Johannes Hunter pulling out of downtown

Johannes Hunter Jewelers will move from downtown Colorado Springs after 23 years in the heart of the city.

The high-end jeweler is moving to University Village and will fill a retail storefront at 5182 N. Nevada Avenue, said store co-owner Linda Hunter.

The store has been in its current location at 124 N. Tejon Street between Kiowa and Bijou streets downtown for the last 10 years. But it opened downtown in April 1988, Hunter said. She and her husband moved from Idaho, where they owned two jewelry stores.

“Every store we’ve ever owned has been downtown,” she said. “I’m really a downtown person. It’s not without some degree of sadness that we leave.”

Hunter said that changes to downtown Colorado Springs have made it a less desirable place to do business than it once was.

“It’s become a very strong bar district, which is great,” she said. “But those bars are vacant during the day. And the homeless problem is – well, a problem.”

Hunter thinks there are more homeless people on the downtown streets in the years  since the Marion House, a Catholic charity which provides lunch and counseling services to the homeless, expanded its building.

“They’re not doing anything wrong,” she said. “But after they have a meal, they don’t have anywhere to go and they come over. It doesn’t create a positive business environment for us. It’s sad, but it’s just what it is.”

Hunter said she and her partners have been looking for a good location for a few years.

“We were talking about building a free-standing building, all kinds of things,” Hunter said. “We just couldn’t find the right fit until this building came along.”

She said the location at University Village is the ideal location to serve existing customers, who primarily come from The Broadmoor area and the the northwest part of town.

The jeweler plans to “step it up”  and incorporate  new design and a waiting area, that allows clerks to bring customers items to look at, or where people can discuss jewelry options.

Johannes Hunter isn’t the only jeweler in their new neighborhood. The new location is just down the street from the newest location for Louisa Graff Jewelers.  Hunter said Graff’s move did not affect her decision to relocate her store.

The move is a blow for the downtown area, which has seen a number of shops close up or move out of town.

“I’m glad they’re not leaving town or closing up,” said Ron Butlin, director of the downtown partnership, “but I’m sorry they’re leaving downtown.”

Butlin hopes that defense software developer Braxton’s decision to move its operations to the former Chase building at 6 N. Tejon St. will spur more downtown economic development. Braxton’s move is scheduled for October, and the partnership is doing what it can to entice people to shop downtown.

The partnership is also sponsoring a summer concert series in Acacia Park on Saturdays and a farmer’s market on Mondays to draw people downtown.

“The homeless issue downtown is a continual topic of conversation,” Butlin said. “It just happens to be that a lot of the social services for the homeless are located downtown.”

The homeless aren’t breaking laws or doing anything wrong when they’re downtown, Butlin said.

However, he recommends that shopkeepers who do find the homeless loitering at their shop doors or sleeping on their stoops call authorities to avoid business disruptions.

Ultimately, Hunter’s decision was one of business economics.

“It’s not a matter of business is bad for us here,” Hunter said. “It’s just that it will be better there.”

She expects the move to start in October and will be announcing a moving sale in the fall.