To prepare for an upcoming trip to the Middle East, Scotts Valley resident Lori Strusis, 71, needed to stock up on a few accessories.
Luckily for her, Minneapolis-based Target Corporation had just opened its latest store in town at the Scotts Valley Square Shopping Center over the weekend.
“I’m going on a trip, so I got a luggage scale,” she said, reflecting on her retail experience Monday, in the packed Scotts Valley Square Shopping Center parking lot. “This new look is really great. Right now, the shelves are nicely stocked.”
With her was Shelley Neal, 69, a fellow Scotts Valley resident, who’d just purchased a pack of paper plates.
“I didn’t see anything lacking here,” she said.
Neal said she usually relies on Target in Capitola for all her paper goods, but the problem with that location, she explained, is that it can be difficult to find an associate to help you sometimes.
“We needed this in Scotts Valley—desperately,” she said. “We’re just thrilled to have it.”
Scotts Valley Mayor Donna Lind said Target’s arrival was “huge—and not just Scotts Valley.”
She was referring to the benefits for San Lorenzo Valley residents in Felton, Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek.
“If they can’t get it in Scotts Valley they wait and plan a trip once a month,” she said. “They really look to Scotts Valley for a lot of their shopping.”
Since Sept. 25 is Councilmember Derek Timm’s birthday, he likes to joke that Target firing up the registers was a great birthday present.
Timm, who was mayor when Target announced last year that it would be setting up shop in the community, says the store has already begun to breathe new life into what had become a struggling retail plaza.
“It was in trouble,” he said, reflecting on how Kmart’s departure left a sad state of affairs. “It was a dying center.”
Studies showed that a significant amount of potential sales tax revenue—which Scotts Valley relies on disproportionately—was bleeding down the hill to Santa Cruz or over to Silicon Valley.
But Target’s arrival has also been the harbinger of the end of the road for about a half-dozen small businesses in the area, including Earthwise Pet Supply and Chubby’s Diner, as the landlord, The Pratt Company, jacked up rent significantly.
Kevin Pratt says the company tried to work with owners to come to agreements about how they could stay on.
“Target is going to up the game,” he said, noting he’s been fielding offers from parties willing to pay double what he’s been charging for rent. “The complicated reality is that we have had a wide variety of tenants in that center for a long time, some cycling even before this recent change.”
And he says some tenants had fallen behind on their obligations.
“This idea that somehow by definition that all mom-and-pop operators are just perfect businesses is just not true,” Pratt said, adding they did make concessions to some tenants. “We were very gradual in raising the rents. You know, it’s a tricky thing.”
Susan Sonka, who owns the Glimmer and Glow Tanning Boutique with her husband, says they were able to work out a favorable agreement with The Pratt Company. In fact, they’ve decided to consolidate their locations—pulling out of Santa Cruz and going all in on Scotts Valley.
“The overall hope is that there will be considerably more foot traffic,” she said. “I think there’s just going to be a lot more excitement.”
Timm says, as a small business owner, he understands how frustrating it must have been for the mom-and-pop shops forced out during the Scotts Valley Square Shopping Center upgrade process.
“I do wish the owner of the center and those businesses would have been able to put together new leases,” said Timm, who is up for reelection in November. “The uptick in traffic is going to be amazing coming into that center.”
A spokesperson for Target told the Press Banner the company will be creating 90 new jobs.
Vice Mayor Jim Reed, who is also up for reelection, says he’s been working for a decade-and-a-half to try to bring Target to town. He remembers when the big box business wanted to put a store next to where the Hilton hotel is located.
“They ended up pulling out because the economy cratered,” he said. “We were trying to get them to go to a different location back then. They said, ‘Nope.’”
Even at the time, local officials were specifically mentioning the possibility of the current space to Target honchos, while Kmart was still in business, he added. Reed says the larger store Target had envisioned, at the time, was near a residential area and could have drawn traffic away from downtown.
“This is sort of a culmination of 15 years worth of effort to get them to a place where they are going to help other businesses rather than cannibalize them,” he said. “I believe this will exist synergistically much better … It’s the beginning of a new and strong phase of sustainable commercial growth for our city that will allow us to maintain our small-town character.”
Councilmember Randy Johnson is optimistic, too.
He sees Target’s arrival as the first in a line of positive developments for Scotts Valley.
“Over the past six or eight years we’ve had our ups and downs, and we’re looking pretty good,” he said, pointing to Mali LaGoe’s leadership as city manager and the impending launch of Faultline bar and restaurant. “All the moving parts are headed in the right direction.”
He says the way things are trending proves the time has come for the long-stymied Town Center project—meant to go in between where Target and the Hangar are and Kings Village Road—to move forward.
“In some ways it’s a microcosm of the city in general,” Johnson said of Target opening. “Things are doing well. I’m always gratified when things come from darkness and, all the sudden, they start blooming.”