The Union Avenue Toy Stop opened just in time for the holiday season, filling a much needed local shopping gap. Local shopper Rosemary Thomas said she’s missed having a small toy store on Union Avenue. “The folks who owned (the previous) toy store used to give me a stack of post-it notes to put on things as we walked through,” she said, giving her the opportunity to tag things her children liked without alerting them to the fact that she was buying their Christmas gifts. “When we were done, they’d have everything bagged and ready for me. It was wonderful.” Big box stores don’t offer the attention to customer service that a small business can, she said.
Other shops have opened along Union as well. Boutiques offering things as diverse as lingerie, metaphysical supplies and vintage clothing have filled out the avenue creating a robust shopping district. Several restaurants have opened in the last six months on the riverwalk expanding options for diners looking for local fare.
City Planner Wade Broadhead said the trend is encouraging considering the state of the economy. “Unfortunately, a lot (of development) was supposed to happen just as the economy started its downslide. A lot of financing fell through.” He said most of the current financing of projects in the area is coming from the private sector. However, he said that has helped redevelopment along Union Avenue. “It’s urban renewal by default,” he said. “With banks not lending there’s not a lot of new construction,” leading business owners to fix up existing storefronts rather than build new ones. Broadhead said grants are available to small business owners through the Urban Renewal Authority of Pueblo as well as tax credits to help keep growth moving in the district.