Longtime tenants of the Village Shopping Center in Davenport have seen many stores come and go at Iowa’s first shopping center, opened nearly 55 years ago.
Smaller strip centers, major league malls and shopping zones such Elmore Avenue have become the trendier choice over the years.
But the granddaddy of them all is making a comeback.
After some lean years, merchants at the Village Shopping Center at 902 W. Kimberly Road — the corner of Northwest Boulevard and West Kimberly Road — feel very optimistic about its future.
“We are getting a lot more customers come in,” said Annetta Blackwell, manager of Dots, a women’s fashion store that has been a staple there for 22 years.
“We are getting a lot more traffic from Citi Trends, which moved in the end of October. It brought quite a bit of traffic to the plaza.”
Valerie Felton has owned Village Barber and Styling Shop since 1975. Her business is the only original one left from March 1956, when the Village Shopping Center opened. The concept was simple and had been around for decades elsewhere — but not in Iowa. Robert Silberstein, then president of a Peoria, Ill., developer called Service Realty & Investment Co., opened the state’s first shopping center with 29 stores in 14,000 square feet of space.
Instead of a shopping district with stores spread over an area of square blocks, Silberstein offered a concentration of buying opportunities in a now-familiar strip shopping configuration with plenty of free, convenient parking.
The center, which has grown to 250,000 square feet, has been owned by Chase Properties of Cleveland, Ohio, since 1987. It is one of 21 shopping centers in 12 states owned by the firm, said Andy Kline, a principal in the owner group.
Felton said the Village Shopping Center offers advantages a larger mall cannot. “We service a different type of clientele. With our parking, you can pull right up and is very convenient,” she said.
Sue Grant has owned Minuteman Press there for almost 20 years. She currently serves as president of the Village Merchants Association. She has seen more activity lately.
“There are just a couple of spots (open) compared to the beginning of this year,” she said, mentioning three retail stores that have opened in the past three months. “But we also lost Premier (Home Furnishings) this summer.”
Last month, Tsunami Buffet opened in the former Old Country Buffet, which closed in February 2005. Owner Joe Li owns and operates similar restaurants in North Carolina and Texas. The Davenport site is an “all-you-can-eat” buffet with three different types of food: Japanese food that diners select and have grilled, sushi and Chinese food.
Citi Trends, a national clothing and retail store, opened at the end of October in two storefronts. The third new store is Advanced Auto Parts. Manager LaCinda Bader said it is located where the former Blockbuster Video store was.
“We have three stores in the Quad-Cities and more on the way, down the road,” Bader said.
She said the store used to be located at Bridge Avenue and East Locust Street until it closed four years ago with plans to quickly find another spot. It took longer than expected. “But we are here now and happy to be here,” she said. “It is a very good location. I like it.”
“It has been a good center for us,” Kline, of Chase Properties, said. “We have had a lot of tenant interest and continue to have tenant interest in the property.”
He said there are about six vacancies altogether from among more than 30 store spots. Once negotiations begin, it can be up to a year before a new tenant moves it.
The biggest vacancy is the former Eagle Foods grocery store, which closed several years ago when the grocery chain closed. Two years ago, Steve & Barry’s, a national clothing chain, closed after it appeared to be doing well in that spot, merchants said.
“We need a good anchor for the center,” Kline said.
Panera Bread is building its third Quad-City location at the far southeast corner of the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and West Kimberly Road. John Kauffman, marketing and public relations manager for Panera Bread of Iowa, previously said the bakery-cafe will open this winter.
While not officially part of the shopping center, its proximity is a definite asset, many of the existing merchants said.
“Panera will draw people to this side of town,” Felton said. “For awhile, everything was going to Elmore Avenue. It is good to see if some of this stuff comes through.”
Sierra Wardrop is manager of the Subway restaurant located on the west side of the center, facing West Kimberly Road. She said the shop expanded about a year ago, taking over a second storefront. That meant the Sprint store, which was located next door, had to move elsewhere in the plaza. “We needed more seating,” Wardrop said.
“It is good with the holidays coming up, and the new stores, that is drawing them in,” she said. “The new stores brings them in and then they realize what is here.”