What Should We Build on High Street? (Anything Other Than a Starbucks)


Photo by Daniel A Kersey / flickr

So after a solid fifty years of selling (overpriced?) menswear on High Street, Daniel’s Menswear has moved to their new location out on University Avenue.

The result: A large glass-front piece of real estate is open in prime location for student business. It’s right next to a great parking lot and some of downtown’s most vibrant businesses – which are so because of their location. Rumors say anything from a Starbucks to a dive bar could go in there, which has people talking. Who knows if the place has already been sold – maybe they took a buyout.

We know what people want to see…but what should we really build in there?

Here’s my top ideas.

1. A healthy grocery store. Downtown doesn’t have a powerful all-purpose grocery. Sure there’s Vonson and Mountain People’s Coop, but the nearest Kroger’s is in Evansdale. This is problematic for people who live downtown. Most rent apartments on High Street because they don’t have a car, but they need a car to get to the Kroger on Evansdale. We need something close that offers healthy, cheap food. Sure, there’s the Dollar Tree, but we need a more specialized location. The High Street location is perfect – Ample parking, ample space, and ample demand. Students would eat that up, but I suggest a grocery store with one caveat: it needs to be a locally-owned joint with locally-grown produce. Here’s looking at you, Trader Joe’s.

2. A local pharmacy. Word on the street is there’s a Walgreen’s going in, but that’s just another case of chains imposing on local business. I wish something local would move in, and it would pull a lot of student business as well – 30,000 students are bound to have a lot of prescriptions to fill. It would also be a great place for dorm-bound students to grab some cheap hygienic goods.

3. Anything other than a Starbucks. Like come on. I know everyone needs their coffee fix, but if you think downtown is lacking in coffee places, you’ve obviously never been downtown. A Starbucks would pull business from a lot of other unique (and cheaper) coffee places all over downtown, but we’ve already talked about this. The leading rumor is that Starbucks actually bought the location, but I can’t confirm it.

4. Not another bar. Morgantown already has enough, and new upstarts always have a hard time competing with the established locations. It seems like those bars on Walnut Street always seem to succumb to underage violations, drug busts, etc. I imagine a new bar in the old Daniel’s location would draw the ire of the others. We don’t need a new bar and downtown doesn’t want one – don’t build one.

What do you think we should build on High Street? Post in the comments or tweet at me.


14 thoughts on “What Should We Build on High Street? (Anything Other Than a Starbucks)

  1. Bryan! Great post. I was just talking with a friend the other day how downtown really could use a pharmacy or a grocery store. I have several friends that live downtown and I usually offer to take them to the store or the pharmacy when they need to go so they don’t have to take the PRT and cart everything back through public transportation just to eat. There are several local pharmacies in the area, one close to me near Van Vhooris. I know the family that owns it, and I think they could really benefit by moving their services downtown. It would not only help out a local business but the people that live downtown as well. It almost has to be about convenience when people are without transportation.

  2. I was unaware of this new development on High Street. I’m pretty oblivious, but this is interesting. I’d really love a grocery store on High Street. I live in South Park and it would be convenient to be able to get my produce and other food from downtown than Kroger or Walmart. A locally powered grocery store would be even greater.

    I agree that another bar, or another coffee shop (especially Starbucks) would be unnecessary and a waste of space.

    My vote goes for grocery store. Or a record store. That’d be cool too.

  3. I definitely think we need a grocery store or a pharmacy!

  4. I like this post; it’s short and sweet. I think a grocery store would be fantastic downtown, however I worry about the effects if would have on Mountain People’s Co-op. If another big supermarket comes to town like Kroger as your mentioned, the low prices could seriously damage the co-op. Not to mention, Kroger has an organic/natural line, Simple Truth, that isn’t too shabby (or expensive).

    Also you mentioned Dollar Tree. Did you mean Dollar General?

  5. This makes me stop to think. That is good. I lived in Morgantown from 1983 to 2009. High Street must be kept for everyone. It is the heart of the town. For WVU students, K12 students, and everyone else. Businesses must be alive all day.

  6. It seems like a long time ago now but there were once three supermarkets downtown. A Thorofare on the loop at the bottom of Richwood Ave., an A&P at the bottom of High St. in the building where the post office and Indian restaurant is now, and an Acme on High St. just across the bridge (not sure what’s in there now). Having supermarkets downtown sure made it easier to go to WVU without having a car. None of these stores were anywhere near as big as the megamarkets we now have that you mainly have to drive to but they were more than adequate.

    • So why didn’t they last? I don’t understand what (besides poor management) would push those out of business. They were in prime locations!

      • The Thorofare (which I think may have by then become a Foodland) on the Richwood loop burned down in a spectacular fire and was never rebuilt. The A&P and the Acme were both part of chains that were in decline. The bigger chains such as Kroger and Giant Eagle now seem to want to build mega-stores on the edges of towns rather than in downtown locations. The smaller sized stores like those that used to be downtown reportedly make more money per square foot but maybe so much less total that the companies don’t want to bother. It does seem like putting full service grocery stores with a smaller footprint in downtown areas that have sufficient foot traffic could be a niche market for some enterprising company.

      • The question is, who?

        As other commenters have pointed out, an enterprising chain has had plenty of opportunities to move in. There’s a bunch of spaces on High Street they could occupy.

        Maybe their strategists know something we don’t.

  7. So you want a pharmacy, but not one that can actually succeed in the space? Makes sense.

  8. Nice job! I didn’t know Daniel’s shut down or that a replacement business was in the works. I love the idea of a health food market, but I don’t think High St. would be the best location. I never go to High St. to shop or eat. It’s too congested, I drive a 4-Runner (TANK), and I can’t parallel park. It wouldn’t be a good idea to put something in that would create a problem for customers who didn’t have their vehicle close by. However, I’d walk to Starbucks daily if it did open!

    • I think your reasoning is why there isn’t a food market downtown anymore. People around here usually drive to the grocery store in order to load up their cars with bags – this isn’t New York where people are willing to walk to the store.
      I’m sad that you don’t go to High Street to shop or eat, but it reveals something important – I don’t think West Virginians like the big-city type of walking culture, which makes sense considering we don’t have any big cities that promote walking, like NYC or Paris. High Street thrives on walking business because it’s so congested, but nobody wants to walk, so the street suffers.
      I think a good way to solve that problem would be cheaper (or free) parking.

  9. Good conversation starter, but a little light on the details. This was probably a tough build considering your focus is speculation, not concrete information (other than Daniels leaving), but there are solutions. In that second graf, you’ve got several statements (e.g., “which has people talking”) about the conversation, so let’s SEE some of that conversation. That could even include some pre-post Twitter fishing of your own – “What should go into the Daniels space?” – and reporting the results. Once that’s done, you’ve got a meatier post and a firmer foundation for considering what might come next.

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