Monday, March 12, 2012

Arrivederci Ropa Bella

Though the big sale sign hanging below the awning doesn't hint at the fact, a much smaller sign in the shop window confirms a sad truth: in very modest-sized type are the words "Ropa Bella is closing."  All furniture and fixtures, mannequins included, are for sale.  So the end is near for the long-running women's clothing shop that has struggled over the past couple of years to find its place.

A Madison Park mainstay for over two decades, Ropa Bella only recently moved back to the neighborhood after a short-but-uneventful foray into Madison Valley. That eight-month experiment seemed to confirm for owner Lisa Loban that the Park was where she needed to be if Ropa Bella were to survive.  But in the end, "it was the economy," she says.  She notes that her landlord, Lakeside Capital Management, bent over backwards to help her return to the neighborhood last year and has been supportive all along.  But the in-store traffic, quite simply, hasn't come back since Ropa Bella returned to Madison Park last May.  As a result, Loban notified Lakeside that she would not be renewing her lease at the end of April.

"It's been a really hard decision," Loban tells us.  "It's my baby and I gave it my all.  I really tried."  She notes that the current sale is definitely not a liquidation event.  There is all-new Spring inventory on hand, she says, and she hopes her loyal customers--and everyone else--will come by to check it out.

Loban, who is unsurprisingly emotional about the store's demise, says that beginning in May she intends to take a few months off to rest and recover.  Ultimately, she hopes to do something new in fashion or sales.  In the meantime, she's trying to come to grips with her changed circumstance. "I love my customers, but we've had our turn and it's time for change."

There was a time when there were multiple clothing shops in Madison Park, including The Yankee Peddler and Nubia's.  With Ropa Bella's exit, the only remaining Village store offering clothes will be The Original Children's Shop.  It is unclear whether a retail tenant will take the Ropa Bella space when it's vacated.  Although Lakeside would prefer to see multiple retail establishments remain in the Villa Marina building, it is reportedly prepared to convert space to office use if that is a better alternative.

[Ropa Bella is located at 1928 43rd Avenue E.]

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