Retail’s changing face
Recession or not, Grand Junction's retail landscape continues to evolve with the promise of better days ahead.
The official holiday shopping season has begun, and the retail landscape in the Grand Valley has a few gaps and empty spaces this year. It also has a few new places and plans in place to provide more retail opportunities in the future.
Mesa Mall, which has been a holiday shopping destination for decades, lost a valuable anchor store in February of 2008 when Mervyn’s closed. Although the space has been used for various temporary stores since then, the faded sign on the outside of the mall has been a reminder of the tough challenges facing retailers during a recession.
Tough times also mean incredible opportunities for those who are bold enough to seize them. Cabela’s, a sporting goods outfitter based in Sidney, Neb., is one company taking a chance on the future of Western Colorado.
“The opportunity presented itself,” explains John Castillo, public relations manager with Cabela’s. “This was not on our radar. When it presented itself, it was too good to pass up.”
Because Cabela’s has a huge catalog/Internet business, the company knows they have existing customers in Western Colorado and eastern Utah. The company also likes the culture of outdoor recreation that exists locally; people live here because of their love for the outdoors and their active participation in hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. Those factors, combined with the opportunity at Mesa Mall, convinced Cabela’s to expand.
“If we had to build from the ground up, we wouldn’t do it there, and we wouldn’t do it in this economy,” says Castillo. The company anticipates opening only one other new store in 2010, in Rutherford, N.J.
Downtown, local retailers and businesses are also taking advantage of the temporary slump and using it to position themselves to be even stronger when the economy sparks. The city’s makeover on Colorado Ave. has also attracted businesses looking for a home and an opportunity.
“People love the increase in downtown shopping availability,” says Tim Chism with Today’s Home Furniture and Design. “We get a fair amount of traffic; Colorado Avenue is a viable place for business.”
JoLynn Garcia-Tillman, owner of Jo’s Clothes, an upscale consignment store on Colorado, has also been pleased with her location, especially after discovering that locations on Main Street were too big and too pricey.
“There’s always something going on at the convention center,” she says, which increases the amount of drive-by traffic in front of her store. “It’s turned out to be a good location.”
Although she didn’t plan on the tanking economy to boost her business, Garcia-Tillman says that the recession has created a good environment for a consignment store, especially one that is well-merchandised, includes hand-made original jewelry and accessories and that features clothing from the best closets in town. Garcia-Tillman also visits family in California and always returns home with a carload of clothes.
On Main Street, the log furniture store has been out of business for several months, leaving an empty storefront. That will change when The Galleria, a portrait studio currently in a second story location a few blocks away, moves into the newly remodeled studio previously occupied by the furniture store.
“We love photographing on Main Street; downtown is like a small community within a small town,” says Bambi Brady, one of the partners in the business.
“The economy opened doors for us,” says Brady. “A few years back, we might not have been able to afford the space, but it gives us an opportunity to grow right now.”
Brady and her partner, Julie Means, hope that the lower floor location, with better accessibility for wheelchairs, strollers and those who don’t enjoy climbing stairs, will help increase the studio’s visibility and business. Santa Claus will visit their studio the week they move into the new location, on Dec. 4, 5 and 6, and the studio will offer private appointments to visit the man in red and get a holiday photo.
As one of the partners Brown’s Shoe Fit and one of the owners of the vacant site next door where Village Squire used to be, Greg Palmer has been encouraged by the number of people inquiring about the downtown space.
“We may have a tenant as soon as January,” he says. “As downtown merchants, we feel very strongly about retail being the appropriate use of main street frontage.”
Retail also rules on North Avenue, where My Wireless is refurbishing the old House of Diamonds location at Seventh and North and Clear Talk is building a new store at 12
“We’re not immune to the downturn, but we are more resilient,” says Andrew Brown with My Wireless. The company chose the location at Seventh and North because of the high visibility and hopes to open the store by Dec. 15.
Likewise, Clear Talk liked the highly visible location across from Stocker Stadium and the opportunities in Western Colorado. The company hopes to open the North Avenue store and another store in Clifton in the Mesa Point Plaza near Cactus Canyon by Dec. 10.
“Grand Junction is a market that has been forced to pay a high amount for cell phone service,” says Les Williams with Clear Talk. “We’re going to be that good, cost effective alternative.”
Although times are tough right now, no one is planning on boarding up the windows and turning out the lights in the Grand Valley. In fact, anyone who’s ever had a dream of starting their own retail business may find that certain conditions are ripe; leases are reasonable, there are plenty of vacancies and landlords are willing to negotiate.