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Henderson retailers struggling but hopeful about Water Street

Inside the Purple Monkey at 11 S. Water St. in Henderson, owners Josi Dautel and Linda Martin have created a gifting wonderland filled with eclectic items.

There, purple monkey soap intermingles with tea cups and saucers-turned bird feeders, plush white snowmen and handmade jewelry. A Christmas room in the back is filled with hand-painted décor created by local artisans.

Welcome to the North end of Water Street.

Two years ago, the area was being remodeled and some businesses were worried about the effect of the construction on sales. At least one, Motor City Coney Island, didn’t survive.

The 1,100-square-foot Purple Monkey opened Sept. 13 in the former Motor City spot. Chef Flemming’s BakeShop at 7 S. Water St. has been there five years. During construction the family-run business was one of those worried about the effects. Today, the chef has a new set of worries.

Chef Flemming Pedersen creates freshly baked breads, pastries, cookies and specialties such as pistachio cheesecake in his Henderson shop.

“We have seen a lot of businesses come and go here on Water Street. It just doesn’t seem like anything really takes to the point where it attracts a lot of traffic. What we need here is something that attracts a lot of traffic,” Pedersen said.

A large business complex built across the street in the empty lot could fit that bill, he said. Next door to the bakery is a traffic school that doesn’t create a lot of customers. Job Connect down the street doesn’t either.

“We need some foot traffic here; there’s no foot traffic,” Pedersen said.

As a new business owner, Martin is working to make people aware of the Purple Monkey. To date, she’s passed out 6,000 fliers to anyone who will take them. Since opening, the store’s sales have doubled every month.

Martin and Dautel said they hope their collection of 47 local crafters’ works will resonate with tourists and locals passing through Water Street. For Dautel, this shop is the product of 25-year dream that came to fruition only after she was laid off from her construction industry job in the summer. A lively, friendly woman, Dautel greets regular customers with hugs and chats up new ones with a warm familiarity.

On Wednesday afternoon a handful of customers came in: a couple who left without a purchase, a mother and her little girl who bought a few items and a repeat customer who came to pick up a layaway item. Dautel works the inside of the shop, placing items where they’re meant to be and helping customers pick items they’re meant to have. Martin works promoting the shop.

The two chose to locate on Water Street because of the area’s small-town feel.

“I think it can be great,” Martin said.

Even so, the two are realistic.

“Being at the end of Water Street is kind of a challenge,” Martin said.

She, like Pedersen, said the empty lot across the street is an issue. Martin noted she’d like to see a playground or something there that will attract people who will see her store.

Pedersen, who lives near Water Street, said he loves the area but will have a hard time staying in business if change doesn’t happen soon. The bakery is a member of the Water Street District Business Association.

“They’re extremely helpful,” he said. “There are a lot of plans in the works but it might be a little bit too late for us. I don’t know.”

The city of Henderson and architecture firm Tate Snyder Kimsey are working together to help direct growth opportunities in Downtown Henderson. Earlier this year, a public charette was held to create possible designs for the area.

In an email, Anthony Molloy, business development supervisor for the city’s Division of Economic and Redevelopment, said, “Through these efforts, we anticipate a renewed interest in the development of new housing types and more businesses that will provide greater services to both residents and visitors, all of which will provide economic stimulus for the area.”

Henderson hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, including this past weekend’s WinterFest. They don’t necessarily help attract customers to the businesses at the edge of Water Street, though, Pedersen and Martin said.

“There are some really nice businesses here, but everybody’s struggling,” Pedersen said.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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