ST. GEORGE – Located in the shopping center on the corner of 700 South and Bluff Street that also houses Kmart, Christensen’s, Radio Shack and 1st Survival Gear, Albertsons opened its doors in St. George 29 years ago. Mainly due to its prime location along one of the city’s main arteries, it was a preferred community store, while attracting customers to neighboring businesses.
But with new shopping centers springing up across the St. George area in the years since and a highly competitive marketplace of grocers, including Lin’s, Smith’s and Harmons, the company has been forced to send its oldest local store into retirement. It is slated to close the first week of August.
“This store has not been profitable and, despite the best efforts of the company and our associates, we have not been able to reposition it to better compete in the marketplace,” said Dennis McCoy, Albertsons communications and public affairs manager. “For that reason, the company has decided not to renew the lease at this location, which is ending soon.”
“This closure isn’t surprising,” said Tom Callister, director of the Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Real Estate Solutions St. George office. “Their competition is doing well and they’re not.”
Albertsons will continue regular operations at its other two local stores, located at 745 North Dixie Drive in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Drive in Washington City. Much of the Bluff Street store‘s staff will be transplanted to those stores in an effort to minimize the closure‘s impact on the area workforce.
“Albertsons’ primary commitment is to take care of our associates and make this transition as smooth as we can from start to finish,” McCoy said. “We are working diligently with our associates on a one-on-one basis to place them in nearby Albertsons stores (and) we anticipate being able to place nearly all associates at alternate stores. In the event that an associate cannot be placed, Albertsons will provide severance to impacted associates, providing they are eligible under company policies.”
“We are saddened when any reputable business closes its doors,” St. George Mayor Dan McArthur said. “I have shopped at Albertsons for many years. I wish the best for their employees and hope that this will not negatively affect our community.”
According to records from the Washington County Assessor’s Office, the current market value of the Albertsons property is $1,573,000. The entire shopping center, in which 15 businesses operate, has an assessed market value of $11,463,800.
The age of the shopping center (built between 1983 and 1987), loss of one anchor store and upcoming closure of another has led to speculation within the business community that the entire property may eventually see other tenants vacate.
“One of the struggles retailers in Southern Utah face is geographic location,” said Travis Parry, director of the Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Real Estate Solutions St. George office. “This store is convenient for people who live close to it, but there aren’t enough residential neighborhoods in the area. The complex overall has little traffic.”
“Albertsons closing will reduce foot traffic in the mall. They were a good draw to our shopping center, and we don’t want to see them go,” said Jeff Mahoney, manager of Christensen’s department store.
“We know the economy has played a part in the decisions everyone is having to make, but we are hoping the landlord will soon fill the empty spots,” said Marcia Moss, owner of Dandylion Wishes. “We all hope to weather this bump in the road.”
Mahoney and Moss agreed that losing Albertsons will almost certainly have a negative effect on every store in the shopping center, though whether that effect will be minor or significant remains to be seen. In the near future, both said they will focus on moving forward with business operations as usual and have no plans to relocate.
“Everyone I’ve talked to seems to be doing okay as far as business stability right now,” Mahoney said. “But we’re always encouraging the landlord to fill all available spots.”
Albertsons, along with Dandylion Wishes, Christensen’s, Kmart, U.S. Bank, Deseret Book/Mormon Handicraft, the now vacant former location of Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, and several other businesses in the shopping center, is owned and managed by Martin Gaspare Property Management/Gaspare Trust of San Diego, Calif. Neither Gaspare nor representatives of the company responded to requests for comment and inquiries as to plans for the center and the vacated spaces.
“It’s going to be a struggle to bring in new tenants. That center is a little on the weak side,” Callister said. “They need a tenant that’s a destination retailer, not one of convenience like a grocery or discount store. I haven’t seen Kmart’s numbers, but I can’t imagine they’re doing well either.”
The news of Albertsons’ closing comes almost exactly one year after Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts relocated its store in the shopping center to another mall in Washington City in July 2012. The loss of Jo-Ann, part of a nationwide chain and considered an anchor business in the shopping center, came as a blow to neighboring stores.
None felt that blow more strongly than Dandylion Wishes, a locally owned and operated small business specializing in craft supplies. The store opened in April 2011 and received a boost in clientele growth from a mutually beneficial relationship with Jo-Ann, but have been hurt since.
“Jo-Ann leaving had a definite negative impact on our business because we draw the same type of client,” Moss said. “We miss them. We are very sad that Albertsons is leaving and we are hoping that the shopping center will continue to draw the support from the area, because we still have a lot to offer.”
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