Prime shopping center next to Ellis Lake struggles
What's most noticeable these days at one of Marysville's most visible shopping centers is what's missing: Filled storefronts.
With Rabobank set to move out by the end of the year for a smaller space across the street, Watermarke at Ellis Lake will be more than half empty, six years after it opened.
The tough economy, as well as a few other factors, are to blame, said city and county officials who've seen the center nearly full after it opened in 2006 and then struggle more recently.
Among the come-and-gone stores in the center are La Salsa restaurant, Mr. Pickles sandwich shop, Jamba Juice, Kopy Kats and, earlier this year, Pregame Bar & Grill. Apart from the bank, the only remaining stores are Verizon and Little Caesar's Pizza.
John Fleming, Yuba County's economic development coordinator, said the center's problem isn't location, with thousands of cars streaming by on highways 70 and 20 and Ellis Lake as a backdrop.
But parking in the center, and accessing it from those highways, has been problematic at times, he said.
"If you're a business that's living month-to-month, it's certainly going to be hard in a down market," he said.
The economy, though, doesn't explain everything, said Christina Billeci, a Marysville councilwoman who had hoped the center could be part of a retail renaissance for the city when it opened. At the time, city officials also had high hopes for the property across the highway as well at undeveloped property on B Street east of Ellis Lake.
Family problems contributed to the closure of Pregame and the Mr. Pickles sandwich shop, Billeci said. And Rabobank officials had approached the center's landlords about remaining at a reduced rent but were rebuffed, she said.
"Our lease expired, and we are moving into a space that better suits our branch activities," said Andy Frokjer, a spokesman for Rabobank.
Billeci said the center could see a turnaround, but not without effort.
"My question is, how much marketing is CB Richard Ellis doing?" she said. "My other question is, what about the chamber and the economic development corporation's retention program for businesses?"
With more directed at both bringing in new stores and keeping them there, Billeci said, Watermarke could be more of a boon to the city and the county.
Not all developments at the shopping center are negative, though.
On Monday, Deena and Wes Brenton said they were mulling a trip to Lowe's for supplies to get closer to opening Our Coffee House in a center storefront that has never been occupied.
"It's close to the lake and it's got good outside seating," said Wes Brenton, of Browns Valley, about why he and his wife wanted to open in the center. "But it is hard to get in and out of."
Set to open by month's end, the Brentons' coffee house will sell fresh baked goods and deli sandwiches in addition to cups of joe.
The couple said they negotiated a lower rent for the first three years. But even with the center's recent woes, they said, they're confident their business can thrive.
"If we do a good job, we'll be around," Wes said. His wife added, "We've just got to get them in the door."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.