Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 10, 2004

Where’s my retail fairy godmother?

Once again Morgan Hill is facing the very real possibility of losing one of its few major retailers. This time, Minneapolis-based Target Corp., parent company of Mervyn’s, has announced that it is considering selling its Mervyn’s stores.

A little over a year ago, when K-Mart announced that it would close its Morgan Hill store at Dunne and U.S. 101, I did not bemoan the loss of blue light specials.

This time, things are a bit different because I will miss Mervyn’s, located in Cochrane Plaza at Cochrane and U.S. 101, if it closes. I suspect, however, that with a Kohl’s on the way to the South County shopping mecca known as Gilroy, Mervyn’s days may be numbered. We had Kohl’s back in Central Ohio; the first time I walked into Mervyn’s I said to myself, “Ah, it’s a Kohl’s clone.”

When K-Mart’s impending and unmourned doom was announced, I used my column to state my preferences to take fill the roughly 100,000 square feet the discount retailer was vacating. My list included Trader Joe’s, Fry’s Electronics and Organized Living.

I ended that column with a plea that whatever retailer filled the K-Mart space be something new to South County.

What did we get? South County’s second Home Depot. Clearly, with the region’s third Safeway on the way, my retail fairy godmother has not been listening to me. Hoping that she’s back on duty, here I go again with another retail wish list.

This time the store that’s closing has 77,234 square feet. How about if Albertson’s, which currently lives in a much-too-small 23,200-square-foot store, takes up residence if Mervyn’s moves out? I understand that zoning restrictions which prohibit grocery stores in Cochrane Plaza will need to be changed; that should be eminently doable, and something I’d think the city’s many new northeast and northwest residents would support.

In addition, the Morgan Hill Albertson’s is the only South County store for that chain. I’m betting that Gilroy and San Martin residents will be more likely to shop there if the store is located right off 101, instead of having to wind their way through city streets to the store’s current location near downtown.

It’s long been rumored that Albertson’s officials want a better and larger location for their store; the Mervyn’s building would seem to fit the bill nicely.

Besides, with Albertson’s out of the way, part two of my grand plan can commence: Trader Joe’s can move into the space Albertson’s vacates. The 23,000-square-foot space at Dunne and Monterey should easily accommodate a Trader Joe’s, and let’s face it, the shopping center is very similar to the type of strip malls most Trader Joe’s stores I’ve visited call home. Not the fanciest, not on the hottest strip of real estate, but serviceable and near an upscale community that is interested in and able to afford ethnic and organic food, wine and unusual items like gorgonzola and walnut tortellini.

If my grand shopping scheme fails, I do have backup plans. My second choice would be for an upscale food store to take over the Mervyn’s space. I’m thinking of stores like Whole Foods (which a friend derisively calls Whole Paycheck), Cosentino’s, Lunardi’s or – dare a simple South County girl dream – Andronico’s.

According to the Whole Foods Web site, most new California stores are in the 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot range. The Mervyn’s building has plenty of space for Whole Foods and room leftover for another retailer to fill the rest of the space. Nordstrom Rack anyone?

If I have to give up my grocery goals altogether, then I’m heading back to my original list and rooting for a Fry’s Electronics. John Fry’s pet project, the American Institute of Mathematics, has wasted a lot of goodwill in Morgan Hill with its “what, the rules apply to us?” golf course development antics. What better way to rebuild that goodwill than filling city coffers with much-needed sales tax dollars from a brand-new Fry’s.

Of course, with a Fry’s five minutes away, I’d probably never see my husband and our family would constantly teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, but for the good of my community, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Just like last year, here’s my plea to the powers-that-be deciding what might take Mervyn’s place if it closes: Give us something new and different, something we don’t already have in South County.



  1. […] please, powers that be, heed my usual plea: Don’t duplicate a retailer that’s already in South County. Please. Possibly […]

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