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Have you always wanted to open your own business, but found rents to be sky-high?

A company that owns 459 retail properties has so much vacant space, it’s offering storefronts for free! Cleveland-based DDR Corp. has a business incubator program called “Set Up Shop.” Participants get the first six months rent free, but the businesses have to sign a two-and-a-half year lease.

DDR, which already runs the program in Georgia and Florida, is bringing Set Up Shop to Western New York. The Buffalo News reports:

The units vary in exact size but are small spaces designed to house retail shops that are just starting up. The program features free rent for the first six months, a cap on other expenses, but the business has to sign a lease for 30 months.

“We’re looking for entrepreneurs. We’re looking for startups,” said David J. Perry, senior director of marketing services for DDR. “it has to fit in with the merchandise mix of the center and be retail. That’s what we’re looking for.”


The offer is an effort by DDR to deal with an excess of vacant space in its plazas. The retail market nationally is still struggling in the lackluster economic recovery, with consumers holding back on their spending. The company posted a leased rate of 94 percent in the second quarter, but still has a lot of small spaces available in these centers.

DDR, which bought a number of Benderson properties, owns 4 million square feet of retail space in the Buffalo and Rochester markets.

Panorama Plaza in Penfield, Tops Plaza in LeRoy and Batavia Commons in Batavia have space available for Set Up Shop.

This reminds me a little of the Pop-Up shop idea in Pittsburgh. It’s nice to see creative reuses of empty retail space.

2 Responses to Set Up Shop

  1. I would be very nervous about this. Most leases for new businesses require a personal guarantee. This would mean that the entrepreneur could be personally on the hook for thousands of dollars – regardless of success. Entrepreneurs should minimize personal debt exposure and long term commitments. There is tons of renovated commercial space at low cost and short leases available throughout the region. As a friend once said the time you do not want to find out you are personally on the hook for a huge lease is when you are asked to read that portion of the contract out loud in court.

  2. Mr. Drake is absolutely right. Remember, “Location, location, location.” If you go into a place because it’s free you may also be in the wrong place.
    The point about personal liability is so important! What if the business fails? Can you pay the rent on the space from your other income sources for the next TWO YEARS? You could be sued, and companies like Wilmorite, Benderson, DDR are fully capable of taking you to court, and you will loose. You might loose your home.
    Be very careful. Take the time to find the best deal. If possible, rent from a local person and get a simple lease. The leases from these giant mall companies run 20 to 30 pages or more. Got a good lawyer to interpret it for you? If not, don’t sign.

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