When I first started to dabble in real estate many years ago, first as an investor and eventually as a realtor to better integrate into my hometown community away from Madison Avenue, I remember so clearly the questions my first buyer client asked about my town: “Does it have a Starbucks? And how close is it to a Costco?”
At that time, we didn’t have a Starbucks or a Costco, and my prospect decided eventually not to move to my area of specialization in upper Westchester and, while she never disclosed her reason, I did wonder whether it was the lack of a Starbucks and a Costco. As it happens she bought in Connecticut close to, you guessed it, Costco’s.
By way of disclosure, almost 10 years later, I was contacted by the developer for Costco asking if my PR firm -- my original gig -- could set up an information program for the company as it wends its way through the approval process to set up shop in my hometown, Yorktown. Because I am a firm believer in intelligent and responsible commercial development which I know Costco represents, I agreed.
With that disclosure out of the way, I can say that I have worked with many towns in my region where I sell real estate, hanging around town halls and following community news online, and each seems to have a personality built on the way the town chooses to develop its commercial areas.
In the Hudson Valley region served by Patch, we have both exclusive communities with quaint downtown areas for shopping (Chappaqua, Pleasantville, and Katonah for instance) but more often than not, we have bedroom communities that offer shopping at malls, as in Yorktown.
In my town, there has not had a single major commercial project in almost 30 years, while another town just to the west of us, Cortlandt, has been thriving with commercial opportunities that my town turned down.
At the same time, to the east of my town is another community, Somers, where many of the people I know there say that they feel “isolated” when it comes to their shopping needs, and perhaps some prefer it that way, but it seems that the majority does not.
New research shows that options for shopping may be more a determinant for community choice than even schools. A survey conducted recently by Coldwell Banker shows that the first three features home buyers consider when buying a home are: the condition of the home, followed by opportunities for good shopping nearby, and coming in third, concern about schools.
I was surprised by that. Maybe it’s because I’m not the shopper in my family. It’s my wife who loves shopping in all its guises, and while I have rarely been inside a big box store, I do love it when she finds a special brand of baked goods at BJs, like its wonderful Mudslide Brownies that I’m sure would win a culinary contest in its category. Now, I’m anxious to see what kind of special, quality products she will find in our newest commercial outlet in town.
Shoppers and shopping are fascinating studies. At a recent public hearing devoted to the Costco development, a citizen expressed concern about what would happen to BJ’s if Costco is just diagonally across the road from it. Interestingly, studies have shown that when a Costco revitalizes a commercial area, all the other businesses do better. And in fact, the owner of the BJ’s shopping center has gone on record as welcoming Costco to our town.
And, our local appliance store owner, Rich Leahy of Atlantic Appliance, supports the development saying that he’s not concerned with competition, and what retailers should worry about today is competing with online shopping.
And in that vein, it’s interesting to think about the new online shopping as a revival of the shop-at-home concept developed at the turn of the last century by Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. Are you old enough to remember?
Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles columnist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For those seeking advice on home maintenance or who want to buy or sell a home, visit his website, www.PrimaveraHomes.com, or call him directly at 914-522-2076.