When Madison Boutique put up its going out of business signs, the Main Street shop became the third downtown Annapolis store in three weeks to announce its plans to close for good.
"I loved it down here, but it's changed," owner Catharine Incaprera said. "As a business owner, we need foot traffic, and it's seriously, dramatically dropped in the last two years."
Incaprera's Main Street store joins Steven's Hardware, which closes in late December, and Shades Unlimited, which closes on Dec. 31. Madison Boutique will be open until the end of January, Incaprera said.
She's operated the women's clothing and accessory boutique for six years—four of which were spent at 181 Main St.
Incaprera said she's thought about closing for a while. She knew it was finally time to shut the doors after she accepted a job as the costume supervisor for the major motion picture Anchorman 2—which starts filming in Atlanta in January.
She will likely be on location in Georgia for most of 2013.
"I've got a good staff now, but last year when I was in New Orleans working on another production I didn't," Incaprera said. "I think it's hard to run a business when you're not here."
She noted that if business was booming, she would have kept the store going despite the distance.
"If I could have a boat show day every day, I wouldn't be closing," Incaprera said. "I feel bad for my loyal customers."
She said she also feels bad about leaving behind the other Main Street business owners with whom she's developed friendships. She pulled out a list of phone numbers from underneath her counter that she uses to warn other owners about potential shoplifters.
"We look out for each other," Incaprera said. "We've caught more than one shoplifter that way."
She's also going to miss her "sister stores" Horse Boutique and Brown Eyed Girl. She said the three stores have worked together over the years to make sure they didn't carry the same merchandise, and they frequently send people to each other's locations.
"I feel a bit like a traitor," Incaprera said.
Brown Eyed Girl co-owner GeorgiAnna King Schurr agreed that foot traffic has dropped off in recent years. It's a decline that she blames on a lack of affordable downtown parking.
"Customers have asked me 'Why am I paying $20 or more just to come shop here?'" King Schurr said. "It's frustrating."
She's also not happy about the new parking enforcement system that tickets people for parking longer than two hours dowtown—even if they've moved their cars to another parking spot in the district.
Annapolis Business Association President Sean O'Neill thinks the string of closings is part of a natural life cycle for retailers in the downtown district.
"You will get spurts where a bunch of new businesses open and some old businesses close," O'Neill said. "I think it's the natural cycle of what just happens."
He noted that December is a popular time for retailers to announce store closings because it's the time they review their profits and plan ahead for the new year.
"It's a hard life. It's not easy being a retailer," O'Neill said. "Our hope is that economic development corporation and other organizations help bring in other retailers to makeup the void."
A female store employee from Plat Du Jour who asked not to be named disagreed, saying the string of closings has a lot to do with a customer base that's decided to stop coming downtown.
"You used to come downtown and there were really unique businesses. Now it's all T-shirts and souvenir shops," she said. "That doesn't make it a historic working city. It makes it a Sunday tourist, be by the water and eat ice cream kind of place."
Plat Du Jour will also close its doors in January unless sales improve dramatically in the next few weeks.
"I think you're going to continue to see empty storefronts," she said. "It's a shame."