A spate of new businesses is filling in empty downtown storefronts. Some business owners looking to target specific crowds — be they college students or connoisseurs of the creative — say downtown is the place to be.
Tiger Textbooks opened last week at Elm Street Plaza, 904 Elm St., in the space next to Cold Stone Creamery. The plaza, built early last year, has been mostly vacant since the first store opened early this year.
Walt and Joe Schulz, owners of Tiger Textbooks, said they hope to tap into Columbia’s student population by selling textbooks and MU merchandise. They previously owned a bookstore in Toledo, Ohio, but sold it in March, Walt said.
Joe Schulz said one advantage of Columbia over Toledo is the popularity of MU’s sports teams.
“There’s more fanfare here for sports teams, which helps the merchandising aspect of the store,” he said.
The Regency Hotel at 1111 E. Broadway houses a new restaurant from a Cooper’s Landing favorite. Pramuan Duncan, owner of Chim’s Thai Kitchen at Cooper’s Landing, has opened the Thai Inn on the first floor of the hotel. The space had been vacant since May.
Duncan, known by the nickname Chim, said the additional location offers bigger space and an expanded menu, including more Thai dishes and American food such as steaks and sandwiches.
Duncan said the Thai Inn is already busy with regulars from the Cooper’s Landing restaurant, which is closed for the season. The official grand opening has been postponed until the restaurant gets its liquor license, which will be any day, Duncan said. In the meantime, she said, customers are enjoying the new location.
“Before, customers said it was a long drive to go from downtown to Cooper’s, but now it’s close by.”
A few yards away from the Thai Inn, a new gift shop will open this week in the space that housed Slackers CDs and Games until July.
The Butterfly Tattoo, 1020 E. Broadway, will have upper-end gifts, from notebooks to trendy diaper bags. Many items will come from the West Coast, said Amanda Vander Tuig, who owns the store with her husband, Matthew, an engineer.
Vander Tuig is an MU graduate originally from Jefferson City. She said she only considered the downtown area when looking for a spot for the shop.
“We’re definitely a downtown store, with the more creative atmosphere here,” Vander Tuig said.
“We’re definitely not for the mall or someplace like that.”
The second floor of the two-story space remains unoccupied. Vander Tuig said she hopes to rent the upstairs space to a business complementary to her own.
Further down the street, the space that was home to Sunshine Daydreams at 812 E. Broadway will soon be occupied by Cellular City.
The store, owned by Criad Communications LLC, has a kiosk in the Columbia Mall and another location on Nifong Boulevard. The lease for the downtown spot was signed in September, and it is set to open late this month.
Desiree Martinez, a partner and store manger, said they chose downtown because they noticed no other cellular service stores in the area.
“We’re expecting, especially around Christmas, to be very busy,” Martinez said.