Manchester: The Shoppes development is proving to be a magnet for new businesses and customers.
MANCHESTER — Customers have waited outside to get into the new Firehouse Subs on South Willow Street during its first week open.
“It has been phenomenal,” Dan Pettit, the franchise owner, said Friday. “More than we expected.”
The sub shop — along Manchester’s main retail strip — is part of a mixed-used building that once housed a light bulb factory.
By May, a half-dozen businesses should be operating at The Shoppes at 655 S. Willow St.
A third of the building’s 191,519 square feet already is leased with another third under discussion for possible leasing, according to James Tobin, leasing representative at Brady Sullivan Properties.
Potential tenants had a difficult time imagining what the transformation of the Osram Sylvania plant could bring.
“Even with our pretty pictures, we couldn’t convince anyone to take a leap of faith until we actually completed the work,” said co-developer Dick Anagnost. “Everyone shut us down.”
Two real estate titans — Anagnost Companies and Brady Sullivan Properties — teamed up on the joint venture.
By the end of April, Kung Fu Tea, Glossy Nails and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen should be operating. Life Storage, a self-storage business, opened late last year.
It was 2014 when Osram Sylvania announced it was closing the Manchester plant and laying off 139 employees. The developers acquired the building in late 2015.
They demolished an L-shaped addition to provide a more airy look and added 122 windows and doors to brighten the 200,000 square feet inside.
The project carried a price tag north of $20 million.
The development shows how “brick and mortar” retail is changing, Tobin said.
“You might see three contemporary modern retail tenants occupying what was formerly one big-box retailer,” he said.
An example of that is right along South Willow, where a former Sports Authority store was carved into multiple spaces for Guitar Center, Party City and a DSW shoe store.
The new development will include Core Medical Group, a health-care staffing and recruiting agency, that is a Brady Sullivan tenant. Core Medical, which will open in May, needed to relocate from the former Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield building on Goffs Falls Road to make way for defense contractor BAE Systems.
Tobin called the building “an unrealized area of South Willow Street.”
“I think it’s just a testament of the demand there’s always going to be on South Willow and the attraction of retailers on a national level,” Tobin said.