Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Trader Joe's Larkspur to open Friday

Get out your Hawaiian shirts and head down to Cost Plus Plaza for the grand opening of Trader Joe's new store this Friday.

Trader Joe's is privately owned by the German group that also owns Aldi, and is notoriously reluctant to disclose information about its operations. This is something that has earned the wrath of organizations like Greenpeace, which set up the spoof Traitor Joe's website to highlight their concerns about the company's seafood purchases.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Miller Avenue: vacant store update

An update on the retail space available to lease on Miller Avenue. There are usually one or two units on the market as part of the normal cycle of business openings and closures. At the moment there are a few extra vacant spaces, with several businesses being hit by the recession and there being few start-ups to replace them.

First, the fast food joint previously occupied by Jack in the Box has been sitting vacant for a long time. The chairs are out, the sun shades are up, but nobody's home.

Ciao Bella we previously mentioned. Disappearing under ivy on the east side of the Avenue. The store is close to the new new Tam Commons development, so might benefit from new activity in this area.

Opposite Whole Foods are two adjacent units in a prime location, but previously occupied by retailers with marginal business models: Lolipop candy store and Gourmet Garden To Go, a provider of take-out entrees.

Further north on the west side are two larger units whose long-time businesses closed in recent months. One was the auto parts store at 360.

The other was previously the toy store at 352. Now being fitted out by a new business venture called Once Around, which will be a craft/gift shop when it opens in the fall. You can follow their progress on their website as they get ready to open.

Finally, the unit previously occupied by the electric vehicle showroom now stands vacant. Concept maybe a year or two ahead of its time?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Smith & Hawken to liquidate

News today that Smith & Hawken, the chain of garden & outdoor stores that started out in Mill Valley in 1979, is to liquidate, closing all 58 stores by the end of the year. It's a double blow for Marin, with 70 jobs lost at the company's head office in Novato, and another 30 at the store in Strawberry Village.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Miller Avenue, Part 2

This is Part 2 of our look at Miller Avenue in Mill Valley. Let's start with Whole Foods, which is the main anchor store that draws a lot of shoppers to the area. How important WF is for the viability of Miller Avenue may be tested in the future if the company decides to shutter the store after opening its new MV location at the Alto Center next year. The Miller Ave store is the smallest Whole Foods store in the nation, but is believed to have one of the highest sales intensities (sales per square foot). The combined size of the old and new Mill Valley stores will be less than 40,000 sq.ft, which is the typical size of most new WF stores (such as the one in Novato), so I would expect that while it is not very efficient to operate two stores in the same market, there are enough dollars in southern Marin to keep both stores running profitably.
To the south of WF is the coolest furniture store in Marin: Design Within Reach.

Directly opposite Whole Foods, at 401 Miller is a commercial block that includes the Marin Theatre Company, Cactus Cafe, Jolly King Liquors, and to the rear, the unbeatable Mama's Royal Cafe.

Hidden away behind the Theatre Company is a small retail center that includes a General Hardware store, a small Sloat Garden Center, a deli and a nail salon. There's also the pet grooming store with the unforgettable name: Doggie Style.

It's a ramshackle little center that is earmarked for removal by the Miller Avenue Precise Plan. If that ever happens, it's unlikely that stores like General Hardware and the garden center would find alternative affordable sites in the Miller Avenue area.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weekly news update

The Novato Advance opens up a debate around development planning for the North Redwood Boulevard corridor, including the usual shock and outrage that it will ruin the small town feel of Novato, and landowners manouvering to sell plots for development, in this case it's the Dairymans Feedmill, which would make a lovely mall.

There are several new retailers and restaurants opening in Tiburon, including Bistro 35, which will replace the Sweden House. May Madison kitchen store on Main Street, and on Ark Row there's Elixir, Prima Palate and Pure Elegance.

For gadget fans, Brookstone will be taking over the space vacated by Shabby Chic at the Village at Corte Madera. It's second time around for Brookstone, after it's previous store was dumped last year to make way for Lacoste. (btw, has anyone out there ever seen a shopper in Lacoste?)