Downtown Essex evolves from 'sad' place, to 'revitalizing' hub
7 businesses have opened or moved to Essex Centre and 2 have closed since January
Four days after hitting the market, a storefront property in downtown Essex quickly sold. That's just one sign many in the community say points to a revitalization of the core.
Eight years ago, Mary-Anne Bjorkman described Essex Centre as being "sad" and full of vacancies.
Today, that's a very different story.
"It's vibrant. It's coming along nicely," Bjorkman said. "The foot traffic we've seen increase."
As a way to prepare for retirement, Bjorkman Is selling one of two of her downtown women's boutiques — Golden Girls Fashions. It closes September 29.
At the same time, there's a lot of development going on. Schinkels' Meat Market is expanding down the street, into an old party store that's been sitting empty for a while.
And a mystery tenant is moving into the old Grand Central Tavern, that's also been vacant for some time. It's expected to open in December.
All of this growth is being linked to the town's Community Improvement Plan.
"It really improves the overall look of the downtown and it really contributes to the main street revitalization," said Economic Development Officer Nelson Silveira.
The town offers up to $12,000 for businesses to do facade improvements and those shops must match that money dollar for dollar. There are also grants to help cover the cost of patio expansions, accessible entrances, landscaping and signage.
The Essex Business Improvement Association said seven businesses have opened or moved to Essex Centre and two have closed since January.
"Working toward a vibrant downtown that's sustainable with businesses that are going to stay here for a long time —that's really what's important to us," said Silveira.