Construction workers work on the new Lowe’s Home Center building Friday on North Prince Street in Clovis. Photo by Eric Kluth.
By Gary Mitchell
The sudden emergence of Clovis as a business destination for national chains is due to a change in perception, according to local officials and developers.
The designation of the Clovis-Portales area as a microplex and the recognition of the area as a strong agriculture-based community are two of the biggest factors, they said.
Because microplex designation allows the Clovis-Portales area to be viewed as a single entity in demographics, it now listed as an area with a customer base of 50,000.
“The Clovis-Portales microplex designation really helped a lot,” Ernie Kos, executive director of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce said. “Because of the microplex designation, we can put our numbers together, and it makes us more attractive as a trade center. We’re now on people’s radar screens because of our demographics package.”
Developer Bill Giese, who chamber and city officials said helped create a more effective demographics study, said it’s the irrigated farms and outlying buying power within the Clovis-Portales trade center that is luring the bigger retail outlets and restaurants to the area.
“The monumental reason people are interested in this area is that Clovis is the only city in New Mexico that offers an irrigated trade center,” he said. “The farmers in our area have a much higher income because of the irrigated farmland. It’s a big deal — our agricultural economy makes a huge difference. There’s no comparison between Roswell and Clovis outside the city limits.
Giese also pointed out that other chain retailers have noted “how well Wal-Mart is doing in gross sales here, and that there’s a lot of traffic.”
As of June, more than $8.5 million worth of construction in new businesses alone has been approved by the city of Clovis — with the promise of more headed this way.
The increase in major construction projects started with the arrival of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in 2000 that brought the new construction valuation to nearly $9 million that year, said Denise Workheiser with the city of Clovis Inspections Department.
“In 2002, the new additions to Plains Regional Medical Center accounted for the majority of the $4.5 million worth of construction, compared to only $19,000 worth in 2001,” she said.
But this year’s $8.7 million worth of construction in new businesses combined with more than $5 million in commercial additions and remodeling has surpassed the 2000 year total — not to mention the $7.4 million in new residential construction, which is triple the 2000 year total.
The arrival of Lowe’s Home Center, Hobby Lobby, Dollar Tree, Rib Crib restaurant has added to the construction dollars — along with the relocating and expansion of existing businesses such as Snyder’s Cleaners, The Master’s (formerly, Master’s Books & Gifts), National Travel Systems, a new Head Start facility, Something Different Deli, Guad To Go, hospital additions and All Pets Animal Hospital makeover.
As one major business comes into the area, it stimulates others as well, said Tom Heap, city building inspector.
“There’s a lot of activity out here — even more than what our official documents state,” he said. “Since we have more to offer, success feeds on success.”
When Lowe’s opens its doors near Llano Estacado and Prince streets in early December, that store will “represent a $16.5 million investment in the community” and it “will add approximately 175 new jobs to the area,” said Lowe’s spokeswoman Julie Ignatowski.
According to a Chili’s restaurant spokesman, its Clovis store, planned to be built next to Lowe’s, also will open in December, but no figure was given on how many jobs would be created.
The new Hobby Lobby store, which will open in the former Big Kmart store at 2001 N. Prince St., will employ 50-55 people from the Clovis area, said Bill Hane, vice-president of advertising for the company.
“Clovis was chosen for this location due to favorable demographics and a quality location in a high-traffic area with easy accessibility,” he said. “Clovis is a regional hub, and we do well in single-store markets that are regional hubs in an area. Some of our stronger stores are in markets of that size. We look at shopping area retail dollars spent in a community.”
Hobby Lobby presently operates 302 stores in 26 states.
It has been speculated that Hastings will share the remodeled Kmart building with Hobby Lobby, but Robin Muir, a spokesman for Hastings, said he “couldn’t confirm or deny” that notion.
“Yes, we are looking at sites in Clovis,” he said. “I can let you know something more definite in two weeks.”
Meanwhile, Dollar Tree Stores Inc., the nation’s largest $1 discount variety store chain, will set up shop in the former Heilig-Meyers building, 3901 N. Prince St., by the end of the summer, store officials said.
Some business and city leaders say Home Depot may be looking at coming to the Clovis area as well.
“We will open our 11th store in New Mexico in Alamogordo on Aug. 7,” said Home Depot spokesman John Simley. “We just opened in Hobbs last week. We’re looking at a number of sites. There’s not a city in New Mexico we haven’t looked at, including Clovis — but I can’t confirm anything at this point.”
Meanwhile, a “construction renaissance” has transformed the former Furr’s supermarket into The Master’s Centre, which will house The Master’s: A Parable Christian Bookstore, National Travel Systems and The Java Loft, a coffee shop.
“We’ll be opening Monday,” said Michael Covington, manager of The Master’s. “It’s all God’s timing. Our Back-to-School catalog just went out with our new store information on it. We’ll be the only ones open initially.”
National Travel Systems and The Java Loft will follow with openings in September, said owner Tammy Willard.