Friday, November 13, 2009

Christmas Without Keizer Station

This one won for Best Coverage of Business and Economic Issues in the 2006 ONPA contest.

Published December 26, 2005, in the Keizertimes

Keizer retailers are preparing to close the books on another year – and a holiday sales season that draws rankings from subpar to above average.

“It’s been a mediocre season,” said Dennis Blackman, owner of Copper Creek Mercantile at 4415 River Road N.

Blackman said people generally don’t have a lot of discretionary income, and they seemed to be stretching each dollar as far as possible.

Against that backdrop, businesses like his are trying to secure their niche. Earlier this year, Blackman remodeled the interior and exterior of the store as well as expanded its offerings.

“We’re trying to reinvent ourselves to better serve our existing customer base better,” said Blackman.

As the year draws to a close, many businesses on River Road are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun in Keizer Station, the 237-acre shopping center under construction at the Interstate 5 and Chemawa Road Northeast.

The first major retailer, Lowe’s, is slated to open its doors Jan. 13, followed by Target in March.

Keizer True Value could be one of the hardest hit retailers with the opening of Lowe’s, and it could be jolted again when a new Home Depot opens on the Salem side of the Salem-Keizer Parkway soon after.

“We don’t know how it’s going to impact us,” said Jackie Hove, manager of the True Value at 5014 River Road N.

Hove said she and owner Chuck Frank have discussed plans for coping with the added competition, but they are waiting to see how the big box home improvement stores affect their business.

“We’ve already had a slow season, but there’s nothing specific we can point to,” said Hove.

Uptown Music, a Keizer mainstay on River Road, experienced a surge in business since moving to its new location at 3827 River Road N. a few months ago.

“We’ve been up 15 to 20 percent each month,” said Jim Nardi, owner.

Holiday sales have been running close to what the store experienced last season, he added.

“We started out slow, but we’re only running a little behind,” Nardi said.

Unlike some other businesses, Uptown thus far faces no direct competition from the store that have announced plans to open at Keizer Station.

“Our biggest competition is direct mail and the Internet. My wife did all her shopping on the Internet this year, and I told her she was killing business like ours,” he said.

Longtime Keizer family business Boucher Jewelers has met its expectations for the holiday season, thanks in part to a resurgence in the popularity of diamonds, said Randy Moseley, manager.

While retailers appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach, the city has charged the River Road Renaisance Advisory Committee with investigating beautification projects to improve the look and business climate on Keizer’s main street.

Banners delineating districts along River Road were an initial step to “let the businesses know something bigger was coming,” said Brandon Bay, committee chair and president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier this month, the committee directed city staff to investigate improvements to the Lockhaven Drive/River Road intersection, but the feasibility of the committee’s wish list of improvements will not be known until February.

The list of improvements included low-sitting walls on both the northwest corner of the intersection and the island that separates the westbound right turn lane from the other lanes of traffic, a possible water feature on the southwest corner, improved crosswalks and moving the sidewalks about eight feet back from the road.

The goal would be to encourage foot traffic along entire shopping district.

While business owners wait for the improvements to reach their section of River Road, Moseley said the team at Boucher’s is sticking to what they know has worked the for the past 53 years.

“That’s our customer service, and making ourselves a destination store,” Moseley said.

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