November 30, 2006
I often get the comment: "What with all the population increase, you must be doing really well!"
That would make sense, on the face of it. But I can remember back to 1990 when there were three shopping area's in Bend; Downtown, which was just recovering from the last recession; the Mountain View Mall, which managed 80% occupancy only because they handed out bubble leases; and the Bend River Mall, which also always seemed to be 20% vacant. That was it. No major chains that hadn't already come to town 10 years earlier, (consisting mainly of old line department stores like J.C. Penny, and Sears).
In fact, an interesting thing began to happen. People started opening big stores which were meant to cater to customers that in bigger cities would shop at Home Depot, of Pier One, or Best Buy. These new stores were often started by people who had come from bigger cities themselves and were going to show the native Bendites how to do it right.
In 1992, Shopko opened, followed by an avalanche of big box retail. The home-grown bigger stores got wiped out first, followed by most specialty stores that competed head to head with any big box stores. (For instance, when Barnes and Noble came to town, First Chapter Books, Book and Game, and the existing Sunriver Books where gone within a year, and the Book Barn had shrunk to half it former size.)
If you just start visualizing the square footage of what has come to town in the last 13 years, it is overwhelming. Almost the entire West side development is new, the Forum shopping center, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, the Shopko center, Pinebrook, the Outlet Mall, the Old Mill district -- if the square footage hasn't increased by 10 or 20 times, I'd be surprised.
So, for most stores that were thriving in 1990, it truly has become a case of 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.
Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about how population affects my particular (and peculiar) business.
2 days ago