The local Ben & Jerry's ice cream store has closed its doors in Wildhorse Marketplace.
Manager Elizabeth Robinson said the store's last day in business was Sunday. Kerry Shea, property manager for Wildhorse Marketplace, said the closure is pending completion of lease negotiations, which are under way.
"We are in current discussions with the owner, with respect to the business," Shea said Monday. "They're currently under lease obligation."
But for all intents and purposes, the ice cream shop has scooped its last sundae.
"Bad location, bad economy," Robinson said about the closure, citing a lack of walk-in traffic and slipping sales. She became manager about six months ago. "It's sad for me because I really enjoyed this job. It was very hard to lay off all my kids."
Robinson said the local Ben & Jerry's employed five high school students, - her "kids" - some of whom were working their first jobs. But the store "didn't get much support from the locals," Robinson said, making it hard to survive year-round on summer tourism dollars.
Shea said there are three other vacancies - out of 17 commercial units, at current build-out - at Wildhorse Marketplace. The plaza at Mount Werner Road and Central Park Drive also houses Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Wildhorse Marketplace focuses on food and beverage, entertainment and specialty or boutique retailers, Shea said. He said he was open to proposals for the Ben & Jerry's location, should the closure be finalized.
"We're keeping our options open," he said. "If things aren't resolved, we need to make sure we keep the health and vitality of the center at the forefront."
Across the way from Ben & Jerry's, local Quizno's Sub owner Tim Cooper worked through a busy lunch hour Monday. Although he said his business has been "80 percent off" peak numbers for the past two months, he said he's in no danger of closing his store and expects business to pick up after the shoulder season.
"You've got to make enough in the winter and summer to make it through these two months," he said, referring to mid-September to mid-November.
Next door to Ben & Jerry's, Bombay Grill manager Monty Bath said business at the Indian restaurant also has been "a bit slow" during the shoulder season. The restaurant is starting its first happy hour Friday in an effort to boost shoulder-season business, Bath said. Friday's event, from 4 to 6 p.m., will include a free appetizer for guests and drink specials. Subsequent happy hours will offer half-price appetizers, Bath said.
He said business at the restaurant has been "what we expected" since it opened last spring. Like Cooper, Bath said he is hoping a change in season brings a change in business.
"We're just waiting for winter," he said.
A large portion of Wildhorse Marketplace is blocked off for construction at the future site of Millennium Bank. Shea said the bank is scheduled to open in spring 2010.