Chain store 'targeted' for Mercer Wenzel location, store owners hope to keep Delray flavor

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - SHL: Delray storeowners want variety at Mercer Wenzel location


LHL: Developer says chain store may open at Mercer Wenzel location while storeowners hope to keep Delray flavor


To stand at the corner of Atlantic Ave. and SE. 4th Ave in Delray Beach is to go back in time.

Many of the stores near the intersection have been on the corner for generations.

Store owners say they're the engine for the popular Atlantic Ave.

"We're the ones that keep people coming back day after day after day," said Mark Stowe, the owner of Nutrition Cottage, a health food store that has been on the block for several decades.

Mercer Wenzel,  the iconic family-owned department store, closed down in December, leaving behind boarded-up doors and questions.

Hand's has been on Atlantic Ave's north sidewalk for eight decades.

"We definitely wouldn't want any more restaurants right in there. I've never been a fan of big chains. Delray just hasn't fit that mold," said David Cook, the owner of Hand's.

Negotiations are still very early, but the developer tells us that chains have been targeted because of their access to credit.

But she also says locals and mom and pops are in the mix and that three stores can fit on the first floor.

Offices will go on the second.

Jennifer Davis owns Second Time Around - a ladies consignment shop - and is glad the developer says great care will be taken in selecting tenants.

"This is a local kind of feel," said Davis. "This is downtown Delray. Who has this? This is the all-American city."

The forty-year owner of Nutrition Cottage Health Foods, the oldest store of its kind in South Florida, says that chain stores and a new glass facade can all be good things.

That is, as long as the stores that fill Mercer Wenzel's shoes, or at least try to fill them,  fit into what's already near Atlantic and Fourth.

"Whether it's a larger store or a smaller store is what drives this variety that makes Atlantic Avenue," said Stowe.

The developer has been in talks with shoe stores, salons and ladies clothing outlets, among others.

The hope is to have the space ready for new owners by summer.

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