Thursday, November 30, 2006

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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 29, 2006.

So much for posting everyday. Couldn't get on because my password kept being rejected. I might was well say this right up front. I'm hopeless with the technology. I think of myself as more of a word guy.

I was inspired to start this blog because of the Bend, Oregon Economy Blog. (See, right there I should have a hyperlink, but I'm damned if I know how to do it.) I love my business, I love Bend, and I am fascinated by what has happened to my hometown.

When I grew up here, the sign at the outskirts of town pretty much said, 'POPULATION 13,500', year after year, with a bit of an increase here and there.

There was no bookstore.

There was one theatre.

No malls, Shakey's Pizza was a big deal with it came to town. The A&W was gone, all that was left was an Artic Circle. There were 3 drugstores downtown, which was where you got your toys and gifts. J.C. Penny was downtown, and the locally owned Wetles Department store. My family would go to Portland every year to get our school clothes.

And I walked 5 miles to school, uphill both ways....

It was nice. But I'm glad the town grew up. I couldn't have the business I have now without a much bigger population. Tomorrow, I'd like to get more into that subject. But for now....

I see alot of neat businesses downtown. They look nice, are filled with nice things, the owners are knowledgable and enthusiastic. And I still think some of them are doomed. Because as nice as the stores, the merchandise, and the people are....there just aren't enough people on a DAY TO DAY basis, who are going to march in and buy their stuff.

Bend just doesn't have the population or the demographics to get as SPECIALIZED as some of these store are.

I used to ask new employees if anything about the store surprised them. Almost all of them said the same thing: "It isn't as busy as I thought it would be."

Yesterday, a cold and snowy Tuesday in November, was a stark reminder of how downtown Bend can be. Because when you open your doors to business, it can be very, very disheartening to not have anybody come in. (It bothers me, even after 26 years of it, even with my knowledge that Christmas is coming and it will all even out in the end.)

So I wonder, as I walk home at night and see empty stores, how those new owners are feeling.
Sure they may have equity money, sure this may be their dream, but nobody -- even the rich -- likes to LOSE money.

I am more or less assured that I'll make money 4 months out of the year, lose money 4 months out of the year, and hopefully break even the other 4 months. That is the nature of a tourist area. Without the added boost of tourism, downtown Bend wouldn't work. But you have to settle into the rythm of it, not get too carried away, be realistic.

I have a huge advantage of a pool of customers from 26 years in the same location. I have regulars, who account for 80% of my sales. It's great that the downtown has revived, that the foot-traffic has increased, but I sure wouldn't want to have to survive on the off chance that a tourist will walk in the door and spend money!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I thought about making this blog anonymous, but then I'd have to disguise my business as well. I suppose I could talk about widgets instead of comics, do-dads instead of toys, but it wouldn't take long for you all to see through me.

So, I am Duncan McGeary. I've owned Pegasus Books in Downtown Bend for the last 23 years, (out of 26 years in existence.) I'm going to be completely honest in what I say here, or tell you when I need to be careful. I've never been any good at keeping my opinions to myself, and it gets me in trouble. On the other hand, I never have to try to remember what diplomatic way I expressed myself last time. It is what it is....

I am going to try to post every day, but I actually don't expect that anyone will find this blog.