A change of scenery

Published 11:31 pm Monday, October 31, 2011

For all the need that exists in Suffolk for manufacturing and other types of companies that can locate here and provide dozens or hundreds of new jobs, one segment of the economic development market that cannot be ignored is retail.

Especially in downtown Suffolk, but to some extent throughout the city — including the fast-growing northern portion — the city’s limited retail variety contributes significantly to the frustration that residents sometimes feel about their city. While they might love the rural nature that is evident throughout most of Suffolk, most folks here also admit to wishing there were more places they could go nearby to do their shopping.

In this age of working more hours for less pay, this time of gas prices that seem to be stuck above $3 per gallon, it’s pretty clear that folks are not driving to Chesapeake Square and Greenbrier and Hampton just for the sake of a change of scenery. They head off in those directions in order to find a favorite restaurant, a toy store, an electronics store, a bookseller or some other retail outlet they cannot find in Suffolk. And when given the chance, they’re pretty vocal about wishing they could find those outlets right here at home.

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Which means it’s good news whenever a new retailer opens its doors here. And a spate of national chains that have set up shop in Suffolk recently is particularly good news, since such companies usually have broader resources available from which to research the viability of a new location than do their smaller, independent competitors. Any community that has a vibrant community of independent retail businesses is blessed, but getting the stamp of approval necessary for the big guys to open their shops is a sign that a community is growing and competitive.

Such is the case with the recent opening of several national retail chains in Suffolk. O’Reilly Auto Parts and Sleepy’s are but two of the more recent openings that mark the trend. Dick’s Sporting Goods, T.J. Maxx and PetSmart make the point even more strongly. Each of these chains devotes considerable resources to researching a market before moving into it, and their commitment to Suffolk speaks well of their expectations for the city.

Whether you shop the big chains or the independent retailers, it’s always good news when someone opens a new shop. Success tends to breed success, so it’s to the benefit of everyone that the city’s newest shops do well. If things continue on their current course, eventually it could be that the only real reason to leave Suffolk is for a change of scenery.