New London program revitalizes storefronts

vacant to vibrant

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — New business owners are getting a helping hand in New London.

CreateHereNow is the name of the program run by the state department of Economic Development and the Connecticut Office of the Arts. The aim is to help vacant storefronts turn vibrant. New London Main Street is also helping out by giving all the new store owners $1,000. Some of that money paid for the sign at The Eyeglass Lass owned by Siobhan Burns.

Her shop has a unique collection of vintage and new eye wear. Burns says, “There’s a thing called ‘new-old stock’ and it’s basically frames. You pretty much go back in time to find your glasses.” The licensed optician opened her shop in July after hearing about the CreateHereNow initiative now in New London. “It’s basically like a hand that guides you the whole way through,” says Burns.

Stephanie Berberich, the project manager, gives that guidance. The state-run program provides free rent for the first three to six months. After that, those who can make it on their own sign a lease with the building owners.

Berberich says, “It takes vacant storefronts and turns them into vibrant spaces and also makes people’s dreams turn into reality.”

Burns says, “Everybody needs to see and why not in really cute frames, so that’s why I’m here. Yeah, I’ll be here in a year and two.”

More than 10 new businesses are getting a helping hand and helping storefronts on State Street near the Garde Arts Center come to life. Pam Natale, one of the artists at State of Makers New London, says, “We want to kind of light up this little part of town.”

There are places to go after a show or if you need a new bike. Volunteers run the non-profit Bike New London Summer Shop which hopes to stay open beyond this season.

Theo Maryeski says, “I mean, when you see a kid leave the bike that he built, it’s amazing. It’s really, really amazing.”

One good turn deserves another. Maryeski was helped out by the CreateHereNow program and in turn he and the other volunteers are helping others with their bike program.

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