A clothing and apparel store and iconic fixture on Thames Street for 107 years, Potter and Co., is closing.
Owner Chafee Emory confirmed this week that she will almost certainly be closing the doors on the business for good by next year after failing to come to terms on an affordable lease with her landlord.
And it's not a case of her landlord asking for more than the market rate, she said, characterizing the situation as a predicament unique to a 107-year-old business in an aging building coming out of a disastrous winter at a time when the local retail market is undergoing steady and persistent turnover.
The building needs substantial work and since Potter and Co. occupies a voluminous 4,000 square feet, any increase in Emory's roughly $5,000 per month rent not including utilities can't be made up with more sales, she said. Thirty dollars per square foot, for example, wouldn't be outrageous for a landlord to ask in the downtown Newport and Thames Street areas. And if you do the math, a store that sells active living apparel in 4,000 square feet of space would have little chance to generate the sales needed to stay in business unless customers were beating down the doors far before — and after — the golden summer months.
And that just isn't happening now, Emory said, noting the increase she'd be facing is a bit lower than $30 per square foot.
Potter and Co. has been a family-run, locally owned business with roots that date to the early 1900s when Louis Potter, a Thames Street clothier and Herman Werner, a tailor down the street, hit it off and joined forces.
The Werner family continued to run the store up until 2010 when they sold it to Emory, who said she's holding out hope that someone might approach her with an idea to save the business.
"I'm open to anything," she said from a swivel chair in her office above the store on Tuesday. She's looked at other locations. She's crunched the numbers. But right now, she said, it doesn't look too promising.
More from a lengthy interview with Emory and the turnover rate for small businesses in the Thames Street area will be posted soon. Stay tuned.
Mark Schieldrop can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @MarkSchieldrop