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Garland fair celebrates new specialty stores, historic hangouts

Hard-hit business district seeking more distinct retailers, services

Kendra Cunningham’s Yorkshire terrier sported a cupcake-print dress with a matching bow, while nearby, the eclectic Garland Street Fair buzzed.

The dog stood not in the newly opened cupcake shop down the street but in Cunningham’s store, Diva Dog Boutique. The boutique carries upscale canine apparel, accessories and grain-free dog food.

Why pooch couture, and why Garland?

“Garland is to me the last boutique district in Spokane where people walk their dogs,” Cunningham said.

One might think the store superfluous, but in walking down the street there’s more affirmation that people in Spokane are into their dogs: Bark & Snip, a dog grooming and gift shop opened three months ago.

“The neighboring businesses have all been friendly. And we get a lot of business from foot traffic,” said Cyndi Nelson, part-owner of the shop.

These two retailers, along with Bon Bon, a new bar in the Garland Theater, and Celebrations, a cookie and cupcake “boutique,” are exactly the stores the Garland Business District hopes to attract to rebuild some of the charm of the past, said district President Bonnie Quinn.

The business district is a nonprofit that puts on the fair from Howard to Monroe streets to “get people reacquainted with Garland Avenue,” Quinn said.

The district was full of businesses before the recession hit, but now it’s about 80 percent full, Quinn said.

“It’s a blessing and a curse that rent here is pretty low,” she said. “Because of the low cost of entry, some of the businesses here before didn’t have good business plans.”

Now the group seeks more specialty retailers and services that customers may not be able to find at the mall. They hope to draw from beyond the neighborhood for a larger pool of customers, Quinn said.

They aim for a feel reminiscent of the Garland of the past.

“We want to return to a nostalgic and retro look that started in the district in the ’20s and ’30s. The Garland Theater and Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle are emblematic of the feel we want,” she said.

She said the fair brings a “real good message” because of all the local merchants, volunteers and area churches that make the event happen. Part of the profits from the fair go just down the street to Spokane Guilds’ School, an organization that offers personalized therapy programs for children up to age 3 with developmental disabilities.

The fair, in its eighth year, once again had a “Wizard of Oz” theme. Quinn said the theme has significance because they want Garland to stand out.

“When you hit Howard, you should know you are somewhere else,” she said.