Strasburg has been hit with several businesses, both large and small, closing in the last couple of months, leaving the town and county scrambling to mitigate the impact.
The biggest is the recently announced closing of LSC Communications, which employs 384 people.
The printing business previously wrote in a statement that the closure will strengthen the company’s manufacturing platform by “reducing costs and improving utilization across LSC production facilities.”
The state, town and county are working to determine, and then offer, services such as education and skills training, to help employees who will be losing their jobs over the next few months.
The latest business to close in Strasburg is Cristina’s Cafe - its last day was Sunday, according to a Saturday Facebook posting. The page was no longer operational on Monday, and the owners did not respond to requests for an interview.
Another small business in town, The Historical Homemaker Bakery and Cafe, owned by Coleen McMains, closed last week. The cafe had been in operation for the last 2 1/2 years.
McMains said on average she employed two people to be with her during operating hours in addition to two part-time bakers.
“Over time, to run a business you have to get people in the door,” McMains said.
Her business had been declining when an infrastructure project on Massanutten Street for several weeks, “put the nail in the coffin,” McMains said.
“At one time they were directly in front of my business. There was no parking and at one point even the sidewalk was closed,” she said.
Heading into the winter months, which are normally slow, McMains made the decision to close the business.
The Holliday House Bed and Breakfast at the intersection of Holiday and King streets in Strasburg closed at the end of November, said Armand Mancini, who co-owned it with his wife Lauren for about 2 1/2 years.
He said they gave it a good go.
“But year after year, business had declined,” he said.
They employed two innkeepers and a chef.
Armand Mancini said their were several contributing factors that factored in their decision to close. He noted that Strasburg is not an overnight destination, which is needed for a business that relies on people coming in from out of town.
Also, he said they were paying about 6% of their gross revenue to the state and about 6% to the town.
“So 12% off the top makes it much more difficult,” he said.
Officials with the town and the county addressed the closings and how they plan to market the town.
Each of the businesses that closed had different reasons for closing, Michelle Bixler, director of Community Development for Strasburg, stated in an email.
“The town of Strasburg works hard to create a business-friendly environment by providing fast response to questions and concerns, easy access to information relevant to their businesses, free training throughout the year, grant programs, incentives in the downtown area, events that feature our local businesses and more,” Bixler stated.
She noted the town is working on attracting businesses to the community through its partnerships with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, and the Shenandoah County Economic Development. She added they are finishing up a commercial development plan that includes a retail analysis that can be shared with prospective and current businesses.
Jenna French, director of tourism and economic development for Shenandoah County, stated in an email that in addition to working with the town to attract businesses they are also working to draw people to shop and eat in Strasburg.
“In addition to our general marketing for the county, we have hosted several travel writers and journalists over the past year, many with an interest in Strasburg, its dining scene and arts community. We also have a “blitz” at the Clearbrook Welcome Center for the months of January and February,” she stated.
A blitz is when a location or attraction takes over the State Welcome Center for a period of time. This includes having items such as brochures, displays, posters and banners on site promoting the area, French explained.
“This gets our communities in front of people stopping there, often looking for where to stop and eat or stretch their legs as they travel down I-81. In addition to a table representing the county and the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, each town, including Strasburg, has a table presenting menus from area restaurants, events, and other relevant information,” French stated.