Southern Village Shopping Center will lose an anchor Friday when Huntington Bank closes its doors.
Some see this as further decline to a once-bustling commerce center at Sunset Avenue and Selma Road, as well as a decline of shopping options in the southeast section of the city. Others believe the area is on the mend and good for small business.
Local attorney and developer Tom Lagos purchased the nearly 20-acre shopping center in 1991 and since then has worked with small business tenants.
“What we’re really targeting is the person that wants to get started,” Lagos said. “It’s very difficult for small businesses to get started.”
Lagos said that all but two small storefronts are occupied in the shopping center, which has close to 20 organizations and businesses.
While he admits the loss of Huntington may cause a drop in traffic, the true draws of the shopping center — the Flea Market, Dollar General and Just Smokes tobacco store, he says — are still doing well.
The Southeast Neighborhood Association represents thousands of potential Southern Village customers between Burnett Road and Selma Road. Marianne Nave, president of the association, said many in the neighborhood are no longer driving and need the bank. And those who can drive no longer have as many choices on the south end of town.
“We used to have quite a nice shopping center,” Nave said. “It used to be we had a choice between shopping on Burnett or shopping on Southern Village. Now we have to go clear out to the mall area and Bechtle Avenue. It is a problem.”
The shopping center lost an anchor, a Big Bear grocery, a decade ago.
“We are always trying to get a grocery store,” Lagos said. “But it’s getting very difficult.”
Lagos said smaller grocery stores can’t compete against stores like Walmart for prices.
“With a national organization, they want to always consolidate what they have. We need areas like Southern Village to cater to more small businesses. Every dollar spent here stays in Clark County.”
Lagos believes he can get a new tenant quickly to replace Huntington.
“It’s a shame that banks are closing their branches that serve lower-income families,” he said.
Local Huntington employees are not allowed to speak to media. But a corporate spokesman said the bank regularly reviews and consolidates locations.
“Branches are reviewed for customer traffic patterns, transaction trends and proximity to nearby Huntington branch locations,” said Brent Wilder, spokesman. “Huntington will continue to serve our customers at our 5 W. North St. branch and all other locations in our branch network.”
Huntington has locations on North Bechtle Avenue and Derr Road.
Jimmy Leonard said he goes to the shopping center only to use the bank.
“Now I’m gonna fight to get into a bank downtown,” Leonard said.
The shopping center has “lost a lot of business down through here and it seems like a lot of wasted space. But you’ve got some stuff like the school and a couple other things, so people do come here,” Leonard said.
Lagos said the complex has one of the largest bases of potential customers in Springfield in a radius of one, three and five miles.
Currently, the shopping center has the Dollar General as well as a number of consignment and thrift shops, a Chinese restaurant, a church and two schools.
“I’ve been over here three years and it is growing. Slowly, it’s growing,” said Terry Fent, who owns the Flea Market.
Fent has been involved with flea markets for more than 30 years and said interest in them dipped but is rising. In the last three years he has been able to increase his advertising and the amount of vendors selling goods in the store.
He has seen an increase in local traffic and from out-of-town shoppers as well, he said.
“We have more businesses and more traffic,” Fent said.
Valerie Cooper, a Schaefer Middle School teacher, started out selling clothing at a booth inside the flea market more than a year ago. That grew to seven booths, and then she opened her own store in the shopping center. Cooper’s business did so well that she moved into a much larger space in the center just a month ago.
Cooper says its a combination of low prices and other businesses such as the new bingo hall driving traffic.
“Everybody likes the entertainment, and of course we have a school there,” she said. “All those components are working together. And at the flea market people like to buy thrift items, and the General Dollar has people there and traffic all day long.”
Upcoming projects include a renovation at Dollar General and potentially more work on the parking lot. Lagos said he’s spent $250,000 repairing the lot in the last four or five years.