Erfan Raffii closes Flamers in the food court after 25 years, was there on opening day
Shelly Lyford opened her new business last September, wanted to be downtown and at the Landing, things going well she says
Michelle Rhoades at Hana and Her Sister Jewelry Store says she has had good years, "things on an upswing."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Erfan Raffii opened Flamers 25 years ago on the first day The Jacksonville Landing opened, but he's closing for the final time Friday night.
Raffii and his wife will close the business at 9 p.m. and his four employees will have to find work elsewhere.
"It's very, very, very sad," Raffii said. "It's hard, but I gotta do what I gotta do."
He says fewer people are visiting the Landing's food court. He was one of just four vendors there. Now, there are three.
Raffii says the courthouse moving to a new location didn't help. Free summer concerts went away. EverBank's move to downtown did not help enough. And Sleiman Enterprises is raising his rent and he can't make a go of it anymore.
Landing management said they gave Raffii a big break on his rent when the economy went bad in 2009, but are just trying to charge a fair rate. They said Raffii's sales are up, but it was his decision to leave. They are disappointed to see him go.
You might think with the Landing losing another tenant that things are gloomy there. But business owners there have said otherwise.
Marketing director Michael Chambliss says Pierre's Pizza is opening in September in the food court and another new vendor is expected soon.
And several new retail shops have moved in during the past year.
"This is the highest occupancy the Landing has had in over a decade. We're excited about a number of the boutique shops we have. Almost all of our retail is full downstairs," said Chambliss.
Sherry Lyford and her husband Mitch chose to come to the Landing to open River City Gourmet Shoppe to sell their homemade dips and rubs, olive oils and balsamic vinegar. Sherry chose the Landing because of Mayor Brown's emphasis on downtown redevelopment and doesn't regret it.
"Things are changing drastically at the Landing. What I see is the Landing is bringing in lots of local boutiques, and you can't find these items in a mall.
"I think we are on the cusp of something really fun and good and the Landing and downtown," said Lyford who grew up in Jacksonville and makes her products at her Landing store.
Michelle Rhoades is one of the vendors that has stuck it out 25 years at Hana and her Sister jewelry store.
"I am not going anywhere," said Rhoades.
"I would say it's on an upswing. We have done really well this past year, with the economy the way it has been. I am really happy with the way this year is turning out, I see a lot of change. "
Rhoades says she's seen a lot of change at the Landing and it's been a wonderful transition this past year.
First Coast News