Call it the Walmart effect. As the 152,373-square-foot superstore rises in south Gardnerville, more chain retailers are popping up in Carson Valley.
"Walmart could definitely be a driving force," said Chad Coons, owner and broker of Gillmor Coons Real Estate Group and a member of the Northern Nevada Development Authority. "Walmart might have woken up some national retailers."
New arrivals to the area in the first half of the year include AutoZone, which has been stocking shelves in the former Blockbuster building; Dollar General, which is setting up shop in the Gardnerville Ranchos; and Maverik Inc., which is preparing to build a new gas station and convenience store in Minden.
While large retailers like Walmart often spur clustered development around them, no specific tenant has announced a location near the future store, according to the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan.
But that's not stopping residents from petitioning preferred businesses. Some have been chaining emails in hopes of generating support for a Trader Joe's next to the new Walmart.
One message received by The Record-Courier contained two customer service numbers for the popular organic foods store, 626-599-3817 and 626-599-3768, and encouraged readers to call and make their wishes known.
Lisa Granahan, Douglas County economic vitality manager, says the surge of new stores in the Valley reflects a stabilizing, if improving, economy.
"There seems to be overall interest - small businesses, mom-and-pop shops, manufacturers," she said. "In retail, I think there is a little more confidence."
Granahan agreed with Coons that national retailers might be taking a cue from Walmart, but she argued that there's more to the picture. Specifically, she pointed to revitalization efforts in the Valley's historic downtowns.
"Creating that sense of place is definitely an attraction," she said. "Continuing to focus on our downtowns helps us create that sense of place, and retailers feel like they're more viable."
However, Granahan warned that a balance must be struck between downtown businesses and larger retail operations. Endless strip malls along the highway could weaken downtown cores, she said.
"Downtown is one part of everyone working together as a team," she said, "to create an environment where businesses can thrive and new jobs can happen."
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