After serving shoppers in downtown Summit for nearly four years, the Lilypod boutique, located on Springfield Avenue between La Pastaria and The Luggage Center, will be closing in the next week or so, according to store owner Manish Jain.
Lilypod specializes in original women's and children's casual clothing and accessories. In light of the store closing, everything in stock has been reduced to $5.
Jain said that the Lilypod brand has been wholesaled through other retailers throughout the country for 10 years. At its peak, the label appeared in roughly 400 stores across the country, he said, but now is only in about 300.
Jain opened his own retail store in Summit as an experiment. He said he wanted to open 10 to 15 stores in New Jersey, but the economic downturn and "extremely high" rent disabled him from doing so.
"The revenue was not comparable (to the operating costs)," Jain said. "I'm bringing down prices, but there's still no demand."
Currently, Lilypod's rent is set at what property manager Frank Sullivan called an "attractive" rent of $2,000 a month, which he added is below market value.
Sullivan, of Cronheim Mortgage in Chatham, said that for the past several months, he and Jain had been evaluating the property's lease.
"Business was not good," Sullivan said. "He (Jain) decided he couldn't make ends meet."
Sullivan said that all of the tenants and business owners whose properties he manages, there is a "pretty consistent story that business is down no matter what the business is."
Lilypod, originally located on Summit Avenue, opened in September 2006. Jain decided to relocate last year when his lease expired because the property was too expensive. Sullivan added that Jain was looking to reduce his operating costs.
"He (Jain) went in, initially, on a month-to-month basis because he didn't want to commit to a long-term lease," Sullivan said. "He wasn't sure how business would go."
"We gave it a year and a half, but we've known for two or three months that he was going to close," he continued.
"The town is in poor shape—there are so many vacancies—and it will take a while to repair," Jain said.
"We are certainly cognizant of the difficulties retail tenants are having, and we work extra hard to keep our existing tenants," Sullivan said.
Jain expressed an interest in taking his business overseas to India, where he is from, and China because "things are moving very fast" there.
"I prefer to be in India because there is economic movement in India as well as in China," he said. "Sitting here and waiting for it (the economy to turn around), I'm wasting precious years of my life."
"We're working with him (Jain), and we wish he would stay," Sullivan said. "We try to work with our tenants because we're in tough times here."
Jain said that the brand will continue to be wholesaled through other retailers "if the operation moves."
"I'm happier doing wholesale because retail is still very poor," he said. "I'd rather close the retail end of my business: The day-to-day activity does not consume as much time."
"The rent rates should go down," Jain continued. "They need to consider the economy: that's the primary thing I'm interested in conveying."