an editorial by Kirby Lindsay, posted 6 May 2013
Fremont has a lot of bars. It also has a lot of restaurants. Recently it also feels like it has a lot of banks, and a lot of places for yummy ice cream-ish temptations (Royal Grinders, Cold Stone Creamery, Old School Frozen Custard, Bluebird Microcreamery, and now Sirena Gelato.)
What Fremont may lack are retail shops. Boutiques, gift shops, furnishings and supply stores dot the area, but still people want more – and more specific stores.
On June 1st, Bitters Co. will close its Fremont store after 19 years here. The loss is significant, as it is with every successful business (and many unsuccessful ones.) Yet the loss also opens up the storefront for another potential business – maybe the luggage/bag store I’ve always wanted here…
Shop Fremont, And Elsewhere
For those who want to see more retail in Fremont, and particularly those who want to see a specific type of stores open here (pharmacy? news stand? art supplies? luggage?) the answer is almost too easy.
Fremont does have retail – and it has really great independent, small scale retail. Our clothing boutiques have amazing collections unlike anything you are going to find at the mall. Ten22Home provides a sensationally stroll-able store. Book Larder, evo, Jive Time Records, Bellefleur, Hub And Bespoke, and Art F/X all offer one-of-a-kind shopping experiences, right here at the Center of the Universe. And Portage Bay Goods defines one-of-a-kind!
If you like these kinds of non-corporate, innovative and creative businesses, shop them!
And if you want to see a store you like open here, shop it too – even if it is in Wallingford, Montlake Terrace, or Federal Way. Shop there, and tell them you like the store, and suggest they open a second location at the Center of the Universe!
Beggars Can’t Always Be Choosers
People seeking commercial space to rent drive the market. Landlords cannot simply pick the type of store they want for their store front. Instead, they lease to people willing to sign a lease and, hopefully, able to pay rent – even if it is a repetitive, or uninspired, business.
After all, potential retailers look for spaces that suit their needs – and will rent the one that does. They all want one not too large, not too expensive and with – say it with me now – location, location, location! Selling customers large bags of dog food, or asking them to carry in a broken bicycle? You need a location with some parking, or at least a loading zone. Need a high-pedestrian-traffic area? Something on the bike trail? Want to be near a similar business to share a customer base? Location reigns supreme.
Retail spaces are not one-size-fits-all – particularly in Fremont where every space and location has its own, let’s say, unique dynamic. This means that a landlord will rent to the person who thinks they can make that empty storefront or office space work.
Anatomy Of A Retailer
Fremont does, in its favor, have an incubator of future small business owners – the Fremont Sunday Market. If you want to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs, and meet the creative proprietors of tomorrow, shop the Market (and the Fremont Fair!)
Yet, keep in mind, not everyone is predisposed to work retail. In my own experience (clerk at a miniatures shop, record store and corporate book store, then proprietor of a used book store,) there are three character traits too look for in a successful retailer. They are:
- Reliability – Retail shop owners must go work every day regardless of weather, health or inclination. If the sign on the door says the store is open, it had better be. Customers may return, once, to a store they’ve found closed when it was supposed to be open – or they may not. You never know when a sale might be made, or lost…
- Gamble – Retailers bet on their ability to stock what customer wants. They risk their own success on knowing the products their customers want, and a thousand other judgments – which holidays to be closed (or open,) what to put in the window, how to do outreach/advertise to potential/loyal customers, etc?
- People Person – One of the oddest things I ever heard was from a fellow book shop owner who lamented to me one day, ‘the only thing bad about this business is having to deal with the people.’ Retail is about people. Retailers must not only be able to successfully read their customers, but also be willing to work with a variety of personalities day in, day out, and even when you just aren’t really feeling it.
Fremont does have retail. If the store you want to shop isn’t here yet – or has left the area – do not despair, or give up. And if you have shopped the mall – come back, please?
Price isn’t everything. The mall, and cheap, corporate box stores, may be more convenient but they cannot permanently replace buying from a familiar, friendly face behind the counter at one of our many specialty shops.
It is up to all of us to make sure that retail – particularly in Fremont – continues to thrive!
- Shop Small In Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, November 23, 2012
- Fall For Fremont Retailers
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 23, 2009
- Welcome To The ‘Top Of The Universe’
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 5, 2013
©2013 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.