Monday, July 30, 2007

TOP STORY >>Reviving downtown

Leader staff writer

In 1998, MJMJ LLC, led by Mike Wilson, Jim Peacock, Mike Abdin and Jim O’Brian, purchased about 12 acres located in the 600 block of West Main in downtown Jacksonville, the 130,000-square-foot Jacksonville Shopping Center.
But after almost a decade of ownership, Wilson, Peacock and O’Brian have decided to sell to aid in reviving the downtown area.

“There’s lots of interest in downtown now because of the new library, Wendy’s and others that might come down the road,” Wilson said. “Downtown is going through a redevelopment and we wanted to be part of it and let others be too; selling is just one probability,” Wilson added.

Stores like Chambers Drug, That Little Flea Market, Abdin Jewelers, Stroman’s and Unique Furniture are a few of the 10 businesses that call the strip home.

Although the deal is not yet finalized and may not be until the new year, Sue Khoo, owner of Unique Furniture, will be the new owner of the business strip that also includes the Unique Connection Center (which Khoo currently leases) and a nearby vacant restaurant building, the former home of Peppers Restaurant.

Khoo envisions turning the strip into a small Asian town with restaurants and an Asian supermarket to entice more people to visit downtown and to hopefully bring in more business.

But new ideas means existing businesses must move, except for Chambers Drugs.

So far, only one business, That Little Flea Market, has received notice that it must vacate.

Owner Mary Little said it was a shockwhen she received notice. “I was told Monday when I got to work,” Little said Friday. “We’ve got to try and get out by the end of August,” she said.

She’s been at 632 W. Main for more than 20 years and is currently trying to find a new home for her business.

“I’m trying to move. I called about a building today,” she said. “I guess we’ll all have to find new buildings,” she added, saying she has thought about trying to move across from Knight’s.

Other businesses, after learning of Little’s notice, have begun looking for new facilities if and when their time comes to move out.

“We haven’t gotten a notice yet, but we’re getting all our ducks in row in case it goes down,” Sean Funderburt, manager of Stroman’s, said. “We’ve been out looking at property to cover our basics,” he added.