Rash of business closings in Carmel


By Pete Smith

The owner of a Formal Affair said that her store at City Center has closed after only a year, but it will likely live on in a new form.

Owner Ashley Diana said that she had no problems maintaining her business, but when her lease expired she just decided to rethink her business plan.

“I really enjoyed the City Center, I think it’s a really neat building,” Diana said.

A future version of A Formal Affair could reopen in a larger space in City Center, relocate somewhere else within Carmel or become an online retailer.

But whatever the location, it’s likely to be refocused more on boutique items like blouses, pants and jewelry – leaving the high end formal wear for online shoppers.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Diana said. “I love Carmel and I’m excited to be here.”

Diana also said she would consider donating some of her unsold formal wear to high school girls who couldn’t afford a prom dress otherwise. If you or someone you know is in need, you can contact her at aformalaffaircarmel@gmail.com.

Retailers struggling

The closing marks the fourth small business to close its doors in City Center in the past three months. Holy Cow Cupcakes and Mangia! closed earlier this year and Authentic Sports Collectibles moved out in the past week.

But Guardian Wells Financial (of the purple awning) did open in that same time span.

A.S. Collectibles owner Dominique Ball said that he simply decided to shift focus and move his business online. His new website www.ascollectibles.com should be up and running by mid-May.

“I’ve always been a wholesaler,” he said, noting that his sports memorabilia are still sold on consignment at almost every such store in the region, including Collector’s Den at the Castleton Square Mall and possibly even The Foolery on Main Street in Carmel – although that is still being discussed.

He also noted that about two-thirds of his business comes from fundraisers and charity auctions that utilize his merchandise.

“It works out really well for the charities,” he said, noting they never face a risk.

And he wants customers to know that he won’t go quietly into the night. In fact they can still contact him at 554-9906 if they have any needs, wants or custom signings.

A.S. Collectibles had been at City Center since the fall of 2011, but the lack of foot traffic didn’t help business.

“I don’t want to blame anyone,” Ball said. “I like retail when you have customers.”

It could be a lack of visibility hurt the businesses on the inside of City Center. And with no anchor store to create foot traffic, many Carmel shoppers might not have realized the store was there.

Ball said his new customers would often come in and say, “Hey, I didn’t know this was back here.”

New opportunities

Even a highly-visible location on Carmel Drive might not save local business My Toy Garden.

Owner Janet Pillsbury said she is selling the business to return to her previous career in direct sales and to spend more time with her 4- and 7-year-old children.

Pillsbury said she has received several offers, but that if the store isn’t sold by the end of May it would close.

“It’s a very beloved store,” she said. “Customers have been sad the past two days. Hopefully someone will step forward and buy it and keep it going.”

She said customers can find more information on the store’s Facebook page.