DRACUT — After only eight months in the Lakeview Avenue location that once housed Michelle’s Party Shop, Jenny’s Gift House is closing.
Owner Lifang Zhuo operates another location at 26 Central St. in downtown Lowell. The store specializes in gifts imported from China, including children’s clothes, stuffed animals, costume jewelry, bamboo, painted vases and Hello Kitty products, among other gifts.
“It was just too hard to run both stores and take care of Jenny,” Zhuo said, referring to her 7-year-old daughter, for whom the stores are named. “Also, business in Dracut was very slow because there is no foot traffic here; we had very few people coming in.”
Zhuo said the downtown Lowell location will remain open, despite sluggish sales that Zhuo attributes to the August 2005 closing of the Lowell Regional Transit Authority’s Downtown Transit Center on Paige Street.
“Downtown has changed a lot in the past couple of years,” she said. “It has been terrible since the buses moved out.”
“People only come downtown now if they have business at City Hall or have a doctor’s appointment and then they are rushing because they only have 15 minutes to shop because they have to run to catch a bus home,” Zhuo added. “It is no longer convenient for people to come downtown.”
Considering there are currently 14 vacant storefronts on Merrimack Street alone, she said she would like to see city leaders come up with some ideas to help downtown businesses, but isn’t going to wait around for that to happen.
Zhuo, who owned Great Taste Chinese restaurant on Central Street for seven years before closing it to open the gift store, is in negotiations to open a Chinese restaurant in the Merrimack Street location recently vacated by Kennedy’s Fried Chicken.
“I hope that a restaurant will bring more people to the downtown and that will help all of the businesses,” she said.
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