end of the month.
“I don’t get enough traffic,” Mayer said. “We had people come in after four years who didn’t know we were there.”
Black said marketing is up to the individual business but resources such as the business association can help.
“A business owner has a responsibility to market themselves and grow their own business,” Black said. “There’s a lot of healthy business downtown.”
The association is a driving force in attracting business downtown, Ahlers said.
“I think the downtown business association is a great place for businesses to connect and brainstorm,” she said.
Ahlers said she has seen traffic at her store increase year after year. Many of her customers come from outside the Papillion area.
Kajoma’s has earned a “Best of Omaha” ranking six years in a row but isn’t the only Papillion business to receive the accolade from Omaha Magazine.
The boutique is joined by the Papillion Flower Patch, in downtown, and Absolutely Her, in Tara Plaza, as “Best of Omaha” locations.
Boyd Dingman, owner of three Dingman’s Collision Center locations in Omaha, is opening a fourth location in Papillion near 84th and Lincoln streets. Dingman’s Omaha locations have also won the “Best of Omaha” contest.
“Right there you’ve got four ‘Best of Omaha’ winners right here in Papillion,” Ahlers said. “We are attracting quality businesses that take pride in great customer service.”
The key to many businesses’ success is working together.
“If a business just comes, opens up and stays inside and waits for traffic to come in, that’s a hard way to run the business,” Black said. “They’ve got to be active with the other businesses, the association, the foundation, the civic organizations, and exploit the opportunities created around them.”
Other ways for businesses to get involved include city-sponsored events and becoming active in the community foundation or civic groups.
“The business has an obligation to leverage that opportunity and be open,” Black said. “We do a lot of active communication to draw people into town. A lot of businesses have taken advantage of that and are doing well.”
With the new First Street Plaza at First and Washington streets, some businesses have seen an uptick in traffic.
Roger Kubricek has owned Double K Feed for 34 years. The First Street Plaza project across from Kubricek’s store received a lot of criticism when it was being built. But Kubricek said has seen new clientele in the area because of it.
“Young people come down here with strollers that never came downtown before,” he said. “Did it help our business a lot? It’s hard to tell. It’s gotten people who never realized we were here before.”
Kubricek said his regular, loyal customers have been vital to his business.
“I just have a good feeling,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt in all my years down here.”
Kubricek said he still sees room for downtown to grow, particularly in terms of adding restaurants and nightlife.
Black said the next move in developing downtown will center around the move of the Public Works Department facility and garage to Portal Road and Hupp Drive. Once the 18-month building project and move is complete, the city will repurpose the two buildings in downtown, he said.
Because of vacancies created by businesses leaving the area, five new businesses will join the downtown area in the next month.
“It’s always sad to see a business not be able to stay open,” Ahlers said. “But, on the flip side of that, it opens up an opportunity for an entrepreneur to try his or her hand at business.”
Twisted Vine, a paint-and-sip studio, will set up shop in the former Papillion Hardware store. The studio will also feature a wine bar, boutique and studio space for painting.
“That’s a Papillion resident investing in a dream in Papillion,” Black said of Twisted Vine owners Cara and Bill Ehegartner. “That would not have happened without vacancy or turnover.”
In the former Junque Factory location will be the Bell Place Shoppes. Opening Feb. 1, the four shops – Photo Art by Kim, The Sawdust Factory, N-E Things Country and LOOManations – feature work by artisans and craftsmen. The shops were previously based at the Old Ralston Granary.
“We wanted to be here because of the location and the traffic,” said Kim Shaw, owner of Photo Art by Kim. “It’s centrally located. I feel like it’s destiny. We were meant to meet and open here.”
Shaw takes photos from customers and turns them into photo paintings on canvas.
Lonnie Theer, owner of The Sawdust Factory, does custom woodworking with exotic woods.
“His craftsmanship is really unique,” Shaw said.
Linda Sorgenfrei, owner of N-E Things Country, repurposes items. Dana Smith, owner of LOOManations, specializes in crocheting items for babies and children.
“We’re all pretty much custom,” Shaw said. “If a customer has an idea in their mind, we’ll create it. We know we can do it. It doesn’t matter where we go.”
The artists are taking applications to fill their final space inside the Bell Building, Theer said. A remaining space is suitable for an artist, craftsman or boutique, Theer said.
“The businesses that are coming in are excellent fits for each other,” Black said.
Black said the mix of existing businesses like the Bell Place Shoppes, and new businesses like Twisted Vine, will be good for the area.
“What really excites me is that four are existing businesses,” Black said. “They know who their clients are and know the traffic patterns. They’re bringing in their clientele.”
Shaw relocated to Papillion after living in Des Moines.
“I love the town and its character,” she said. “It’s becoming a hub. Papillion can become the place to go for art and art events but it can still have its own personality.”
Black said the businesses in the area have helped to give downtown an identity.
“They have come to an identity and now I think it’s raising awareness of that identity. It’s a place of rich history and tradition, and it’s going to be about start up businesses, entrepreneurs and high-end boutique type things.”
Ahlers is optimistic about the direction downtown is headed in.
“I am so excited to see where we grow from here,” Ahlers said. “Every time a new business opens its door, it validates that Mayor Black has worked so hard promoting downtown Papillion. I really hope this is just the beginning of what’s to come.”