For business owner Ashley Morken, one program made the difference between running a temporary pop-up shop and opening a retail space downtown.
Morken, the owner of handmade store Unglued, started her business in Fargo, N.D., and opened a seasonal shop in Sioux Falls two years ago.
It did well, but before she made the leap into a permanent second space, she was referred to the retail incubator program offered by Downtown Sioux Falls Inc.
“It was hugely instrumental in getting us there,” said Morken, who was accepted into the program in June 2015. “Feeling that support and encouragement to get more retail in downtown Sioux Falls was huge for us. We weren’t just another business opening.”
The incubator program was started in 2014 in response to a growing number of vacant storefronts on Phillips Avenue. The businesses that were moving in were mostly restaurants, and the downtown community was looking for a way to attract more retailers.
The resulting program offered subsidized rent for up to 18 months and $10,000 along with training and mentoring from the downtown organization.
It has accepted six businesses, and retail vacancy has dropped from about 11 percent to 3 percent in the last two years, according to Joe Batcheller, executive director of Downtown Sioux Falls Inc.
“So it’s been successful in that regard,” he said. “When you are able to fill those voids, it just adds to the vibrancy of downtown and keeps people interested in downtown and adds to that sense of discovery.”