Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Business Looking to Lease Space for Buckingham Grocery Store

A Prince William County company hopes to open a grocery store inside one of the proposed buildings of a redeveloped Buckingham Shopping Center. Pacific General Contractors, LLC, owned by Alcides Ventura and his brother Freddy, has met with county staff and has just finished a business plan for a general grocery, said Sylvia Samayoa, a manager in the company.

Sylvia Samayoa, left, and Alcides Ventura hope to open a grocery store in the building planned to replace the CVS. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“We really want to work in that community,” Ms. Samayoa said.

Pacific General owns a handful of small businesses including Ventura Grocery on Cockrell Road in Manassas. Ms. Samayoa described that store as a general grocery with a focus on Latino foods. Their hope is to open a similar store in the building that is planned to replace the CVS.

“We want to open another one. I believe it’s time,” Alcides Ventura said. Prince William County’s economy has been hit hard by the national housing crisis and a county-wide crackdown on illegal immigration, and while many restaurants and other stores have gone out of business, the Ventura Grocery is still around. “So we’re doing pretty good in comparison to other businesses in that area,” Mr. Alcides said. He said that anyone can open a store, but maintaining it is the hard part.

The store he envisions would cover about 5,000 square feet. Not only would he sell general groceries, especially fresh meats and traditional Latino foods, he also thinks a coffee shop and a cafeteria that sells prepackaged foods could work in that space. He and Ms. Samayoa said they want to reflect what the neighborhood needs and are willing to go into the community to find out what people want. One of his businesses is as a general contractor, and to save money, he is hoping to build the inside of the space himself to his specifications.

Karen Vasquez, the public relations manager for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is trying to promote grocery stores in neighborhoods.

A business that is both locally owned and a grocery “could have piqued board members’ interests,” Ms. Vasquez said.

At the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new streetscape at the intersection, County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said he hoped the Glebe Market would be around for a long time, calling it a “landmark” that is “loved and treasured” in Buckingham. That tends to depend on who you ask. Whether the Glebe Market should be replaced with a similar grocery or something more upscale was one of the more contentious discussions at a recent community forum discussing the redevelopment. Mr. Alcides said he has met with Mr. Tejada regarding the store.

Under the proposed redevelopment, the three buildings west of N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive—the CVS, Glebe Market and El Paso Café buildings—would be torn down and replaced by two large, mixed-use buildings. All but one of the businesses in the current buildings would move into the new space on the northwest corner, the site of the current Glebe Market.

The Glebe Market itself will not return as owner Sam Chon plans to retire. A large question has been what type of grocery store would replace the Glebe Market, a market that serves much of the Latino population of the neighborhood.

Jennie Gordon, a retail development specialist at Arlington Economic Development, said that after losing Glebe Market “we want to make sure something goes in there.”

“We’ve offered to help them, Georgetown Strategic Capital, with outreach,” she said. “They haven’t taken us up on that.” She said Georgetown Strategic might have other outside help and just does not need the county’s input. “If they wanted us to help with outreach, then we would go out a little more aggressively.”

Mr. Alcides heard of the possible space for the store from some of his general contracting clients in the area. He also heard of the space from a friend who once owned a grocery in Alexandria and because he participated in a home expo recently, he said.

For her part, Ms. Samayoa said that county should use Day Labor sites to help men waiting to work at the corner of N. Glebe and N. Pershing.

She said she understood why people would be frightened of men just standing around on the corner if you were not sure what they were doing. “I would be frightened, too,” she said.

Tara Miles of Arlington Economic Development said that Pacific General is the only company she knows of that is trying to lease grocery space in the proposed new building. Ms. Miles said the BizLaunch office she directs is helping that company as it would any other that asked for assistance and that the county is not encouraging one business over another. Her office would be happy to help another looking to compete for the Buckingham Center space.

Her office helps entrepreneurs with technical assistance for acquiring leased space or developing strategic and marketing plans.

“We want to be able to ensure that businesses will have the right tools,” she said, adding later, “My concern…is making sure that everybody has the capacity to compete.”

“They [Pacific General] are actually working on their business plan, which is the best thing to do, to start now,” even though the space will not be ready for a long time, she said. Paperwork submitted to the county from Georgetown Strategic sets construction from May 2009 to May 2010.

Winning the lease for Mr. Alcides: “That’s going to be the number one priority.”

Everyone spoken to said the process is still very early on and nothing is settled. Georgetown Strategic could not be reached for comment.



Related stories…
  • Buckingham Shopping Center Developer Applies for Certificate of Appropriateness This story covers the planned redevelopment and has links to many other stories in this series.

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  • Comments:
    We absolutely do not need a day laborer center, either officially or unofficially, on any corner of Glebe and Pershing. Enough is enough. The no loitering policy is in effect, to the benefit of the community as a whole, and any new development should not change that, but rather reinforce the no loitering policy.
    James Vandeputte
     
    I am comforted that there is no way GSC will let Tejada dictate their tenants...
     

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