GHQ Cover Story 2/06: Igniting a Hot Spot
By George Anderson
Through special arrangement with Grocery Headquarters magazine, we present
these opportunities to discuss the subjects of GHQ’s monthly cover stories.
Downtown Dallas used to be similar to a number of American cities. Once all the workers left for the day, it became something of a ghost town.
While that was once true, it no longer is since Urban Market opened its combination supermarket and bar/restaurant, reports Grocery Headquarters.
“We’ve become the meeting place of the neighborhood,” said Manuel Zambrana, president of the 20,000-square-foot store. “People come here and talk and socialize with each other – and we’re the anchor.”
Mr. Zambrana and his partner Chip Johnson took advantage of an opportunity created by a trend that has seen consumers moving back into cities.
“The residential surge started here in about 1999, and ever since, a supermarket is something the residents have been crying out for,” said Kourtny Garrett, director of marketing at the Central Dallas Association. “We had all of these grocery stores that wouldn’t come [downtown] until we had the residential population to feed their business. This group (Urban Market) came and took the chance, and they are doing quite well. This store is absolutely vital to what we are doing. You have to have that service retail in order to develop your residential population.”
Karl Stundins, area redevelopment manager in the Dallas Office of Economic Development, said, “Surveys asked, ‘What is the No. 1 thing you’d like to see downtown?’ and the No. 1 thing was a grocery store.”
Terry Brown, CEO of Edens & Avant, which owns shopping centers in 21 states, said, “There is clear evidence that a lot of downtown areas are under-retailed. Over the last five to 10 years we’ve seen a lot of residential move more urban. Grocers have been reactive but not proactive in terms of moving alongside the residential, and they are just now trying to catch up.”
One problem that many grocers find with opening stores in downtown areas is that the spaces available do not conform to the prototypical dimensions they’ve established.
“Grocers are big on their prototypes,” said Mr. Brown. “They know how to merchandise and stock one store, and moving into the urban areas has been challenging for some of them because they may want a 45,000-square-foot space, but the only space they might find in downtown Dallas or D.C. is 36,000 square feet that is half terrace, half street front. The rents are high, and it is a different deal.”
Moderator’s Comment: Discuss what you see as the downtown opportunity for grocers and other retailers. Which chains or independents do you think are
doing a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities available to them? How are they doing it? –
George Anderson – Moderator