It’s hard to keep something under wraps when your landlord’s real estate agent puts a “For Lease” ad on the front page of the local newspaper. That ad ran last Thursday to solicit a new tenant for the building at 2281 W. Liberty, where Fresh Seasons Market has been located for about 20 years. And it prompted the grocery’s customers to ask: What’s up?
“We’re not signed, sealed and delivered yet,” said Fresh Seasons general manager Jan DeMunnik, referring to their new, undisclosed location, which she characterized as “very close” to the current store. They hadn’t planned to announce the move just yet, she said, but the real estate advertisement forced their hand.
Since then they’ve put a notice about the move on the sign outside their business, and are passing out flyers to customers that explain the situation – and to make sure people know that they are not closing.
Ben and Lynda Stahl bought the business 15 years ago from Gary Coleman, who still owns the building but lives out of state. They’ve been on a renewable five-year lease, which ends later this year. That made it a good time to look around for alternative space, DeMunnik said. Because of the economy, there are a lot of empty buildings and good deals, she explained.
They found a location with lower rent and in better condition, DeMunnik said. The space will allow them to keep their outdoor area as well – the market has a large garden section, selling annuals and perennials in season, and Christmas trees during November and December.
The Chronicle asked DeMunnik whether the new location might be the former CVS store about a block away, just east of Stadium on Liberty. That store has been empty since early 2008, when CVS moved to its new building at 2100 W. Stadium Blvd. The former Arbor Farms store, just north of Liberty on West Stadium Boulevard, is also vacant. So is the one-story commercial building at Liberty and First, next to Liberty Lofts condos. Earlier this year, that building was being looked at for a possible European-style indoor farmers market.
DeMunnik said she couldn’t comment on any speculation about the store’s future location. She said they’ll inform customers as soon as they can, saying it was difficult to know how soon that would be. They hope to move after the holidays, which is traditionally a slow time for the store, she said. But that depends on how things come together with the new landlord.
Because they were forced to reveal their plans to move, DeMunnik says they’re now using it as an opportunity to get feedback from customers about what changes they should make at the new location. Feedback forms haven’t yielded any concrete suggestions so far, she said, other than customers urging them to stay open – which they are.
“We won’t be any different,” DeMunnik said. “We just might look a little different.”
Jim Chaconas, an agent with Colliers International, is representing Coleman in trying to lease or possibly sell the 8,100-square-foot building where Fresh Seasons is now located. The building, on 1.5 acres, is listed for sale at $1.2 million. According to city records, the property’s state equalized value (SEV) is $591,900. Typically, market value is roughly double a property’s SEV.
The lease rate will depend on what changes prospective tenants want to make to the building, Chaconas said, but would likely be in the $12-$15 per-square-foot range, triple net (meaning that the tenant would also pay for taxes, insurance and maintenance).
The property is zoned C2B, or a “business service district.” From the city’s description of C2B zoning:
This district is designed to provide for certain types of commercial activities which have functional and economic relationships to a central business or fringe commercial district. Such activities will include wholesale suppliers, retail and supply warehouses, motor vehicle major repair and service agencies, carports and other parking establishments, equipment and machinery dealers, building materials dealers, food processing plants, farm and garden supply stores, places of entertainment or recreation, public utility facilities and retail establishments related in a peripheral manner to those of the Central Business District.
In this district the customer may come to the particular establishments either by automobile or as an extension of the CBD (Central Business District) pedestrian shopping activity. Since there is little essential interdependence of activities, each establishment can have its own automobile parking area. Good traffic accessibility is essential to this district, particularly for trucks and other freight carriers. The uses permitted, because of their required contact with auto and truck traffic, would be incompatible in the Central Business District.
Chaconas said the zoning allowed for great flexibility: “I can sell cars. I can sell fruit. I can put a restaurant there, if I want to.”
One prospective tenant is interested in putting another market in that spot, he said. Others who’ve expressed interest haven’t indicated how they’d use the building.