AUGUSTA — When Capital City Skate shop closed in downtown Augusta earlier this month, it left building owner Toebee Parkhurst with a vacant storefront, joining several other empty storefronts in the city’s downtown.

Unlike many of those other long-vacant storefronts, however, Parkhurst’s 185 Water St. spot isn’t staying empty long. He’s already got another tenant — a tax preparer — lined up to move in soon.

While attracting shoppers and businesses to older downtowns, away from malls and online commerce sites, is a nationwide challenge not specific to Augusta, Parkhurst said it’s up to building owners to make their buildings, and by extension the surrounding downtown, attractive.

“I think there are fake obstacles people have put up in downtown Augusta, and shame on us, as property owners, for not making downtown attractive to people,” Parkhurst said. “We should be giving people a reason to come downtown. That’s our job, as property owners. We decide what goes in our buildings, how well they’re taken care of. I think as soon as a little bit more of a changing of the guard takes place, then the downtown can turn around.”

The retail space in Parkhurst’s downtown building — one of two he owns with his wife, Crystal — will only be unrented for one month. Capital City Skate closed in early November. The lease of his next tenant, Jackson Hewett Tax Service, starts Dec. 1.

Erik Peterson, of Winthrop, owner of Capital City Skate, said the business closed for two related reasons — it wasn’t making enough money to hire help, and his son, professional skateboarder Chris, was spending more time traveling for his skateboarding career and thus had less time, and interest, in working the cash register at Capital City Skate.


“Chris’ skateboarding career is starting to take off a bit better so he’s spending more time in New York City than in Maine,” said Peterson, who kept his “day job” working for U.S. Cellular even when the skate shop was still open. “Between that and the economy and stuff, it was just not the right time.”

Peterson said the store had some good, loyal customers in local skaters but couldn’t draw enough other shoppers to boost revenues.

“I like the location, it was good for the skaters, they could come down and get what they wanted, but Water Street is just not very heavily traveled by parents when they’re out shopping with their kids,” he said. “I’d say the biggest need downtown is to increase the traffic. I expected more. We were getting next to no foot traffic.”

Peterson said around the first of the year Capital City Skate will reopen as an online only store at

“We’re going to be able to continue to support local skaters, doing an online store, with some decent deals on equipment,” Peterson said.

Parkhurst, himself a professional skateboarder, said it’s too bad the skate shop closed, especially since he thought the business could have made it.


He said Augusta’s downtown has plenty of traffic driving through it, but needs restaurants and other types of “destination” businesses that will bring people downtown and get them out of their cars.

“I think a successful business is going to attract people to it,” Parkhurst said. “People go to Hallowell for dinner because that’s where the restaurants are. It’s a restaurant destination.”

Parkhurst is currently renovating 204 Water St. — part of the former Lamey Wellehan shoe store — with the upper floors as two luxury apartments and the lower floor, he hopes, to be leased out as restaurant, bar or retail space.

The first floor space is ready to be fitted for retail use, and Parkhurst placed a sign in the window last week, in a mock personals advertisement reading: “ME: Single available space looking for a long-term relationship with the brand of my dreams. I’m a 1,568 square foot storefront ready to renovate or be renovated. YOU: A fabulous business looking to settle down in a revitalizing downtown. I hope you serve food, but I can be flexible. Only the best will do!”

His father, Richard Parkhurst, also plans to renovate the old Chernowsky’s building at 228 Water St. into 10 loft apartments and a first floor restaurant or pub.

Several vacant storefronts remain downtown. But some new tenants are  joining the downtown offerings, too.

Other new retail stores downtown include a Cape Air ticket office in the Old Federal Building at 295 Water St.; Gabriel’s Jewelry, which just had its grand opening at 265 Water St.; and Forbidden Fruit, a smoke shop, tattoo and piercing studio, and glass artist at 283 Water St.

Toebee Parkhurst is confident downtown Augusta will become a destination, noting that compared to other downtowns, the capital’s has a better infrastructure, more parking, and the advantage of being next to the Kennebec River.

“I look at the success of downtown Augusta as 100 percent inevitable,” he said.

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