MERCED — Main Street may look more prosperous in the coming months.
In a sign that downtown may be regaining its place as the center of Merced, at least seven new storefront businesses have opened or are set to open in the coming months.
A cafe, a bike shop, a comic-book store and a bakery, among others, soon will be part of Main Street's growing family of businesses.
Frank Quintero, the city's development manager, said the businesses coming to downtown are a sign that there's at least a small boost of confidence in the local economy. He said the wheels also are being greased by some local landlords.
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Some property owners are being more flexible with rents and even helping out with improvements on the properties, he said.
The new stores include several firsts, a few additions and one replacement.
Red Sky Comics, which may replace the closed Cop-A-Comic near Main and M streets, could be the town's only comics shop. Coffee Block is set to open on the 500 block of Main Street. Sweet Temptations, scheduled to open on the 400 block of Main Street, will be the only bakery in Merced. And a new bike shop, Giga Bikes on Main Street near M Street, will be one of several bike stores in town.
Gar Daniel, who owns Giga Bikes as well as a salon on Main Street called Vin One, said he decided to open his new business on Main Street because "it's the best place to do anything."
Not only does it have the most foot traffic, he said, but he believes that on the north side of town, you have to have a certain kind of image. He wants his shop to have a less corporate, more independent, feel.
Amanda Bowers, owner of Sweet Temptations, a bakery slated to open late this month on Main Street, said she chose downtown for her business because it's where people go.
"With all the new stuff that's coming in down here, I think in the next couple years this place is going to be huge," Bowers said.
Eddie La Plante, a commercial real estate broker who has opened Canal Street Spa in downtown, said he thinks Main Street is turning a corner. He said that unlike many North Merced chain stores with large overhead, smaller downtown shops can handle downturns better.