TRAVERSE CITY — Steep rent increases and evictions are in store for the indie owners of unique shops located in Traverse City’s Warehouse district.
Soul Soup Studios, Holland’s Nest and The Red Dresser must leave by Jan. 31, while Handz on Art, Grey Wolf Creek, Relish and Waara Technologies are looking at dramatic rent increases — if they stay.
Most of the shops are connected by a hallway in the Warehouse Marketplace located on the corner of Hall and Garland streets.
“I understand the situation,” said Dave Wood, owner of Grey Wolf Creek. “The new owners want to modify the building and do cool things. To do that, they need some people out. The city’s growing, there are going to be changes. But it’s tough for me. I can’t complain; I’ve done well, but it’s a tough time of year to move.”
Wood said a notice was slipped under his door in mid-November, giving him notice of a nearly double rent increase effective on Dec. 1. He’ll stay at least until Jan. 1, but must find a more affordable place soon, he said.
Dan and Meridith Falconer bought the building from Dan’s parents, Julie and Bruce Falconer, Wood said.
The purchase triggered a 32 percent property tax increase from roughly $18,000 to $27,000 annually, which reflects a one-mill tax increase approved in the November election, said Dan Tollefson, Traverse City’s assessment clerk.
The Falconers declined a request for an interview.
The building once housed The Lighting Center and was operated by Julie Falconer, said Wood, a former employee.
Wood invested in the renovation of his shop space — in his case, Grey Wolf Creek once served as the company garage.
Tammy Simerson of the Red Dresser, a tenant for 31/2 years, said she has found a new location at 1253 S. Airport in the same building as Play it Again Sports.
“Our store is not so much about the location, but more about our vendors and the time and effort they put into their space and the pride they have,” she said.
The owners of Handz on Art and Relish plan to stay.
Tracey Gabel said she loves the Warehouse District and picked her location for Relish, a women’s clothing store, in anticipation of the opening of Hotel Indigo, which has suffered setbacks because of groundwater contamination.
Gabel, who invested a significant amount in her shop —”We all did,” she said — won’t see an immediate rent increase, thanks to her lease. Her shop will remain open when construction begins in early February, with access off Garland Street.
“I think it will be great when they’re all done. I’m banking on that,” she said.
Lee Perry, who works at Soul Soup, said the shops reflect the unique artistry of their owners, something that will be hard to recreate.
“I think Red Dresser is one of the greatest stores in Traverse City,” she said. “It’s filled with ideas and creations and inspiration of what people make there. We do that here, too,” she said, gesturing to the original art pieces covering the walls and shelves.