The recently purchased building, known to some as Jacksonville’s “mini mall,” has been mostly vacant since the local couple bought it last year. Friday, they were preparing one of the several indoor stores and they hope all of the spaces will soon fill with start-up businesses.
“What I’m trying to do here is provide a business incubator,” Bruce Edmiston said.
In recent months several businesses that surround the Edmistons on the square have become vacant, and today half a dozen stores are empty. Some local business owners say other shops have closed because they can’t afford the rent property owners demand. .
“They’ve raised the rent in many cases,” said John Henricks, owner of Recollected Books on the square. “The lessee just can’t, or won’t, afford it.”
Property owners and others said some landlords charge between $800 and $1,000 per month to rent one of the spaces on the square. Henricks said, in order for a start-up business to be successful, they sometimes need rent that cost half as much as that.
When the pizza and coffee restaurant Wake and Bake closed late last month the property owner was charging $1,200 per month, said Pam Johnson, the real estate agent now trying to sell the property.
“I think that was pretty high for the square,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that the Wake and Bake building, located between Recollected Books and the Jacksonville police station, is currently under contract and is awaiting a building inspection.
The Edmistons want to offer low-cost rental space for entrepreneurs like the ones who started Wake and Bake. Edmiston said he and his wife, who was the original owner of Java Jolt on the square’s east side, will offer space for as little as $400 per month.
That’s just the amount Henricks said he thinks new businesses need to be charged in order to keep their doors open and to keep downtown storefronts filled.
“It’s really troublesome that there are so many vacant stores,” Henricks said.
While Henricks and Edmiston think the buildings on the square should be rented for less money, John Henry, a building owner on the square, said landlords have to charge enough to make money.
Once building owners take overhead expenses such as insurance into account, they have to charge at least $800 to make a profit on a building in sound condition, he said.
“We’re not in this for donation purposes,” Henry said. “I don’t see how we can do it any cheaper.”
Henry said some landlords may accept less than the standard $800 for buildings in need of renovation, landlords may take less than that for buildings that need to be renovated.
Henry owns fitness businesses, including the women’s gym Fitness on Demand, located on the square. That business, known for the green lettering on its signs, occupied two buildings on the square until recently.
About a month ago he consolidated into one location and left the other building vacant and for rent.
“We felt like it was a better move to bring them together,” Henry said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.