Downtown residents, business owners and city blight patrol activists have been waiting a long time for something to open in the former Carmack-Jay’s building on North Market Street.
What type of business could and should purchase the property was the subject of a standing-room only community meeting organized by the city a few months ago, with just as many ideas as there were people in the crowd.
The lack of activity at Carmack-Jay’s is an issue that affects many people and business owners in a variety of ways, there’s no doubt about it.
Among those who stand the most to gain from filling the space at 331 N. Market St. are the business owners in the surrounding block.
“It’s been an issue for us for a long, long time,” said Homer Yost, artist and co-owner of Gallery 322.
Except for a few hours on Sunday mornings when Frederick City Market sets up shop in the parking lot, Yost stares at an empty lot from his perch inside the gallery across the street. Having some type of business there, and more businesses in the northern end of downtown overall, would definitely benefit the gallery, he told me.
“If there’s a first Saturday and there’s a band there that’s going on ... it would be huge,” Yost said.
Gallery 322 is only open on weekends, and still does enough business to offset operating costs. But next door at Time Bomb Tattoo, the owners are packing up and plan to relocate to 26 S. Market St. at the end of the summer.
Danni Hoage, a front counter clerk and piercer there, identified increased foot traffic and activity in the new location — next door to Wag’s Restaurant — as a big part of the decision to move. Right now, activity outside the store on the 300 block of North Market looks pretty slow most of the time.
“A lot of people get to the corner of 3rd Street ... and they just turn around,” she said.
Yost named a grocery store as his top choice for what to fill the Carmack-Jay’s building, as did Shelby Kellie, a bartender at Olde Towne Tavern.
“There are no options downtown for groceries,” Kellie said.
The closest option for Kellie and other downtown residents is Safeway, she said, which is on West 7th Street, but for those without access to a car, even that could be a challenging trip to make.
Hoage was more general when I asked her what she wanted to fill the building.
“Anything, anything would be better than what it is now,” she said.
Christian Riser, a stylist at Studio She the next block up, agreed.
“Any idea ... sounds better than sitting empty,” he said.
Although the northern end of downtown has been stereotyped as a blight-ridden, pedestrian-less area, Riser also noted that those who venture past the 300 block may be surprised to find more activity than they expected.
Since Salon She opened in the 400 block in 2005, Riser’s seen more of the northern downtown buildings filled by homeowners and businesses, and fewer people loitering in the streets, he said.
“I think the biggest problem is, just that block as a whole, there’s noting in there,” he said of the 300 block, which includes the empty Carmack-Jay’s building and another empty space at 300-304 N. Market St. owned by downtown property owner Duk Hee Ro.
So while Hoage and her co-workers will be packing up soon to head to their new space, her business neighbors will keep a look out for some sign of life at Carmack-Jay’s.