Businesses struggling to stay open in Royal Oak

Restaurants finding more success than retail in Royal Oak

Many Royal Oak businesses, like Barnes and Noble, are struggling to stay open.
Many Royal Oak businesses, like Barnes and Noble, are struggling to stay open.

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Though Royal Oak is considered one of Metro Detroit's hot spots, businesses apparently aren't seeing it that way. Many of the businesses downtown are closing.

One of the businesses closing down is Barnes & Noble, and there are many more doing the same. One store owner told Local 4's Priya Mann that the rent is just too high.

Royal Oak is one of the trendiest hotspots in Metro Detroit. But the hype hasn't prevented many stores from closing or moving, including Cold Stone Creamery, Caribou Coffee, Incognito, Franklin Wine & Deli, Barnes & Noble, Noodles & Company, and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

"We're always worried, we're always concerned," said Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison. "And I think there's any number of reasons why we're seeing the businesses close down. Some of it has to deal with lease rates, some of it has to deal with the hard winter."

The mayor has a warning for building owners that may be holding out for liquor licenses.

"Don't hold your breath too long," Mayor Ellison said. "Because we're not inclined to start adding liquor licenses downtown."

Royal Oak restaurant "burgrz," meanwhile, has been open for three years and has no complaints.

"I'm very busy down here, especially during arts, beats, and eats and stuff like that it is packed down here," said Manager Nick Ehlendt. "There's thousands of people out here at any given time on a nice summer afternoon."

Restaurants for the most part are doing better in Royal Oak than other retailers.

"It's just a night life, more of a thing to do, come down here and get something to eat and then people walk around and see everything and I think that's why the people aren't going into the clothing shops, maybe," Ehlendt said.

The mayor says businesses are coming and going and that the city is looking at parking rates to see if people could be encouraged to come downtown to shop if side street parking was lowered.

As for the Barnes & Noble building, Vector Form, a Royal Oak business is set to move in once construction is done on the top floor. That could bring about 70 to 100 jobs to Downtown Royal Oak.