When Lowe’s Home Improvement Center pulled out of San Marcos’ Creekside Marketplace shopping center last year, it left a huge building vacant. Now, major renovations are underway for two long-established chains with no stores in the San Diego area.
Hobby Lobby, with over 500 locations nationwide, expects to open their 58,000-square-foot store by September, corporate director of construction Zack Higbee said on June 4. The county was without the popular arts-and-crafts store until May 5, when their La Mesa store opened. Previously, the nearest locations were in Temecula and Laguna Niguel.
According to Forbes Magazine, Hobby Lobby is one of America’s largest family-held private companies and carries no long-term debt.
Hobby Lobby was thrust into the spotlight in 2013 for fighting Omabacare regulations, which mandated family planning and the morning-after abortion pill in their employee healthcare coverage. “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles” is one of their missions, according to their website.
WinCo Foods supermarket will take over the remaining space previously occupied by Lowe’s. With over 100 locations in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest, this will be WinCo’s first San Diego County location. There are five in Riverside County.
WinCo may have an uphill battle. The Southern California grocery business is already overcrowded with major chains fighting the expanding, lower-priced Costco, Target, and Walmart, and the increasing popularity of specialty stores such as Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods.
Also, a new grocery player recently entered the market: Haggen Food & Pharmacy, a longtime Northwest chain took over numerous San Diego grocery-store locations, as mandated by last year’s Vons/Albertsons merger.
Industry experts say that grocery shoppers are loyal to their preferred stores. Just ask the former owners of Smith’s Food King, a Utah-based chain that had plans in 1995 to infiltrate SoCal with up to 60 super-sized food-and-drug stores. Most closed shortly after the failed attempt.
Folks walking around the remaining stores at the Creekside Marketplace center, located on the southwest corner of Highway 78 at San Marcos Boulevard, felt that the Lowe’s went out of business because they located just across the freeway from a Home Depot. Additionally, when Lowe’s planned to pack up, they opened a supercenter just six miles west in a more upscale area of Carlsbad.
Historical footnote: Established restaurant and retail chains operating outside of California, such as Hobby Lobby and WinCo, seem to attempt to enter into the Southern California market via the high-desert areas of Palmdale and Victorville. It is believed that because residents in those areas generally commute south to more populated job centers in L.A. and the Inland Empire, it is easier to spread brand loyalty and gauge expansion potential. SoCal’s first Walmart location was in Lancaster in the mid-1980s; the re-establishment of Bob’s Big Boy started in Victorville, in the early 1990s; the first Southern California Steak n’ Shake location opened in Victorville last year; Del Taco made its now 550-restaurant start in Barstow in 1964.