CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - A once thriving avenue of businesses in Carbondale, Illinois is now seeing empty storefronts.
Owners on the strip challenge the question whether the closings are related to a decrease in enrollment at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
For four years, Jeremy Clow's Saluki Craft has been right off University Avenue but now he's taking his laser cutting and home décor business elsewhere.
"We know we can't keep operating the same way we have because trends have showed us over the past year that it's not working in this area," said Clow. "That's why we have changed our business model and business plan."
Clow is not the only one. Nest Art is gone, and so is Sabor De Mel. Despite the businesses leaving, there are businesses flourishing on the strip like Game Table, Kickaholics, or even Reema's Indian Cuisine (now located in Sabor De Mel's building).
James Cox, owner of Game Table, says high rent and construction due to the revitalization as the cause for businesses leaving.
In 2017, Carbondale completed phase one of their downtown revitalization project to "encourage more of our citizens, students and visitors, to think "Carbondale" for entertainment, dining and shopping." This downtown streetscape totaled $1.7 million.
However, despite the investment in the beautification of the city, sign, after sign, after sign is posted on buildings along the strip saying, "For Rent" or "For Lease".
Clow explains his reasons for leaving.
"The traffic isn't here anymore," Clow said. "A lot of business is outside of Jackson County, so we are looking at new locations, mainly because we need a different floor plan and a different style facility but also we are looking for where our revenue stream is coming from to save on shipping and a lot of other reasons too."
Meghan Cole at Carbondale Main Street says city leaders remain optimistic.
"Some small businesses employ up to 20 people, but many do not," said Cole. "For example, Nest is closing. The owner was the only employee so really that was only one job lost, so she's actually going to an online based business, so it's really zero jobs lost. It's just one business that doesn't have a storefront anymore."
Both Clow and Cole agree that this change is correlated to SIU's decrease in enrollment.
Clow says in addition to the lack of traffic on the strip, the state of Illinois taxes for small businesses are too high and the incentives are too low.
Lastly, El Grecco has closed, but according to Carbondale Main Street, they will be back open under new management soon.