Renata Kirejczyk, owner of Kuboo's, a children's clothing boutique, doesn't plan to hire movers or a truck during the transition to its new location — a larger, more prominent space on Farmington Avenue.
Kirejczyk, a slender 31-year-old, plans to move most of the clothing and racks herself to the new store, which is less than 100 feet away and in the same building she has always occupied.
Her store, which specializes in European fashions for babies, children and young teens, is about to step into the glare of the streetlights, relocating from the parking lot side of the Central building in West Hartford Center to prime territory, the former Maggie Moo's ice cream shop on Farmington Avenue.
"I'm going to be on the main street instead of being hidden inside," Kirejczyk said. "Seventy percent of my business is word-of-mouth. Now I'll be able to capture the impulse buyer who sees something they like in the window."
Many retailers have been forced to lay off workers and suffer revenue declines in the recession. But for those like Kirejczyk who are on solid footing, the poor economy is offering leasing bargains on better retail space.
"There are always opportunities in downturns for people that are well positioned," said Tim Phelan, president of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association.
Kirejczyk said Kuboo's sales have grown at a solid pace since the store's launch two years ago.
Despite opening about the time the economy started to decline, Kirejczyk has managed to build her clientele and repay her lender (her husband) $100,000 in start-up money.
"I want it to be my business," she said.
Kirejczyk declined to give details about the new location's rent. She said the building's owners contacted her when the former ice cream shop became available and gave her a good deal.
"Some of the rents in the center are coming down," said Paulette Mertes, co-owner of Studio 970 Photography in the Central building. "If she had tried to do this even a year ago, it would have been expensive."
Richard Mahoney of R.L.M. Co. commercial real estate broker said: "The rents in West Hartford Center, which had edged their way a little too high, have come down, but not dramatically."
Many landlords have been willing to bargain.
"It's happening all over Connecticut; landlords are being more aggressive, they're cutting better deals," said Tim McNamara, commercial broker with Sullivan Hayes in Farmington. Landlords don't want to be faced with the expense of having to lease an empty space.
Some rents are down 10 to 20 percent, he said.
"It's short term, usually one to three years in duration," he said.
When Kuboo's moves to its new location at the end of the month, Kirejczyk expects to expand her inventory to include a larger selection of young women's clothing, increase store hours and hire employees by the end of the year, "probably part time to start," she said.