Big box breakdown in San Marcos

Lowe's is out, WinCo and Hobby Lobby are coming in

Future home of Hobby Lobby
  • Future home of Hobby Lobby

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.

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As the writer of this story, here's a more personal note about this area; The farm house my father was born in used to sit at the intersection of Hwy. 78 and San Marcos Blvd. The shopping center mentioned in this story was probably part of the Harrison family's original 160 acre homestead. Documents at the San Marcos Historical Society note that back in the day, the Harrison house was "the most beautiful house in the San Marcos Valley."

My grandfather Ira Lee Harrison sold his 40 acres in 1917 when they moved to Palm Springs due to my dad's illness as a little boy. My grandfather's brother, Hiram Harrison, stayed on his San Marcos farm, and that side of the family is still there, owners of Harrison's Equipment on Twin Oaks Valley Rd.

The farm house stood until the 1960s, when it was burned down as part of a fire dept. training exercise, to make way for construction of Hwy. 78 and San Marcos Blvd.

"And now you know . . . the rest of the story" - Veteran broadcaster Paul Harvey

Great! More low wage low/no benefit part time dead end jobs. Just what the area needs more employers who's for profit business model relies on taxpayer funded welfare for their employees.

winco is employee owned.
but yeah, let's get rid of wal-mart!

Actually, Hobby Lobby's wages are far greater than that of similar places. Employees of their competitor's have reported receiving no more that $0.25/hour from their starting wage after 5 years there, whereas compensation at Hobby Lobby was near $15/hour. Benefits are also offered.

Oh, who is that competitor? Michaels? That's the closest thing to a Hobby Lobby. But Hobby Lobby has stores that are far larger, and with a broader selection.

For a few years I had the misfortune to shop repeatedly both the Home Depot and the Lowe's there on San Marcos Blvd. Consistently the HD had about five times the patronage of the Lowe's. Those big box outlets need a large business to be profitable, and Lowe's just didn't have it there. Note that they're also in Escondido and Vista and Oceanside, in addition to Carlsbad. Many retailers don't like to face up to reality, and keep under-performing stores open for many years past the time they should have been closed. A few years ago, while making a visit to New England I passed what had been a big Lowe's store very close to the Manchester, NH airport. There it sat in its white-trimmed-in-red-and-blue glory, with a temporary cyclone fence around it. Lowe's couldn't make it there in what was one of the best spots in the region, and they pulled the plug.

As to that Ace Hardware on Grand, facing the 78, I don't think its demise had much to do directly with either HD or Lowe's. The city had wanted to clear those properties, and actually bragged when that operation closed up. And yes, I wish it were still there.

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