A healthy dose of competition in downtown Westfield

We have grown up in Westfield and watched stores come and go, all the way from restaurants to department stores. With the pressure on town businesses to constantly bring in a high income, it’s hard to keep up with the rapidly changing storefronts across town. Is this frequent turnover helping or hurting Westfield’s reputation?

Westfield has created a competitive playing field for businesses downtown. The quick turnover poses a threat to businesses that have long been part of our community.

Once a prominent historical town, Westfield now works to rebuild and become more contemporary as stores such as Brummers — a chocolate shop owning their storefront on East Broad for over 100 years — are being driven out in favor of new and popular stores.

Westfield resident Bethany Rotter reflected on her life growing up near Westfield and the time she spent downtown. “It was just such a great experience but now [Westfield] is a little bit of a mess. It’s sad when the places with such longevity shut down,” she said.

Additionally, as one examines the types of stores that go in and out of downtown Westfield, there is a clear lack of diversity. Rather than introducing original establishments, the town is overflowing with comparable retailers.

Because of the plethora of ice cream shops including Cold Stone, The Chocolate Bar and the recently opened Surreal Creamery, both new and old sellers have shut down. This past month, the ice cream store Kilwins went out of business after just six years in Westfield. Westfield Ice Cream, another ice cream shop, lasted less than a year in town.

It is clear that there is a constant struggle that comes with having duplicate stores in close proximity to one another. The same idea is true with other types of businesses such as Italian restaurants and coffee shops. “The town could do a better job at putting in a more diverse group of restaurants or stores,” said Rotter.

Although it may seem to some community members that the constant competition among businesses is detrimental, it actually motivates current and incoming businesses.

Cynthia Noack, owner of recently opened REVES Smoothie Cafe, emphasized her confidence that each of the neighboring acai locations brings their own unique qualities where they can individually thrive. Noack said, “There’s lots of acai places, smoothie places and coffee shops too, but we put a new value on our products.”

Just across the street, Ono Bowls continues to thrive after six years of being on the block. Owner of Ono Bowls Patricia Caminos said, “Any competitor has the chance to affect your business, but we look at it as a way to step up our game and keep offering the best products and service around.”

These two competing stores are finding their own strategies to differentiate their shops from one another with confidence and creative tactics. Local stores are aware of the potential feuds next door, and to this, Caminos said, “Game on!”

We recognize that the highly competitive downtown setting can seem discouraging for Westfield residents. However, we ultimately want businesses to use these friendly rivalries as motivation, and more importantly, we want them to survive.

The main goal should be to work together as a downtown community, aiding to keep all of the local businesses alive. Just like Noack said, “It isn’t just about growing REVES, [it’s about] growing the community.”