The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - 36

Moretz says, "To be a draw in Roanoke, we will continue to build our brand awareness
and will partner with the downtown organization and local and regional tourism
organizations to spread the word of all there is to see and do in the area. While we consider
ourselves a destination shopping experience, we are also ambassadors of our community
and want to help people - locals and visitors - discover the opportunities around them."

'THEY ... BROUGHT US CANDY'

Larry Davidson, owner of Davidson's, an exclusive men's store downtown and an initial
skeptic, is sold on Mast General Store. "I reached out and got a lovely reply," he says.
"They sent buyers in here and brought us candy. They wanted to assess the competition:
Orvis, Walkabout, Davidson's. I think they're good people. They know what they're
doing. They are the right people for [the Heironimus]
space because they understand it.
"My hope and expectation is that they will revitalize
Jefferson Street/Church Avenue, generating activity
here. [Realtors are] getting the lower buildings ready
and Mast Store will create cross traffic for the City
Market and Jefferson street."
It won't be easy. "There will be growing pains," says
Davidson. "Vehicular parking will be challenging. I
think [Mast Store] will be a good neighbor. It will put
a lot more feet on the street."
Garland says the coming of MGS in a word, has been
"huge." Garland owns several properties within blocks
of Mast General Store.
"Can we even remember when a major commercial
retail franchise has ventured into downtown Roanoke?"
he asks. "Not to mention the fact that they are
moving into the Heironimus Building ... one of the
largest downtown buildings and at one of its major
intersections. This will expand the thriving market area
and add a retail component not previously existing in
downtown, since the closing of the major department
stores (Heironimus, Miller & Rhodes, Leggett)."

36

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

ERASING THE INVISIBLE LINE

Garland cites "our own 16 West Marketplace Building [less than a block away]
has endured the emptiness of the Heironimus Building since we revitalized this
former S&W Cafeteria. [It is now known as The Crafteria.] There has almost been
an invisible line at Jefferson Street that many would not cross. They stayed in the
more comfortable market area. Now there are and will be great reasons to cross this
line and venture to the other portions of our great downtown.
"The same thing will happen when ... the first block of Campbell Avenue SW is
renewed, and with retail on the first floor. ... Mast Stores' confidence in the Roanoke
Valley and specifically our downtown is a tremendously positive economic indicator
that growth and redevelopment of our downtown has reached yet another milestone
and has many more years of growth in its future."
John Nielsen, a senior VP at Thalhimer who worked to put together the MGS
deal, is something of an authority on retail. He says, "Through the fourth quarter, we
were still seeing a decrease in vacancy rates and the overall [retail] vacancy rate for
Roanoke MSA hovered around three percent [through the winter], which is extremely
low." Lynchburg and the New River Valley are "just under five percent [and Virginia
is] sitting at five to eight percent."
Two factors are in Roanoke's favor, he says. Roanoke "is insulated today and

TheRoanoker.com

DAN SMITH

ABOVE:
Frank Martin: "The malls
are finding non-traditional
uses-Carilion, Advance
Auto, for example. Fitness
centers are locating in
strip malls."


http://www.TheRoanoker.com

The Roanoker - September/October 2020

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The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - Cover2
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The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - Cover3
The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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