21 October 2015
Each year, businesses come and go in the strip mall across from Food Lion near Lake Monticello. Despite high visibility and proximity to about 11,000 Lake Monticello residents, not to mention customers in other nearby neighborhoods, businesses in the strip mall, called the Jefferson Centre, fade more often than they thrive.
In recent years the Jefferson Centre has been home to multiple businesses, including:
• ABC store
• Asian Café
• Blue Ridge Builder’s Supply
• C&K Jewelers
• Dream Salon & Day Spa
• Faulknier Produce
• Gravity’s Edge Computers
• Gypsy Gourmet Cake Lounge
• Lake Bistro
• Lakeside Grille
• Mailbox Express
• Nooks & Crannies
• Ntelos Wireless
• Pearls & Nails salon
• Tucker Griffin Barnes law firm
• Video by the Lake
• Villa Nova’s Pizzeria & Italian Bistro
Only six of these are still in business at the Jefferson Centre.
Why is it so hard to make a business work in what seems like such a prime spot?Rent
“It’s very, very simple,” said Ian McDaniel, co-owner of Gravity’s Edge Computers, which is now located in the Sycamore Square shopping center near CVS. “The site management company is charging rent you’d see in Charlottesville or even Richmond. It’s charging rent higher than you’d find on the Downtown Mall. It’s not affordable – the overhead is just too high.”
Ten years ago when McDaniel’s business was located at the Jefferson Centre, he said his rent was $2,200 per month. And some businesses, such as Lake Bistro and Bagelicious, actually combined two office spots, he said, which resulted in an “impossible” rent burden.
“A lot of businesses come into the area, they look at the demographics, they look at the average income per household,” McDaniel said. “On the books it looks like a perfect storm for a place to have a great business, because you have all these transients from Charlottesville and Richmond coming here. So why not open a yogurt shop, pastry shop, coffee shop, and you think you’ll get a large amount of traffic. But it’s just not there. People are buying their consumables at their destination, not here.”
The businesses that survive, said McDaniel, are usually the ones that focus on service – such as computer services, car repair, hair and nail salons, and restaurants. “The rest of them, where you have retail – I can’t count how many stores have come and gone,” he said.