Portland's Old Port shops open, shuffle, shutter

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PORTLAND — June’s dreary weather may have kept some shoppers from strolling through the city’s Old Port, but retailers are optimistic the return of sun and warmth – and the start of peak tourist season – will have visitors hitting the cobblestones.

Several shops, including a few longtime Exchange Street fixtures, closed during the winter and spring months. But Portland Downtown District Executive Director Jan Beitzer said her group is pleased by an influx of new businesses.

“Spaces have filled up faster than what we would have thought in this economy,” Beitzer said.

Amaryllis, a women’s clothing boutique that had been on Exchange Street since 1979, closed after the winter holidays. But the 41 Exchange St. spot did not stay vacant long, as the designer clothing shop Zane moved in. Zane’s former address, 26 Milk St., is now occupied by Waterlily, an import store that had been on Wharf Street for three years.

Waterlily owner Renee Garland said that despite the move at the beginning of June, and the subsequent weeks of rain, the new space is working out well.

“I think people didn’t have anything to do, so they came to Exchange Street and shopped around,” Garland said.

According to Beitzer, the rain affected the Old Port’s retail shops more than it did the city’s galleries and museums. But with some more frequent sunny, warm days in the forecast, she hopes tourists will walk around more. July and August are also the busiest for visits to the city, followed by October’s cruise ship business and leaf peepers.

“The shops are definitely making due,” she said.

There are still some vacancies along Exchange Street. The women’s clothing shop Betsy’s moved out of 7 Exchange and into the space at the corner of Fore and Union streets. Spoil Me Rotten, another women’s clothing shop, closed at 43 Exchange St. and that space remains vacant (the business has reopened as Spoil Me at 240 Route 1 in Falmouth).

Other notable changes include the closing of Books, Etc. on Exchange Street, Old Port Wine Merchants has moved out of 432 Fore St. and into a larger space at 223 Commercial St., and Blazin’ Ace, a smoke shop, took the wine shop’s place on Fore Street. 

Second Time Around, the consignment shop on Fore Street, has opened a new shop on Exchange. And a new imports store, Se Vende, opened at 81 Market St. Zrinka, a clothing store specializing in Alpaca and Pima cotton, moved from 35 Exchange St. to 320 Fore St.

A bulk of the new openings in the Old Port are restaurants. The Salt Exchange, 245 Commercial St; the Farmer’s Table, 205 Commercial St. (formerly Mim’s); The Corner Room, 110 Exchange St.; and Papaya King, Dana St.; are among the new additions. Bard Coffee opened at 185 Middle St. and the nightclub Pearl opened at 444 Fore St. 

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net




Sidebar Elements

p-oldport-070809.jpgThe sun is shining again on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where vacant storefronts are being filled more rapidly than downtown business leaders expected. (Bucklin photo)