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New London - The Eyeglass Lass has opened on State Street as the first wave of vacant downtown storefronts begins to be filled thanks to the CreateHereNow program.
Other businesses that will be launched or relocated around the State Street hub include a cooperative boutique, bike repair shop, wellness cooperative, furniture store and a children's learning center.
CreateHereNow New London, launched in February, works with landlords and potential business owners to repurpose empty storefronts while giving enterprises a break on rent. The program, with a $500,000 budget statewide, is an initiative of the state Department of Economic and Community Development to fill empty storefronts in 20 cities, and it was kicked off locally with the help of New London Main Street.
"There are abundant opportunities for more commercial property owners and creative entrepreneurs to join in this initiative, including for entrepreneurs who wish to live/work in their downtown space," according to a press release.
A celebration of the first few businesses that have committed to the initiative will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Sept. 27 starting at the Garde Arts Center and concluding with tours and entertainment in Harris Place at 165 State St.
The Eyeglass Lass, owned by Siobhan Burns at 277 State St., is described as "an independent optical boutique" with "current styles as well as a unique selection of vintage eyewear."
Other businesses committed to the CreateHereNow initiative include Hive Skate Shop at 52 State St., which moved from a slip of a space on Green Street to larger headquarters, offering skateboards and related gear. Charlie King is the owner.
The Red Tail Learning Center, at 24 Masonic St., will offer kids a creative environment to spur their education.
The Connecticut Healing Arts Center at 165 State St. will sell natural healing products designed to lure customers to the New London Healing Arts Center and other businesses on the upper floors of the building.
Bike New London will occupy 300 State St. through the summer, offering bike repair and highlighting the nonprofit's local work.
Other spaces will include a pop-up shop at 278 State St. where merchants can temporarily sell their goods, including artists who will appear for trunk shows, exhibitions and demonstration; the State of Markers Boutique at 311 State St. that will feature regional artisans and jewelry maker Pam Natale along with other local talent; and the Rise Co-working Center & Cobalt Design at 281 State St. that includes space for furniture dealers as well as a showroom for educational programs.
In addition, a storefront at 127 Bank St. has been set aside as a future live/work space. CreateHereNow is actively seeking an entrepreneur to apply for the space, which would take advantage of a relatively new city regulation encouraging residents to live downtown.
As a way to promote downtown storefront efforts, CreateHereNow also announced that a music series will be held every Friday this month at the Holiday Inn New London. Local musicians will be appearing for free concerts at the hotel from 5 to 7 p.m. in hopes of bringing more visitors to the city to check out potential storefronts.