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A Closer Look: Moving Forward
Nov 08, 2012 | 4771 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo/Garrett Valenzuela -- Employees of the new 99 Cents Only store show their smiles as the come through the door during the stores grand opening on Nov. 1.
Tribune photo/Garrett Valenzuela -- Employees of the new 99 Cents Only store show their smiles as the come through the door during the stores grand opening on Nov. 1.
SPARKS — Business owners in Sparks will tell you that the economy is not in good shape. The Sparks City Manager will tell you the same, but both agree that steps are being taken to breathe some life back into the community.

The opening of T.J. Maxx at Legends last Sunday marked the fourth business in three months to branch into Sparks from a location in Reno. T.J. Maxx is joined by the 99 Cents Only store as a large commercial outlet for the Sparks community to enjoy, while local restaurants like the Squeeze In and Peg’s Glorified Ham and Eggs each staked a fourth location by expanding to Sparks.

The difference in each business’ reasons for expanding are varied, but they all have agreed Sparks is one community where their products will flourish.

“It was really funny because we were talking as a family about how fast we could really ramp up to being busy. We are as busy now as we were on day 2 of being in Sparks,” Fred Lee Jr., part owner and manager of Peg’s, said. “It’s a tough environment when you see all the empty retail spaces in Reno and Sparks, but we have become the number one location out of all four Peg’s in our first month. That is the kind of response we’ve gotten from the community.”

Peg’s took over the previous location of Baja Fresh on the corner of Sparks Boulevard and Prater Way. Lee Jr. said small, local businesses have begun exploring the possibilities to expand their “brand name” in Sparks.

“I think you see a lot of businesses that are local who have a lot of confidence in what they are doing and are willing to take that risk to expand,” he said. “Right now there are lots of great landlords who are willing to make a deal and looking for good tenants like us who are not here for the short term.”

The Squeeze In, much like Peg’s, built its third location in south Reno before opening a branch in Sparks shortly after. Squeeze In co-owner Shila Morris said before opening the south Reno location, the demographics in Sparks were not there for her restaurant, though the fan base of its EggHead Club always showed support.

“We have always had strong support from the Sparks neighborhoods and we had known that many of our EggHeads lived in neighborhoods in Sparks,” Morris said. “We are definitely thrilled to be in Sparks. People are genuine, loving, giving, happy and they feel content with their lives and community, and that has really translated to our Sparks location. We’ve seen a lot more of the Sparks community being willing to spend their dollars with us because they want to support that local family business, and that has been so incredibly heart-warming for us.”

Morris said upon surviving the frantic opening weekend of the “Sparks Squeeze” in August she, and her fellow (family) owners, wrote a letter to Sparks Mayor Geno Martini and his staff commending them about “stepping up in a big way.” Lee Jr. said the “smooth process” of getting Peg’s up and running was attributed to “both sides looking for a win-win.”

“Fortunately, we have some very hard working people in our building and planning departments. We have been able to retain a lot of experience and we are more than willing to work with folks to make sure they are a success,” Sparks City Manager Shaun Carey said. “Businesses like (Peg’s and Squeeze In) need to open as soon as they can because they are already paying the lease and hiring employees. Any questions are going to need responses from us quickly so they can open as fast as possible.”

Carey said helping businesses move into commercial locations was no different. He said small businesses and big-branch chains opening in Sparks provides proof that the economy in the city is slowly improving.

“Anything we can do to get those businesses to come in and stay here we will do. We can put Nevada back to work,” Carey said. “All of our sales taxes are essentially coming by people having retail. That needs to be northern Nevada’s focus for the next three to five years because we are a preeminent community in which to relocate for anyone who wants to expand. We have the capacity, the workforce and I think we will see a slow, gradual improvement and more Nevadans will be back to work.”

In the case of T.J.Maxx and 99 Cents Only, surrounding retail stores have much to do with the ability to build a new location. Also, the surrounding community, no matter how wide-spread, has to be energetic and looking to save money as well.

“In general, when we open new stores, we look for areas with the right mix of demographics,” Brittany Welch, public relations supervisor for TJX Companies, said, “which can include families with children, home ownership, thriving retail areas, and areas where shoppers are fashion-conscious, yet value-conscious. The benefit to residents is that we are bringing a new shopping option for local residents. Also, the new store will add approximately 60 full and part-time jobs to the area.”

Stores such as T.J. Maxx and 99 Cents Only have kept City of Sparks Council members busy attending grand openings. During 99 Cents Only’s grand opening on Nov. 1, Evan Cohen, director of store communications, said Sparks was the perfect place for them to expand.

“Sparks is a community that needs a store like ours. People in this economy need a store where they can get all of their household products, food and grocery at the lowest price possible,” Cohen said. “Many people are on such a fixed income and here they can get so much for their dollar. We want to offer the community a great shopping experience and great value. We want them to know that we are here and that they can get pretty much everything here.”

Carey said the future in Sparks, though it may take some much-needed time to show, is one of growth. Following a workshop for city planners, leaders and contributors, Carey said the city is constantly looking for ways to not only be more attractive to potential incoming businesses, but ways to ensure their opening is swift and easy.

“In our philosophy, we are ready for businesses to find their path to success. We are going to do the things to show them how, to show them why and to show them the encouragement they need to make their business be open on time and be profitable,” Carey said.

“We’re responding to a brand new regional economic plan and for the first time in a number of years they (EDAWN) have hired a person who is making contact with the businesses that are already here  and trying to find ways to assist them. We have the capacity and vacancy levels and very attractive home markets, so it is a very attractive time to choose northern Nevada.”
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