Shop at home

Published 7:17 pm Monday, January 18, 2016

There’s one sure way to get folks riled up in Suffolk: Start talking about retail development in the northern end of the city.

A recent article about construction of a College Drive shopping center that will house a Michael’s Arts & Crafts store, along with a Petco pet supply store, identified a variety of other retailers and restaurants planned for the site by the Kroger Marketplace.

Developers said retailers planning to open in the new Hampton Roads Crossing this spring include Ross Dress for Less, Ulta Beauty, Five Below, DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, Great Clips and Lavish Nail.

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Two restaurants, Texas Roadhouse and Zaxby’s, are under construction on the outparcels at Hampton Roads Crossing. Both are expected to open in April, according to their websites.

The story about the shopping center and an unrelated editorial about what the closing of stores at Chesapeake Square Mall could mean to Suffolk received huge levels of engagement from readers, both on our website and on our Facebook page. And as with all things retail in Suffolk, the responses are divided by a geographic separation that feels nearly as entrenched as the Mason-Dixon Line.

From the growing population situated generally north of Nansemond Parkway, the response to the North Suffolk growth is overwhelmingly positive. From those who live in the southern part of the city, the response is more along the lines of “What about us?”

Setting aside the economic realities of retail and commercial development (e.g., most businesses prefer to be located near concentrated areas of housing), it’s understandable that folks in the southern part of the city would like a bigger piece of the retail pie. Who wouldn’t want a Trader Joe’s (one of the most-mentioned retailers in any survey of consumer interest) to be located nearby?

But the best way for folks in any part of Suffolk to entice new retail development to the city is to patronize Suffolk businesses. If retailers see that people in Suffolk tend to shop near home, instead of driving to Virginia Beach or Chesapeake to do business, they’ll begin looking for ways to capture that market. If, on the other hand, they see a large percentage of folks leaving their own city to shop in other markets, there is little incentive for them to make the investment in locations within Suffolk.

There are, of course, other factors involved, and city officials must continue to work to improve the attractiveness of the southern part of the city to retail and commercial development. But the best thing the average consumer can do to help is this: Shop at home.