August 4, 2006
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
For the first time since it opened in 1959, Herb's Sport Shop no longer has a Hartford storefront.
Andrew Sheintop, son of the late Herb Sheintop, who opened the original sporting goods store, said that his business has changed over time from walk-in retail to mostly team, institutional, and league business. As a result, Herb's needed more space, and in Bristol - where his new store just opened this week - he's got three times as much of it.
"The bread and butter of my business is team sports," Sheintop said. "High schools, little leagues, softball leagues, basketball leagues. Any kind of league business, I'm there."
But servicing that business out of a small retail shop is hard, so Sheintop last month closed its Main Street location and has reopened at 51 Wooster Court in Bristol. His West Hartford store is still in place.
Herb's has had several Hartford locations over the years, including one on Asylum Street, another on Trumbull Street, and then a third on Allyn Street before finally moving to Main Street in 1989, Sheintop said.
A lesser factor in Sheintop's decision to move was the fact that the downtown retail business was not thriving, he said. Combine the challenge of parking with the lack of other significant retail, and city shopping isn't easy when compared to the big suburban malls, he said.
"The retail climate in Hartford is not very good right now, and that's why stores are leaving," he said. "But mostly, I needed more space."
"It's unfortunate," Sheintop said. "I'd like to stick it out in Hartford. Hopefully they can turn things around, but it's time for a change."
John F. Palmieri, the city's director of development services, says the city's retail market is improving, but it still has a lot of room for growth.
"As we get more people to live downtown, and that is happening, as demand increases, I think we'll see more [retail] downtown," Palmieri said. "We're pleased overall with the quality of retail activity in the city, but if you ask me about downtown, I think we still have a ways to go. We've got to build a market, and we've got to create more housing."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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