Retorts: Trader Joe’s? Amazon? BevMo?

TRADER JOE’S has a lot of fans in Garden Grove, but is Trader Joe’s a fan of Garden Grove? The recent sale of the old Pavilions market has people speculating on that might go there (Trader Joe’s photo).

Of all the amenities that a community needs and wants, among the most important are shopping and dining opportunities. That may sound shallow, but these days shopping is a sport and eating out a way of life.

These topics are on the minds of many locals in the wake of the long-welcome news that the old Pavilions building – vacant since a few presidents ago – was finally purchased by a heavy-hitter real estate and retail development firm from Florida.

The building, located on Chapman Avenue just west of Brookhurst Street in Garden Grove, is nearly 76,000 square feet and has represented missed opportunities for what seems like forever.

Immediately folks – me included – started to speculate on what might be going into that space. It’s a big, big building – at one time it was the biggest supermarket in all of Orange County – so it’s likely that it won’t end up being developed for just one tenant, but instead become a home for multiple businesses.

The first volleys in social media have called for a Trader Joe’s market and a Hobby Lobby. The former seems a long shot, because the demographic profile of Garden Grove doesn’t fit the company’s business model. Put another way, GG’s average income and education levels don’t match those of TJ’s perfect customer.

With the opening of the Aldi’s market across the street at The Promenade, any market going into that area would face competition from at least three other markets – Walmart, Aldi’s and the Best Choice (located in the same center). Add in the Stater Bros. a couple of streets over and you’ve got a tough task, even for a niche operation.

Hobby Lobby is another story. It’s a fast-growing crafts and party supplies chain from Oklahoma that has been both a big success and the subject of some controversy. It’s closed on Sunday and won a major Supreme Court test by opposing, on religious grounds, a mandate to provide birth control coverage in medical insurance for its employees.

There are two Hobby Lobby stores relatively near – one at Edinger and Goldenwest in Huntington Beach and another in east Santa Ana. Would GG be a good location sort of in-between? Unclear. Another issue would be the presence across the street of Party City in the Promenade, which would be competition for a big part of Hobby Lobby’s business.

BevMo has also been mentioned as a possibility. The liquor retailer has one location in Cypress a short distance from the Garden Grove city limit on the west side. Again, demographics are an issue. Does the typical Grover spend enough on wine and barware to justify adding a store?

In addition to those possibilities I am thinking about some emerging trends in retailing. Giant department stores are in decline and chains such as Sears and JC Penney may be headed for the last roundup. Online purchasing is up, but still only represents about 10 percent of the retail trade.

Amazon is leading the charge on this. It purchased Whole Foods not just for its business but also as a location for a warehouse for food and other items to be delivered to your home.

The firm has also opened a growing chain of bookstores that double as showrooms for their electronic devices and other wares.

Sears, poor Sears, is experimenting with a new format of selling just appliances and mattresses in a slimmed-down store in an effort to stave off collapse.

So, what could be done with a 76,000-square foot building? How about 15,000 square feet for Sears, 25,000 square feet for Amazon (including warehouse space), 15,000 for BevMo and the rest for a couple of cool eateries? Or any other combination that’s possible and desirable.

However it turns out, that long-vacant building should be getting a new lease on life relatively soon. As the old saying goes, if you wait long enough, everything comes back into style.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts column appears each Wednesday, usually. And yes, he used to shop at the Pavilion when it was a supermarket.



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