LENOX -- In a vote of confidence for the downtown's retail future, a Springfield-based commercial property investor has added to his holdings adjacent to the Village Center, which includes the post office, several businesses and professional offices.
Drew Davis, who purchased the Village Center shopping complex in January 2011 for $1.7 million and helped finance a major expansion of Nejaime's Wine Cellar a year ago, is completing renovations costing several hundred thousand dollars on two commercial buildings at 67 and 69 Church St.
He purchased the two buildings last year from antiques dealer Charles Flynn for $875,000.
Both sites were in "severe disrepair," Davis told The Eagle this week. He listed broken windows, crumbling siding and other issues at the buildings, which both date from the 1880s.
Last fall, he renovated the post office building that includes Villager Gifts and several other businesses.
While Davis acknowledged that downtown Lenox is a "very seasonal market" for retail, he has seen "quite a bit of activity in the winter," especially on weekends.
"The summer is strong and the shoulder seasons help carry most of the merchants through the winter," he said, citing a steady flow of customers from the nearby Canyon Ranch high-end resort.
Location is his prime asset when attracting tenants, Davis commented, adding that his lease charges are competitive with other commercial properties in the historic village district.
"It's right in the center of the foot-traffic flow, with surrounding parking lots and restaurants," he said.
"The amount of investment coming into town from new resorts and hotels is only going to help downtown Lenox," Davis asserted.
As a result of the renovation project, a new owner, Allison Crane, has purchased the Mary Stuart clothing, jewelry and gift store at 69 Church St. from longtime owner Judith Macioge. The building now has an all-new roof, post-and-beam construction, windows, siding and trim, sprinklers, an HVAC system and interior structural repairs, Davis said.
Two additional restaurant or retail spaces are available at that site, while the second floor has professional offices, including Berkshire House Hunters real estate agency; Tiny Bear, an Internet-based window-decal venture and a shared space to be occupied by four businesswomen in the bridal industry, including Tara Consolati. Three professional offices remain available.
The 67 Church St. site is undergoing renovation, including a complete rebuild of the interior, as well as new wiring and windows.
The first floor will be occupied by a new retail tenant, the Mackimmie Co., relocating from Marblehead in May. The home and lifestyle shop specializes in personal textiles, including blankets and throws. The building's second floor is being converted into a two-bedroom apartment.
Davis said he has urged his new retail tenants to remain open all year. "It's not contractual, but in screening them, there's a focus that they're committed retailers," he said. "If everyone stays open, they help each other."
Ralph Petillo, executive director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, praised Drew's investments as "wonderful it's nice to know someone is caring about properties in Lenox and fixing them up. It's one of the most positive signs of growth we've seen in downtown Lenox in a long time."
Although the downtown area still has seven vacant retail spaces, Petillo noted the positive impact of developer David Ward's Lenox Commons mixed-use complex to the north, as well as the expansion and planned influx of resorts in the area.
Citing heightened competition from online merchants such as Amazon, he said Lenox is fortunate in its ability to attract unique shops.