Six months shy of 30 years at her Downtown location at 101 W. 2nd Street, Marie “Doc” Holliday made a difficult decision. She closed Parfumerie Marie Antoinette and switched the business to an online format.
Holliday is a dentist and that office remains open, as does a flower shop that she also opened as a side business.
The reason in part is a change in the way parking is handled in the area and reduced foot traffic because of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars and entertainment venues that drew large crowds to Sundance.
Add in that workers in some downtown offices are working remotely, and the decision became inevitable, she said.
“Who would have forecast that the world would be experiencing a pandemic and Sundance Square would be no more the shining star of Fort Worth?,” Holliday said in a Facebook posting.
She’s critical of planning and communication from Sundance Square officials and also citing changes in how the area is managed.
Henry S. Miller Company assumed management responsibilities in January 2020, taking over the operations from longtime Sundance Square management led by Johnny Campbell, who is now CEO of City Center Management Co., which has charge of the Wells Fargo Tower, the Bank of America Tower and their two attached parking garages.
And in November, Fine Line Group, the Family Office of Sasha and Ed Bass, had announced it has formally transitioned property management responsibilities for the Sundance Square properties from the Henry S. Miller Company to a new in-house entity, Sundance Square Management LLC.
Bill Boecker and Henry S. Miller III were named president and CEO of Sundance Square Management, according to a news release.
Holliday had reopened as soon as COVID guidelines allowed, but said the plaza – a major draw to the area has remained closed.
There also was a change in the way valet parking was handed, and she think’s that also impacted the number of people visiting Downtown.
Currently the first two and a half hours are free with validation from a merchant and the charge is $5 for every 30 minutes with a $20 all day limit.
Holliday said merchants argued that two and a half hours was not long enough for people to come and stay and proposed a system of double validation to increase the length of free valet parking, but were not successful in their request.
Sundance spokesman Bryan Eppstein said that on Dec. 16 the organization held meeting No. 171 on Sundance Square COVID-19 preparedness and response for tenants, customers and guests at Sundance Square.
“Throughout the pandemic, the Sundance Square team has met three to five times weekly to plan and act on the unique needs of this past year. On an ongoing basis Sundance Square has provided and is providing assistance and information to our tenants,” Eppstein said.
“On the health front, Sundance has actively assisted with PPE distribution, updates on federal-state-local COVID-19 health protocols and business restrictions, COVID-19 sanitization, and COVID-19 testing information,” Eppstein said.
He said Sundance Square has a robust list of prospective retailers, restaurants, and office space businesses – local, national and international – involved in ongoing discussions.
“Noteworthy too, Sundance Square has some tenants like retailer and dentist Marie Holliday and restauranteur Shannon Wynne who have closed some businesses in Sundance Square while keeping others open,” he said.
Holliday said she’s sad that there are so many businesses that have had to close.
Changes in behavior have been significant, she said.
She jokes about clothes bought in January that still have tags on them because there’s no place to wear them with weddings and church services remote or with attendance severely limited.
“Everybody’s wearing sweatshirts and we’re dressing from the waist up because everybody meeting up and socializing on Zoom or some video conferencing and they aren’t going out to dinner that often,” Holliday said.
People are still getting married, she notes, and her flower shop business is doing what she calls micro weddings, events with flowers limited to the bride and maybe the maid or matron of honor.
“They’re doing smaller things,” Holliday said.
As far as Parfumerie Marie Antoinette, she says the traffic online has been fair.
“We had a virtual party when I closed and that went really well. But there is a big difference. I’m really trying to market that business now as a virtual store. So I have maintained my manager and we still have the same phone number so that that person can communicate with customers,” she said.
But she, like many other entrepreneurs, is in the process learning how to be a virtual store and not just an online presence.
“I know that it was heartbreaking for her because she loved that business. But I think she decided in her own best interest that it was time to close it,” Miller said.
Miller didn’t have a number on the businesses that closed down, but said he was surprised it was not more, given what’s happened around the country and with other properties that he’s involved with.
“We are realistically optimistic about 2021,” Miller said. “This past year or nearly a year we were able to focus our attention on revitalizing and transforming some of the areas of Sundance Square that we wanted to do for a while. And during this kind of forced time out, we’ve been able to focus attention on that and trying to do things that revitalize the whole property.
“That’s been what our focus is as well as doing what we can to reinvigorate and re-energize our existing tenants to try to help them and encourage them to stay in business and, and have as much patience as they’re able to.” Miller said.
Eppstein said clearly the pandemic has been economically difficult on many levels.
“In the Sundance Square community – roughly 1.5 million square feet of residential, retail, restaurant, entertainment and professional office space – while a few tenants have decided to close down, the majority have adapted including many who have signed lease renewals,” he said.