GARDNERVILLE - If you wanted to open a small retail business in the Carson Valley and wondered where to locate your store, a number of lease options await your consideration.
The signs dot retail cluster centers - some call them "strip malls" - from one end of the county to the other: "For rent," "For lease," "Space available," and some wonder why there are so many vacancies.
Although there isn't one agency that monitors occupancy rates in retail and commercial spaces in Minden and Gardnerville, a tour of more than two dozen small neighborhood retail centers, or strip malls, found more than half of them with at least one vacancy.
Many of these clustered businesses contain a mix of retail, professional and service companies.
Dave Bolick, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority, said his office doesn't monitor the available retail space.
"It changes so rapidly, so we usually rotate the calls we get to our member Realtors to handle," he said. "Quite a few new centers have been built since I've been here, though, and the amount of available spaces don't seem to have increased. Some of the centers have higher rent than others, and that can be the reason for their vacancies."
Fred Jones, who has worked to attract manufacturing and industrial businesses to the Valley, said he actually wishes there were more available properties for his type of businesses.
"Last year I had a company from L.A. want to move here - they needed the space right away - and we had no space available for them," he said. "Instead, they relocated to Reno. It's to the point where we need to have the footage built to have it ready for business so we can have some flexibility in attracting these businesses. I'm not involved in retail by design, but for manufacturing, we have now - available or planned - around 200,000 square feet of floor space scattered throughout the Valley."
Daryl Reedy, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, ITILDO, Inc., said the vacancies in area strip malls don't necessarily preclude a developer from wanting to build a new one, such as the Mid-Town Plaza West in Gardnerville or the new Subway building in Minden.
"Does the existence of vacancies on the market justify the developer taking a risk? It's up to the developer. It's their risk," Reedy said. "There are vacancies out there, but overall, the market is not overbuilt in retail."
Mimi Moss, acting Douglas County planning and economic development manager, said a developer could build whatever they want as long as they are building within the zoning district, and are willing to take the risk themselves.
"We look at the zoning district and we have them get a design review approval, but we assume they've done their own market studies," she said.
With the closing of the Winans Furniture store in Minden and the Gorman's grocery store in the Gardnerville Ranchos, the options for large retail stores have also opened up.
Reedy said if anything, commercial office space might be overbuilt for now.
Jim Nickerson, a commercial broker with Century 21 Clark Properties, said he sees the current vacancy rate as nothing out of the ordinary.
"This is pretty normal, and we're heading into the slow season, so I'd venture to say that most everything that is vacant right now could stay vacant until spring. We have four vacancies at the Ironwood Center and three at the Minden Plaza, and now that we're a larger populace, we are seeing stores from Reno and Carson City wanting to open other locations here. Also, we're on the cusp of attracting national tenants."
Nickerson said another factor in the vacancies is the fact that businesses in town are expanding because business is good.
"We're not a sleepy little town anymore," he said.