Big business moves in to Lawrence closing mom and pop shops

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Walk down Massachusetts Street in Lawrence and you will pass store after store, mostly locally owned. However some of those mom and pops are struggling now, because more and more national chains are moving in.

Mass Street is a very special place to those who visit it. You can find locally owned stores with unique products, similar to how the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City used to be. But as lots of great local shopping areas have done, Mass Street has more and more national chains opening up. And some of the locals are calling it the erosion of Mass Street.

"It hurts the mom and pops. Takes away their business," said Jon Francis, whose family has owned Francis Sporting Goods for 67 years.

Now, it's coming to an end.

"Bringing in a big box hurt us a little more than we anticipated,” he said.

Competition from large retailers was the final nail in the coffin of his family’s business, somewhere Francis has worked since he was just 13 years old, following the careers of families and young athletes who shopped at his store.

"It's tough, it's tough to close up and say goodbye to that,” he said.

Allison Vance Moore, the Senior Vice President of Colliers International, specializes in commercial real estate in Lawrence. FOX 4 asked her if she thought big business would be putting some of the moms and pops out of business.

"I think that it's going to encourage shop owners to do their best. To provide the best product at the best price and the best service and if they aren't doing their best than that is the market correction that takes place,” she said. “Have you ever heard of the saying retail follows rooftops? That's what is really putting the life into our downtown."

Vance Moore says the residential building in downtown Lawrence, as well as the expansion into the arts district is just the bait needed for national retailers to bite.

"Inevitably, things change. What I would tell you; those national chains bring strength to our downtown,” she said.

Jill Shephard is banking on that.

"It was really the only place we looked at opening our shop,” said Shephard.

Shephard’s stationary boutique, Rough House Art, is opening on Mass Street at the end of November. While she accepts the national chains are her neighbors, she was drawn to Mass Street because of what it was, hopeful, she says what it won't become.

"I think Mass Street is best suited for the small local shops, that's kind of what the street is all about and I think there is better places in town for the big box shops to go up,” she said.

As far as Francis Sporting Goods, they are not completely going away. They are closing the retail end of their business, but will still continue what has become the most successful part of their company; providing sports equipment to teams like high schools and universities.

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