When you’re short on cash and crying over bills, maybe the last thing you want to buy is flowers. Johnnie Ferguson, owner of Flagstaff Floral in the University Plaza, added that when times are tough, many people don’t see flowers as a necessity, so they don’t buy as many as they used to. She said her business has declined in the last couple of years, partly because the nearby Safeway opened a floral department.
However, Ferguson sees sunny skies through these dark clouds.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, a Denver-based restaurant, will open its doors this winter. It will be located near the entrance of University Plaza, in the former Village Inn site on Milton Avenue.
Chipotle will share the structure with another tenant, yet to be determined. “I can’t wait for Chipotle to open. We’ve been waiting for something to help bring in customers to our flower shop,” Ferguson said. “When Village Inn was here, business was okay, but everybody knows and likes Chipotle,” she added.
Cole Real Estate Investments, out of Phoenix, owns the strip center, which currently houses Safeway, Ross and other businesses. Brett Sheets, senior vice president for leasing, says he absolutely expects more traffic through the area be- cause of Chipotle’s arrival. “Any time you get a national talent, a well-known business like that, you will see an increase in business. However, [our building] is 100 percent occupied,” he said.
Across town, a similar situation is unfolding with the new Walmart that just opened. Flagstaff businessman Joe Nackard owned a section of property on which Walmart needed to build. So, he says he traded his land for property across the street, which fronts Huntington Drive.
According to Flagstaff Planning Development Manager Elaine Averitt, “Nackard has a site plan and engineering plans approved, but no building permit yet. Walmart has permission to use Nackard’s site as a staging area during Walmart’s construction.”
Nackard says the only reason he plans to build on the property is because Walmart is going in. “We plan to build three separate buildings, with a total of about 22,000 square feet. We’ll probably lease space ranging from 1,200 to 7,800 square feet,” he said. He added that he probably will not start building the strip mall until late spring or early summer. He does not have a list of possible tenants yet, but believes business owners will be attracted to the location and the proximity to Walmart.
Flagstaff planning staff say they are not aware of any other business expanding or being built near the Walmart, but agree that it could still happen. While there are many reports of small, rural companies going out of business or struggling because of a Walmart mov- ing into the neighborhood, there also are stories about small businesses thriving, or at least holding their ground.
A 2008 story from The Washington Post quotes some business owners who said even though they were very concerned about the big-box’s arrival, the giant actually helped bring them business. Company owners had to get creative with their own marketing and offer some items Walmart didn’t sell. Plus, they said, loyal customers will continue to support small businesses if the customer service is exemplary.
For example, many mom and pop shops know their customers’ names and welcome them into their stores like they’re family, something they say doesn’t happen at Walmart. That one-on- one relationship is worth a great deal to many customers, and they often choose to support smaller businesses because of that unique bond.
Meanwhile, Ferguson is crossing her fingers and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Chipotle Mexican Grill.
And hopefully, those dark clouds will soon part, revealing sunny skies and better business ahead. FBN