Second Floor Retail Space - Opinions Please!


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jul 9, 2001
Skaneateles,NY USA
Second floor retail space is becoming more popular in this area, and I am wondering what your experiences with it are or if you know of or have opinions on this type of space. The spaces seem to be contiguous to an elevators, so access is easy and some of the spaces have some features (vaulted, industrial style, loft feel).

But, as always, I'm curious

Opinions Please!!
All I know on the subject is that a friend with a needlework shop was convinced by her landlord to move from a first-floor-behind-the-strip-mall location to a second-floor-with-entrance-in-the-front-of-the-strip-mall-location, and it absolutely KILLED her business. She ended up closing after less than a year, when she had been in business for 15 years. But I must admit there was no elevator, so the parallels are few... (thanks Ellen, that was no help whatsoever....)
My first location was a second floor in an old church with five other retail businesses.

We tried all sorts of antics to get people to come up there. Usually the only ones that did were looking for the restrooms.

Matboard was delivered to the outside steps in 500-sheet boxes from Crescent and we didn't have an elevator.

Our glass cutting and storage was in the bell-tower - essentially a third floor. Same with the moulding.

I was younger and stronger, but only lasted three years there.

(I don't elevators will lure people up, either.)
I was told that you have to consider whether or not you would like to carry a large framed piece either up or down from the 2nd story - elevator or not. the people I questioned said - NOT !
I'd keep it first floor. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to know how to get in and out of your business. If they're not sure, they'll go somewhere else. Also consider a rainy or snowy day and a customer has a 5'x5' stretched canvas they want to have framed... they're going to want to do a beeline for the design counter.

... my shop is on the second floor :rolleyes: ...
There was a shop across the street from where my shop is now on the second floor. They were open for a half dozen years and were doing ok. (A divorce closed their doors.)

I opened not quite two years ago, about 2 years after they closed. I have had a number of people come in and say, "boy am I glad you guys moved from that second floor, I really didn't want to lug my stuff up there." (There was an elevator, but difficult to use.)

In my second year I am near their revenue after six.

This doesn't say whether it makes sense for you in your area/location or not. I have seen shops on second floor locations in "artsy" warehouse type buildings that did a great busness. Also, many indoor Mall locations are "second floor" and certainly not "direct to the parking lot," but they do fine!

Who are your customers, where are they coming from and are you making it easy for them to do business with you? Answer those questions for YOUR particular situation.
No. Definitely no to a 2nd floor space...

I had been calling on retailers since 1995 in my other business... and the majority of those that were on the 2nd floor are no longer in business. There is the exception to this... but the retailer moved to a first floor location at an opportune time and is very successful.

I know you are in a tourist locale and sometimes that is part of the flavor - like in Cape Cod and New England villages... but there are still more people that will not take the stairs/elevator...

My 2 cents!

Elaine, are you considering it as a move or an additional spot? If they are done correctly, and marketed correctly, it could be an "exclusive" type of spot. In that case, you might not want everybody to come to it.

If it is to be a primary, bread and butter spot, then probably, no.

In my case, we are located in an upstairs spot. We built the staircase 5' wide out of roughcut sawmill lumber. It has a certain type of charm. It was designed to carry chairs and frames up and down with plenty of room and ease. I do the carrying. (Except once, there was this older man who refused to let me do the carrying. He was cute about it.) In our case, the building looks somewhat like a converted barn (it's not, but...) so it works.

But, let me tell you, the stairs get longer everyday about 3:00pm...

You said there was an elevator. That might help. A lot depends on just what kind of atmosphere you want to create. It is not a great location for retail sales. But it might be good for a "custom art venue."

Like everyone else, this is just my opinion. Oh wait, that's what you asked for isn't it?

I have heard of second floor successes, I wouldn't bet my money on it though. Are you sure your not confusing a great place to live with a great place to do business? If there is a doubt in your mind about it working or not, listen to the doubt. Find a location that has no doubt at all, put your money, livelihood, and future there.

I can't conceive of any reason in the world to be located on the second floor.
-Reduced visability
-Impediment of stairs or elevator
-Difficult vendor deliveries
No amount of rent reduction in the world would make me consider anything but first/ground floor.

I'm adding mine to the list of nay-sayers.

My reasons have all been posted already by others. Visibility, customers' reluctance. . .

How's that for helpful?
I have a freind who wanted to rent a space on our main streeet and was trying to talk me into renting the upstairs unit. I was considering it until I relized the a lot of my customers are older and the stairs would be a hindrance. Or that my abstract artists tend to paint on BIG canvases and I can just hear that frame thunking down the stairs (and coming back because it "got dinged some how"

On second thought I would consider a second floor work area... but only if it were above my first floor show/design room.
I can't conceive of any reason in the world to be located on the second floor.
Well, there was this Danish import shop and café downstairs called The Little Mermaid and all the little mermaids wore these cute little Scandinavian outfits when they served the open-face sandwiches and they had the BEST Christmas parties you can imagine.

It was an emotional decision.

Edit: Before anyone asks, there was NO Lutefisk involved.
As, I said, I've been reading about this, and am curious about it. Thought there might be some southerners out there with some experience since this seems to be where I am hearing the most about it and it is just starting to be done in some areas here where there is new development going on.

Where my store is now, I am just wanting for convenient parking and won't be moving anywhere - no retail space available. On another note, Customers still have to lug everything down the street to my current location, so I'm wondering if there really is a difference
I was just thinking about that poor guy that hauled that 40 x 33 art in the other day... maybe I should ask him!

anyhoo, thanks for the responses. I still wonder if its a new trend so developments don't take up too much space or if it is a viable option???

always curious

How about advice from a southerner with no second floor experience? I would have to chime in with the majority on this one and say, no. It seems to be a potential turn-off to so many. Tough decision, so good luck.
Doctors, Lawyers, CPAs, and sometimes Dentists, always Engineering firms(don't now why). I asked my dentist if he would: NO!.

Retail happens on the first floor. No exceptions.

And before anyone starts: ALL Department stores have a FIRST Floor and it generates 65% of their profits. (Cosmetics, jewelry, and ladies trendies.)

Move. But find first floor with parking in front.

One of my framers near the University of Washington was on the second floor of the HOTTEST malls in the Seattle area, for several years and pretty successfull. Even had a couple of part-time framers......

She moved into a slightly larger area on first floor in May. The first 3 weeks in may, she did more than her best Christmas ever.
Caroline at University Framing, call her and ask if she would ever move to a second floor again.


I guess I shall weigh in on this, too.

NO, NO, and gain, I say NO!!! My shop was on the second floor. It was eventually moved to the first floor after like 13 years of business. The former owner almost closed it, but moved it downstairs instead. That was the best year the shop ever had. The next year was even better.

Like others have said, visibility is much better and people don't really go to the second floor unless they have a specific destination. I really don't care for the idea of taking pieces up and down the steps either. Delivery would be a real bear.