It was a hot, muggy day, when I found myself at a local mall in search of a wedding dress. Driving into the lot in the middle of the day on a weekend, there were all of three cars spread out, and only one of them looked like it actually ran. I looked around the vast parking lot to make sure that I was in the right place, the place I used to visit as a child. Perplexed, but driven by my search, I decided to proceed to my destination.
I opened my car door to hear the tinny echo of a song coming from a single large vintage speaker from the middle of the abandoned lot. It felt like I had stepped into an apocalyptic movie. I began walking hesitantly toward the entrance of the shopping center.
The once-buzzing main hall was now empty and lifeless. Only about one out of every ten stores was occupied and even less were open for business, with shop-owners staring out of their stores with vacant eyes. I was disappointed to reach my destination only to find it among the closed shops. Previously left to my imagination, this jarring experience made me deeply contemplate our depressed economy.
I am grateful, on one hand, that being the Property Manager and Leasing Agent for the Blue Jay and Lake Arrowhead Villages, we find ourselves in occupancy levels that greatly surpass the national average. But, with it also came an acute understanding of our current economic situation with a touch of apprehension for what the future holds.
At the start of the recession, our seclusion caused us to experience the economic downturn later and to a lesser degree than most other communities. What that also means is that we will most likely experience recovery later than those communities.
The good news is that we are beginning to see signs that we are headed in the right direction–experiencing an increase in traffic in the Village and opening new businesses. Admittedly, we have recently suffered a couple of business losses (though no loss in the Village was due to lack of sales). When we look at the big picture, we are still around 80 percent occupied, which is almost 20 percent above the national average.
We feel the effect of the recession, of course. We are not immune. When a business closes, whatever the reason, living in such a small community causes those losses to affect us greatly, not only because the amount of shopping available on the mountain decreases, but because those business owners are our friends and neighbors.
But, there is something that we can do. We can get more involved. This is my purpose for starting this blog:
- to get our creative juices flowing
- to work together to rebuild our community
- We have an opportunity to bring in the businesses that we really need and desire as locals, such as an office supply and craft store or a kitchen supply store. We are the ones that know what will work. Right?
- So, I’m asking for feedback from our community… I’m asking for ideas.
I’ve contacted almost every imaginable national or outlet store, attempting to get them to expand into the Village. But demographic requirements are a tough hurdle–especially since the number of our full-time residents is decreasing.
Hope on the Horizon
What makes us really unique are our locally-run specialty stores. This is what we need to be tapping into. Recently, The Village Green opened in Lake Arrowhead Village. And Hot Shots recently opened in Blue Jay Village.
My hope is that seeing new businesses open in this economy will give others the hope and confidence they need to open their own. So, put on your thinking caps and tell me what you think!
Julie, Pacific Capital Management