The annual off-season dance of Palm Beach businesses closing and moving into new spots around town has begun in force on Royal Poinciana Way, accelerated this year by disruptive construction and increasing rents on the street, some of those business owners say.
Evelyn & Arthur, at North County Road and Royal Poinciana Way; along with mid-block tenants Palm Produce Resortwear, Peterbrooke Chocolatier and Grace Boutique; and Spa Cara at the western end of the block are among those that have closed already or that plan to leave the town’s historic main street.
New tenants have been lined up for at least some of those spaces, building owners said.
Grace and Spa Cara have closed for good. Evelyn & Arthur, Palm Produce and Peterbrooke Chocolatier plan to open new locations on the island or nearby within the next several months.
Cody Crowell, managing director of construction for the Frisbie Group, which leased space to Palm Produce and Evelyn & Arthur, said the leases for both stores expired and the tenants “did not choose to renew.”
Judy Utall, manager of Palm Produce at 217 Royal Poinciana Way, said the store is closing because it has lost business due to construction in the area and because of the closing of nearby restaurants — including Testa’s last year — has decreased foot traffic.
“It’s just getting to the point where we’re not getting the business we usually get,” Utall said.
But the overarching reason the store is closing, according to Utall, is because the Frisbie Group increased the rent by 50 percent. Crowell declined to comment on the specifics of the rent increase.
“They were paying below-market rent,” Crowell said. “We were working with them on their rent.”
The Frisbie Group bought the building in 2016 and is redeveloping the old Testa’s property next door at 221 Royal Poinciana Way in partnership with The Breakers. The location has been an active construction site since last year while an underground parking garage, a restaurant, retail spaces and residences are built.
“To raise the rent right before the summer,” Utall said, “that really killed us.”
Utall said Palm Produce plans to open another store in the area, perhaps on the island or in nearby Manalapan, after it closes on June 30. Palm Produce has been operating in Palm Beach since at least 1990.
“It’s just a matter of finding the right store,” Utall said.
Evelyn & Arthur’s lease expired at the beginning of June. Like Palm Produce, the women’s clothing store at 100 N. County Road was paying a below-market rate, Crowell said, but the Frisbie Group did not propose a rent increase for it.
Leaving the space where they have been since 1984 was not an easy decision to make, said Fred Weissman, who co-owns Evelyn & Arthur with his wife Adrianne. “There is a lot of history and a lot of emotional attachment. We didn’t make the decision lightly.”
They decided to leave the Royal Poinciana Way site because the impact of five years of construction on the new Flagler Memorial Bridge followed by the ongoing redevelopment of the old Testa site just became too much. There also is uncertainty about the future of the east end of the street, including the building that houses Evelyn & Arthur, he said.
“We found there has been an enormous drop off in foot traffic,” Weissman said.
The Weissmans opened their flagship store in Palm Beach in 1984 after retiring to the island from New York. The company now has nine shops throughout Florida, according to its website.
The Frisbie Group wants to keep as many of the existing businesses as possible on Royal Poinciana Way, Crowell said, but added “we are looking to increase the energy on the street and bring in new and exciting tenants.”
Peterbrooke Chocolatier manager Julia Artemyeva said the sweets shop, which opened at 253 Royal Poinciana Way in December 2013, will close there June 30 and re-open July 1 at 298 S. County Road. Artemyeva said business has been slow and construction on the street was hurting sales.
“We found a better location for a better price,” Artemyeva said.
Grace, a boutique in the same building that shuttered its doors on Thursday will be replaced by Diane Firsten, a longtime Palm Beach boutique with a shop at 28 Via Mizner, said Alexander Hufty Griswold of Armata Holdings Management Corp., the real estate investment company that recently bought that building.
A home goods and interior design company, which will be announced soon, will replace Peterbrooke, Griswold said Saturday.
“Armata was aware of the tenants vacating and re-leased the spaces within weeks,” he said.
Spa Cara, at 283 Royal Poinciana Way, closed in May after several years in a storefont at the building owned by the family of Mayor Gail Coniglio and her husband, Frank. The spa, named after their daughter, Cara, was a family business.
“Basically, there was no profitability,” said Frank Coniglio.
At Eyes on the Island, optometrist Dr. Herbert Simkin has no plans to vacate his storefront, which is in the same building as Palm Produce Resortware. Simkin said he has three years left on his lease with the Frisbie Group.
“I don’t want to leave the street,” Simkin said. “I’ve been here for 20 years.”
Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurel Baker pointed to the area’s construction and renovation as reasons some stores are moving but said she doubts the area will be fazed by the turnover.
“This happens every summer,” Baker said. “The landlords, somehow or another, bring in new people, and, hopefully, that will be the case this coming season.”
Staff writers Darrell Hofheinz and William Kelly contributed to this report.