After First Friday in August, one of the stalwarts of the 100 Block of Gay Street will close its doors downtown for good and, likely, make a move to the new Public Market at Turkey Creek in a much smaller version of itself. Unarmed Merchants, owned and operated by Aaron Shugart-Brown who has been an active participant in life on the 100 Block since opening the shop in December 2007. The shop features art and crafts from local, regional and international artists and artisans. After enduring the renovations on that block, which began not too long after the business opened, and hoping events sponsored by the city and natural growth would increase foot-traffic enough to sustain the business, it appears the hopes were not well-founded. While that block is a primary downtown residential area, not enough business was generated by local residents to make the business succeed. The feeling is that the 100 block is still ascendant, but not quickly enough for this business.
Interior of Unarmed Merchants
Plans now include a large-scale reduction in inventory by reducing prices, placing some merchandise at Lox (103 W. Jackson) and opening a booth at the Public Market. It’s a sad blow for the 100 block and another example of how downtown residents and visitors alike need to think of downtown as more than Market Square and the central blocks of Gay Street. If we don’t, then those spots will be the extent of our little city. This closing follows the recent Nama move to a more central Gay Street address and the closing (during the street work) of Havana Nights. Fortunately, there has been good news on the block since the renovation, including the opening of furniture store Nuveau Classics and Harry’s, a semi-kosher deli. Work also continues on that block at the southwest corner of Jackson and Gay in a project that offers more retail and residential space. Finally, and somewhat ironically, the the same day I learned the news, WATE broadcast piece that highlights the fact that downtown residences are selling very well and it features the 100 Block prominently.