A gift shop, a liquor store, a real estate office, a hair salon, and an ice cream shop \u2014 the holiday lights are twinkling now but Ridgefield is losing some businesses, or will be in the new year. And town officials worry the grim spectacle of empty storefronts may return to Main Street, despite the alleged strength of the national economy. \u201cMoving to retail, we all know we have four or five empties, or soon-to-be empties,\u201d Selectman Steve Zemo said as the Board of Selectmen met with the Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC) on Dec. 12. Main Street storefronts reported recently to have businesses closing include The Purple Frog gift shop, Johnny Gelato ice cream store, Cheers liquor store, and the William Raveis real estate office. The Pink Soda Blow-Dry Bar hair salon on Roberts Lane, off Danbury Road, is also closing. On the positive side, Semia USA, a Lego robotics center aimed at kids, is opening off Prospect Street in the village next to Eddie\u2019s Pizza. Zemo said the reports of several business closures made him think back to his first stint on the board, some three decades back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Sue Manning was first selectmen and the economy was going through some changes. \u201cWe had seven or eight empty storefronts,\u201d Zemo recalled. There has been a longer term trend of difficulties renting out offices \u2014 people talk of a regional glut of office space \u2014 and members of the ECDC were describing to the selectmen their plans for a survey of commercial space in town to get a handle on what\u2019s occupied and what\u2019s empty, and try to determine a vacancy rate. \u201cThe focus has been on office, because it\u2019s such a big number,\u201d Zemo said. What about retail vacancies? \u201cThe survey will include all commercial property,\u201d ECDC member Gus Ryer said. The economic commission, in a year-end review of its efforts, also said it had tried to develop an online resource that would allow businesses interested in moving to Ridgefield to see the commercial space available. The ECDC offered free listings, but the concept hadn\u2019t really gotten much momentum. Zemo was impressed with the ECDC\u2019s regional marketing effort in support of the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival (RIFF), and wondered if something like that might be tried to help with marketing of empty storefronts. \u201cWould you investigate those, and consider a campaign as you did with RIFF?\u201d he said. Neighboring towns The discussion at the selectmen\u2019s Dec. 12 meeting also touched on reports of problems with shop closings in neighboring towns, where numerous chain retailers are reportedly closing ahead of the planned opening of a new $500 million, 700,000-square-foot mall in South Norwalk called \u201cthe SoNo Collection.\u201d \u201cNew Canaan, Greenwich, Westport,\u201d John Devine of the ECDC said, outlining towns affected. \u201c... Five empty storefronts in Westport, seven empty storefronts in New Canaan.\u201d People passed around copies of a story from a New Canaan news outlet about that town\u2019s Planning and Zoning Commission voting to allow offices on the first floor of some commercial properties \u2014 backing away form the \u201cfirst floor retail\u201d approach in New Canaan that some in Ridgefield had pointed to as a model to be followed. Those towns are facing something different than Ridgefield, Devine said. They\u2019re closer to the new Norwalk mall \u2014 a situation similar to what Ridgefield\u2019s downtown went through years ago when the Danbury Fair Mall opened just a few miles to the north. \u201cThey\u2019re staring at a problem we faced,\u201d Devine said. Ridgefield also has more independent and mom-and-pop type businesses, which may be less inclined than chain stores to close and move to a new mall setting. \u201cWe don\u2019t have those chains, so we\u2019re lucky,\u201d Zemo said. And Westport and New Canaan are more expensive places to rent retail space. \u201cThey were getting $60-to-$80 a square foot, where on Main Street here is much less than that,\u201d Devine said. \u201cIs that going to affect us?\u201d Selectman Bob Hebert asked of the new Norwalk mall. \u201cThe novelty will,\u201d First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. Zemo suggested the ECDC boost efforts to market Ridgefield and help fend off the empty storefronts that threaten to cast a shadow on the downtown\u2019s feeling of economic vibrancy. \u201cI think we\u2019ll need a positive spin post-holidays, when those vacancies are real,\u201d Zemo said. Zemo, who is a developer and landlord renting a variety of commercial and residential spaces, late told The Press that he\u2019d like to see Central Business District landlords as a group take a more active role. \u00a0 \u201cI would think the landlords (6-7 of them) from the CBD would meet to create a marketing strategy in light of the current increase in business closings,\u201d Zemo said. \u201cI think the ECDC is going a fine job but Main Street is not their sole focus or responsibility. Perhaps the ECDC can host the first meeting. \u201cWe\u2019ll get through this,\u201d he added. \u201cOur community has strong demographics; we just need to adjust to the changes in the macro retail dynamics."