Newport is Having a Business Boom

A number of indie retailers are setting up shop just in time for summer

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“They are popping up like mushrooms!” says Natalie Thompson of the many new businesses in Newport. Some are second locations like her own shop The Peyton Co., a clean beauty and body brand launched in Warren, first on Child and then on Water Street. Thompson’s company started humbly in her kitchen with a borrowed hand-mixer, making products for her son Peyton who was born with severe skin allergies. Today, she’s in the midst of getting her space ready at the corner of Thames and Memorial Boulevard. “It has always been a dream to have a business downtown. This city holds a very special place in my heart since vacationing here as a child. Being part of such a vibrant, historical, ever-evolving, and artistic coastal community couldn’t be a better fit for my brand. I feel strongly that we will thrive and be welcomed as the new kids on the block!”

Sea Rose Cottage, known around Bristol for over a decade of stocking Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, vintage finds, Dash & Albert products, and more, recently opened their newest location. “I love Spring Street because it has historically had many antique and interior businesses along the corridor, and it’s conveniently located for shoppers who want to make a quick stop,” says owner Nancy Chace, who adds, “I’m thrilled to be in the D.R. Keith Building, a Greek Revival house built in 1843 that is part of the Historic Hill neighborhood, a charming section with a mix of residential and commercial use.”

First-timers include Zürner Oceanic, a side-hustle turned full-time endeavor as a result of pandemic job losses. Husband and wife team John and Jennifer Zuerner make and sell bags and accessories using vintage rope, sails, and other materials from yachts. Says John, “I couldn’t think of a better place to have a business associated with sailing and yachting. All of our products are handmade in-house, so our location had to be renovated to fit our very specific needs. We were lucky to find nice owners that were willing to work with us.” With a smile, John adds, “Also my stepmother had a lampshade business many years ago just a couple of doors down so it all just felt right, and who doesn’t want to be across from Franklin Spa, a Newport staple?”

Aside from the reliable foot traffic which makes Newport a coveted destination for business owners, what’s also enabling entrepreneurs to take the leap is discounted rents. A few landlords have been offering substantial reductions to commercial tenants in response to COVID-related financial struggles, making some properties now within reach.  

The best part of being in Newport according to Thompson: “Being able to live one of my dreams out doing what I love in such a beautiful and creative community. Oh, and morning yoga and/or surf time at Second Beach before the shop opens. I vow to arrive sandy and/or salty every day that I can.”

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