The Broadway streetscape project was completed, with new paving, parking, lighting and landscaping. Work progressed on the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau ahead of its opening as the casino dominated the view looking north on Main Street.
For fashionistas, there were also welcome changes in downtown Cape. In the past year, several new retail stores opened on Broadway and Main Street, offering everything from vintage jewelry to home goods to party dresses.
Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, says there's been lots of excitement downtown in recent months.
"There's been a lot of excitement about the streetscape, what the casino might bring and people coming to town, what that means," she says. "There's a lot of energy."
Some of the new retails stores include Sloan and Themis, Philanthropy, Sweet Designs Boutiques and Stash, which have all opened in the past year.
"Retail is the No. 1 thing we're trying to bring downtown as far as business," Mills says. "It's important. The more retail we have, the more people there are, the more retail businesses we attract. It's a catch 22: We need more to get more. ... New business begets new business."
For Emily Hoehne, owner of Stash, opening her own clothing business was a lifelong goal. She grew up in Perry County, and growing up, she says Cape was her family's only option for shopping. "I worked in retail in St. Louis for five or six years," she says. "I wanted to bring what I found in St. Louis to Cape. What I wanted, Cape didn't have."
Since opening Stash at 40 N. Main St. in October, Hoehne says the people downtown have been welcoming and helpful. "I think it's great for the community," she says of the new retail stores. "I think it will continue when people see new things and new ideas. We can work off each other and with casino."
Paula Haas opened Somewhere in Time Antiques, 108 N. Main St., in January 2010, and she welcomes the new stores on the block. "It's very positive," Haas says. "It's been a more of a diverse retail. There's a lot of antique stores; we're an antiques destination. But we need another draw. ... It takes a little of everything for people to come back and remember us."
Haas says she's noticed more customers in addition to her regular antique shoppers and customers. "We're getting people downtown here eating, shopping and having curiosity about the casino," she says.
"In that same (construction) area, six new businesses either started or relocated (during the project)," Mills says. "What is happening on Broadway will enhance what happens in the riverfront (area). They feed into each other."
Sweet Design Boutiques, owned by Candi Winkler, is one of those Broadway-based businesses.
"I needed to move my business out of my house," Winkler says. She liked the downtown area because of "all the local small businesses."
Her business at 120 Broadway is growing each week, especially since the street reopened.
"Now that there are more stores here, people are coming down to spend an afternoon," Winkler says. "That's what I've noticed. People are out checking out the new stores. They're bringing people who are out-of-town visitors. ... They're more proud to show off (what we have)."
Mills and the store owners all agree they expect more businesses to consider opening downtown. For her part, Mills says she's had more and more interest.
As for Haas, she expects downtown to fill up sooner rather than later. "If prices stay reasonable, I think (the downtown storefronts) could all be filled up in short order," she says.