Ever since the IGA in backcountry Greenwich shut its doors some five or so months ago, business has slowed down for many of the small shops that line North Street. The steady flow of shoppers drawn to the area by the IGA, which served as an anchor store in the neighborhood, has slowed to a trickle.
"We're kind of becoming the forgotten area," says Alfonzo Criscuolo, owner of Banksville Pizza & Pasta, which is located just a few doors down from the now empty grocery store. "These are tough times. Business has definitely declined -- especially in this economy. We see a lot less traffic. People are making one stop downtown."
Christine Salazar, co-owner of the Banksville catering shop, Happiness Is, also misses the IGA. "The traffic flow has slowed down a lot," she said. "People have gone in different directions, to Bedford and to Greenwich. They're going where they can get everything in one place."
Even the stores that haven't deeply felt the departure of IGA miss the grocery store. Ryan Belmont, an IT salesperson at Silicon Valley Computers, says his shop is busier at this time than it was in the previous two years. "But," Belmont adds, "we do wish there would be an anchor store to bring people otherwise."
Banksville store owners, however, aren't ready to give up on their little shops. Instead, they are coming up with creative ways to drum up business for themselves -- and for each other.
"We're doing cross-promotions with the wine shop and with the nail salon, to help each other," said florist Stephanie Primm, owner of The Flower Shop. Primm and her partner, Tori Santos, are often seen carrying their signature roses to their fellow shopkeepers. The roses are handed out to customers at other North Street stores as a calling card for The Flower Shop.
Last Friday, Primm and Santos brought roses to a wine tasting at The Study - Fine Wine & Spirits, a new wine shop in the neighborhood that is co-owned by Katie Stephens and her fiancé, Noah Goldberg Also there sipping the Spanish wine on offer was next-door shopkeeper Pat McCarney of Westwood Custom & Antique Wood Flooring Co. He has helped spread the word of Stephens' wine collection by holding wine tastings in his own shop.
Stephens is also collaborating with Salazar and Happiness Is.
"If the client wants wine with dinner," says Salazar, "I'll recommend the client to the wine shop, and we'll deliver the wine with the dinner." In addition, every Saturday Salazar e-mails her clients the Tuesday dinner choices -- with Stephens' wine suggestions added to the menu.
"To try and save this community and the little gems that are here, we all need to stick together," Primm says.
Of course, there is always the possibility that another anchor store will fill the void left by IGA. `There needs to be a nice little supermarket," said Salazar. "Even a Trader Joe's would be fine - some place to get the bulk of their necessities."
Salazar's wish for a supermarket is echoed by most of the Banksville shopkeepers.
"People are dying for a grocery store," said Primm. She'd like to see a grocery store and café. "This is a great place to hang out," she said. "We'd love a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods, or even a Grand Central Station collection of vendors selling cheeses and meat. That would be awesome."