Vacancies down as businesses flock to Fifth Avenue South

David Albers/Staff 
 — Dwight Nadeau, owner of Toucan's World fair trade art gallery, dusts hand-carved sculptures in his new business on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, in Naples. Nadeau opened the fair trade art gallery on Fifth Avenue South in October.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff — Dwight Nadeau, owner of Toucan's World fair trade art gallery, dusts hand-carved sculptures in his new business on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, in Naples. Nadeau opened the fair trade art gallery on Fifth Avenue South in October.

Neapolitan Dwight Nadeau wanted to be close to the action when he launched his first business.

So he rented a space on Eighth Street South, between the south parking garage and Fifth Avenue South. He opened Toucan's World in October, selling fair-trade jewelry, art and accessories.

"Fifth Avenue is a primary hub of Naples with regard to restaurants and shopping," he said. The 22 feet of display windows in addition to his 20-foot long store front window sold him on the spot.

Nadeau is one of 11 new businesses to join the Business Improvement district this year. The other 10 have all opened up along Fifth Avenue South.

New businesses have been lining up for a spot on Fifth Avenue South in droves, said Lise Sundrla, executive director for the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.

"In 2008-2009 more than 25 first-floor retail vacancies existed on Fifth Avenue South," Sundrla wrote in an email. "Not the case today. Not only are there fewer retail vacancies, but we have a long viable list of potential tenants waiting in the wings."

The Dennison-Moran Gallery moved back to the Fifth Avenue South this year after a short stint in the Third Street shopping area.

Jammin on 5th, a clothing store specializing in the smallest shoe sizes for women, also moved back after a year and half a way.

On the Fifth Avenue for the first time are retailers Hinckley Yachts, FantaSea, and Kitchens by Clay. Restaurants Alberto's on Fifth, Osteria Tulia, Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro and Villa on 5th Pizzeria are also new.

Lovella Fashion is in the process of opening on the 500 block.

Two more businesses, Chase Bank and women's clothing store Boston Proper, will open on the first level of Phil McCabe's new hotel early next year.

Sundrla said there are now only two available storefronts on Fifth Avenue South.

But the new businesses also signal recent turnover. At least seven businesses left the Fifth Avenue this year, and their absence reminds new owners of the unique challenge of seasonal business in Collier County.

The Lady from Haiti, Gallery Elysees, Pizza on 5th, Kari's Kreations, New River Fine Art, Random Acts of Art and the Jolly Cricket all either closed or relocated this year for various reasons.

Nadeau operates Toucan's himself, catching occasional foot traffic from Fifth Avenue South shoppers who wander past his displays. Business has been slow so far, he said, and he's looking forward to peak season.

"As a new business, I'm drawing customers by word-of-mouth, advertising," Nadeau said. "I have printed media and social media."

FantaSea, a beachy home décor shop, replaced The Lady from Haiti this year.

Melody Bales sold art and goods from Haiti at her 785 Fifth Avenue South location when a new partnership ended and she had to leave. She's had another Fifth Avenue location and a Third Avenue location in the past.

Now she has a three-month lease in the Kings Lake Square shopping plaza off Davis Boulevard in East Naples, but she said the foot traffic isn't there.

"Fifth Avenue is the best place for merchants to be seen," she said.

Bales said rent on Fifth Avenue is higher than anywhere else she's been in 17 years of businesses, but the location is worth the price.

"Merchants need to understand that the street's not paved in gold and they can't make money 12 months a year," Bales said, referring to the slow summer months.

Jennifer Richards, sales director at the new Hinckley Yachts on the 500 block, said the company usually only has service stations along a city's waterfronts where boaters might notice and stop in. Selling custom yachts, which range in price from $400,000 on up, is not something that's typically done from a shop in a commercial district.

But because Hinckley already has 40 boats in the Naples area and 85 from here to Tampa, the company knew there was a market in Southwest Florida.

Richards said Hinckley chose a Fifth Avenue South location to draw passers-by. Third Street South's storefronts didn't have the kind of location they needed.

"They're all tucked up and around and upstairs and behind," Richards said. "For us, it's about stopping people in their tracks and making them say 'I have to have that boat.'"

Richards said Hinckley signed a year lease for the building as a sort of trial period. Rent is twice as much here as it is for the company's other corporate locations and the venture has to be justified.

"That's all I could convince them of," Richards said.

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