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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Fall of Duval

The national news is filled with stories about the woes of the real estate market. And I have been writing about the woes of Key West for some eight months. But two days ago I got a shot of reality about the really big woes of Duval Street.

Duval Street is Key West's "Main Street". It starts at the Gulf of Mexico and ends at the Atlantic Ocean. The shops, restaurants, bars and hot spots are the engines that drive the Key West economy. Duval is Key West street of dreams.

So I was shocked on Tuesday when I went to In Touch, my favorite card & novelty shop. There were signs posted on the doors and windows saying closing forever, all merchandise 75% off. I went inside and the store was almost totally vacant. There were a few remnants left on the shelves--very few. The lights were even turned off for the most part. The AC was working. And the shop's owner, Frank, was sitting behind the counter.

He said that the building had been sold and the new owner was raising his rent from $10,000 per month to $12,000 per month. Ouch! He said he had rented the same amount of space directly across the street for $10,000 so he was moving. Screw the new landlord, an Israeli. But then he told me about all of his neighbors who were also closing. Forever.

He reported that retail on Duval is for the dogs. He said nobody, nobody, is making any money. He said Kennedy Galleries is totally gone--all seven locations. He then enumerated the fate of each neighbor. But he said the misery is going on all the way up and down Duval

Later I had dinner with a friend and discussed what I had seen and heard. He said that the owner of Fast Buck Freddies had told him the same thing. Fast Buck Freddies is another Kew West institution with trendy merchandise you don't see anywhere else in Key West. But even Fast Buck has fallen victim to the Duval fall. My friend said the owner told him that Fast Buck has had to revamp is merchandising to include more schlock just to keep the cash registers busy.

Duval goes through the summer blood-letting every year, but this time it looks much more serious. I have never understood how or why landlords raise the rents so high as to drive tenants out. It has been going on for years and the practice has destroyed many an honest businessman.

By coincidence The Key West Citizen has a feature story in today's edition about the same subject, but on businesses located four blocks to the north. GO HERE to read the tales of woe for more desperate business owners.

CLICK HERE to checkout the real estate listings for Key West and the lower Florida Keys. Give me a call or email me at to get more information on any of the listings. Thanks.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.