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New shops make Paddock Arcade haven for downtown professionals

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The launch of several shops this year at the Paddock Arcade on Public Square has made it a haven for downtown professionals.

They can get a haircut at the Beauty Bar salon opened in July, or eat dinner at Johnny D’s Restaurant, which has expanded its hours to stay open during evenings Thursday through Saturday. Buying cakes and cookies with Old World decor will be another option when Europe Cakes opens in December; and at the new eatery Vito’s Gourmet, which opened Friday, homemade soups and sandwiches are available on-the-go.

Has the old plaza, built in 1850, made a comeback this year?

“It serves the people downtown all parts of the day,” said Donald G.M. Coon III, Paddock Arcade manager partner. “You can get coffee, breakfast and muffins in the morning, and during the day you have four restaurants open. Then after the day’s off, you have the bar to go to at the Paddock Club, and Johnny D’s open on the weekend.”

All 10 spots on the arcade’s first floor are now claimed by tenants; there were only three when the building was bought in May 2006 by the investment group Watertown RX LLC from Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns and his ex-wife, Watertown City Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns.

“The arcade is kind of an incubator for new businesses, and about half of small businesses are going to fail,” Mr. Coon said.

Still, he’s optimistic about the current mix of merchants occupying the space.

“It took time to fill them up, but we want to have ten ongoing businesses in there,” Mr. Coon said. “All things being equal, fives years from now we’ll have the same tenants.”

To stay open, Mr. Coon said, tenants will need to stay relevant to the roughly 5,000 people who work downtown.

“That’s your first target audience as a new business,” he said. “If you can pay the bills and stay open nights and weekends, then you can focus on getting people from outside the area.”

Todd V. Tarzia, owner of Vito’s Gourmet, said the launch of classy shops at the arcade has shifted the public’s perception of the landmark.

“It’s starting to get a more upscale, city vibe,” he said Monday morning at the store, which faces Washington Street. About a dozen customers sat at tables during the morning at the 1,500-square-foot eatery, where they ordered specialty drinks at a coffee bar, chose from a menu of 10 gourmet sandwiches, or snatched up homemade soups, salads and fresh fruit to go. WiFi web access is also available.

Mr. Tarzia, who grew up visiting stores in the Paddock Arcade, called its current business outlook “trending upward.”

But “there are still a lot of people who come in and say they didn’t know we’re here,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”

He hopes the restaurant will appeal to downtown customers by offering zesty gourmet sandwiches they can’t get elsewhere, and allowing them to get their food quickly if they need to scoot back to work.

“My goal is to move people in and out and still give them a quality product that’s made fresh,” he said. “You can pour your own soup, grab a salad, and you’re ready to go.”

Customers will notice spicy choices on Vito’s menu, such as its buffalo chicken soup, or its BLT sandwich that comes with veggie cream cheese.

“I’m trying to jack it up in terms of what you get for flavor,” Mr. Tarzia said.

Sandy’s Luncheonette, the Beauty Bar, Paddock Club, Johnny D’s Restaurant, Europe Cakes, Village Peddler bicycle shop, Steve Weed Productions, Moontide Arts Fashion and Paddock Art & Antiques are tenants at the Paddock Arcade.

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