NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic continues to put a real financial pinch on every single community across Northeast Ohio. However, there's extra concern for those cities with dense retail corridors.
With a growing number of shuttered storefronts, North Olmsted is taking steps to quickly rebound as the virus and its fallout rages on.
Prior to the pandemic, city leaders started bracing for struggling chains to fold.
“We knew there was a changing retail dynamic that was on the horizon," said Greg Myers, North Olmsted Economic Development Manager.
In the Great Northern Shopping Plaza alone Pier One, World Market and Bed Bath and Beyond shut their doors for good. You will soon be able to add women's clothing retailer Catherine's to the list.
“It creates new opportunities for looking creatively at adapted reuse," Myers said.
A few years ago, in a proactive move, North Olmsted made some zoning changes to add more flexibility to repurposing large vacant stores like Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us that have been sitting empty.
“Will they end up being retail? Probably not," Myers said.
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy told News 5 the Toys "R" Us building was recently sold and Myers said there is interest in the Babies "R" Us site, but those discussions remain confidential.
With the pandemic pushing some segments of retail to their breaking point, there are others that still show strength.
“Discount retail, specialty retail," Myers said.
Myers said North Olmsted is now branding itself as a "value retail destination."
“We’re not competing with Westlake for the higher end retail segment," Myers said.
Down the street from the growing number of empty storefronts you'll find Christina Bertero.
Bertero owns Fully Promoted, a promotional products supplier.
“We had that panic moment. 'Oh my gosh, what are we going to do,'" Bertero said.
Like her community, Bertero also reinvented her branding business to stay afloat.
Shifting from uniforms, t-shirts and hats to personal protective products like hand sanitizer and masks.
To slow the spread of shuttered storefronts Bertero is encouraging everyone to shop local.
“We need this attitude for every one of us so we can keep the businesses open," Bertero said.
North Olmsted has seen some success despite challenges from the pandemic.
Raising Canes and Discount Bob’s Furniture are set to open in the Great Northern Shopping Plaza.
“I think that speaks to the draw that we have within North Olmsted," Myers said.