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Audrey's on Newbury Street set to close over rent hike

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  March 20, 2013 01:13 PM

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Newbury Street will be without one more local business by the end of the month as Audrey’s Pet Supply prepares to shut its doors.

The pet supply store first opened on the bustling street nearly three years ago, but a substantial rent hike is forcing the shop to close by the end of the month, according to owner Brittany Bang.

Bang said she offered to a pay a 38 percent rent increase, but was outbid by a frozen yogurt chain offering to pay a rent that equaled a 133 percent increase.

For Bang, a Back Bay native, the loss of her store is part of a larger problem facing the neighborhood as small, locally owned businesses give way to chain stores that can pay higher rents.

“There needs to be a balance for Newbury Street to stay special,” Bang said in a phone interview.

It was Newbury Street’s history of hosting unique, local shops that led Bang to open on Newbury Street, and it's that atmosphere, Bang said, that creates a community for local residents and attracts customers from out of town.

“The reason [tourists] are going to come here is because they want to find stores they aren’t going to find in every strip mall in America,” she said.

Bang is not the first to cite rising rent or lease trouble as a reason for closing.

J.P. Licks closed its Newbury Street location last year after losing its lease. At the time, owner Vince Petryk said at the time that the building’s new owner wanted to rent the both floors of building to one tenant, and the ice cream shop could not afford that rent.

The Charley’s restaurant on Newbury Street also closed last year after its owner said it was unsuccessful in negotiating a new lease.

Around the same time, the Michael Labrecque Salon closed, saying "the rising costs of doing business on Newbury Street have become too great for our boutique salon."

Across Massachusetts Avenue, restaurants The Otherside Café, Bhindi Bazaar and Island Hopper, and mattress store Sleeparama were all shuttered last year.

Midwestern furniture chain Room & Board is now working to open its first Massachusetts store in the prominent corner building.

Bang said she has seen an increase in people supporting small businesses, but would like start a conversation about what else can be done to support them, such as limiting the number of national chain stores that can open in the area or control the percentage rent can increase in one year.

“I’m one store. I can’t change the face of Newbury Street, but I do think talking about it make people aware of it is is the most important step...I don’t have a solution but I have lots ideas,” she said.

Bang said the outpouring of support from customers has been overwhelming since she announced she would close.

On Thursday, Bang will will host a closing party from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Audrey's to thank customers and friends and unveil some new projects in the works.

The store, which has regularly held fundraisers, donation drives, and adoption events, will also be collecting gently used and new supplies and cash donations for the MSPCA-Angell shelter.

The support, is just another benefit of having local businesses in the community, Bang said.

"Customers see the diriect impact of what we do, and that’s why they love it and they support us."

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