If you’re a Long Branch store owner, you are probably already sick of people telling you that, what with the Purple Line coming, Big Changes are on the way.
All the same, taking the time now to plan ahead for such changes – whether they’re good or not so good — will only be to your advantage.
The obvious thing to consider, as many Long Branch businesses already are, is how to adjust your product mix, as well as your style and brand, for a changing demographic.
Even if you are not yet seeing changes in your clientele, after the Purple Line is built (about four years from now), transportation from surrounding areas into Long Branch will be easier than ever before, bringing new faces to the neighborhood.
What is more, the new rail line will encourage new housing development, which means even more new faces. Will you, and your product mix, be positioned to take advantage of the opportunity?
Other changes, however, could be more challenging. A lot more challenging. For example, your strip could be redeveloped. Or traffic disruptions during construction could end up being worse than expected. In either case a move to a new location becomes a very likely result.
One local Long Branch business already had to face that challenge.
Two years ago, Coby Hough, owner of the Precision Tune auto repair franchise, was confronted with the need to move. He didn’t have a choice in the matter. Due to widening of University Blvd. to make room for the light rail line, he had to close his successful repair garage at the corner of University and Piney Branch road and move after 20 years in business.
But where? After a two-year search, Hough decided to take advantage of an empty car garage space conveniently available just four blocks from his previous spot.
Unfortunately, after the move, Hough found that about a third of his old clients were unwilling to make the trip across University Blvd. to the new place. Worse, his rent and utilities in the new and much larger space had now almost doubled. His new lease agreement added further headaches. As a result, the very survival of his business is now in question.
“We were patient and took our time to find the right space,” Hough told the Newsletter. “We felt very fortunate when the larger space became available so close to our existing location. It was quite a surprise when car counts started to decline after the move.”
This example should encourage you to start getting prepared. Some steps, and questions, to keep in mind:
• Don’t even think of signing a new lease without a lawyer or business counselor first reviewing it for you!
• Track your sales data. If sales are down through no fault of your own, consider asking for adjustments when renewing your lease;
• Do research now on exactly where your clients are located. Figure out a way to collect their addresses (raffle something off). Even if you never move, it will help you target your marketing efforts;
• Never rent a space without an engineer first examining the property for problems;
• Take advantage of opportunities for business advice made available by the County’s new CIP legislation — contact Richard Cisneros at LEDC [firstname.lastname@example.org] or Paul Grenier [email@example.com] to learn more. See also resources list, back page.
• Join the Business League.
Incidentally, it’s easier than ever to join the Business League on the new DiscoverLongBranch.com website: just click ‘Join Business League’ in the top right-hand corner. (And now is the time to do it.)
Not to pat ourselves on the back, but here’s what Coby Hough told us, unsolicited, on this very subject: “I appreciate the support I have received from the Business League since I joined after the move. I only wish that I had gotten involved sooner when I first learned we were going to have to move.”
“I only wish I had gotten involved sooner … ”
Here’s a final thought. If you support your neighboring businesses, it encourages them to support you, and everyone gains.
Need your laundry done? Bring it to work with you and support a local laundromat. Want to add some specialty desserts to your restaurant menu? We have two specialized bakeries in the neighborhood (and several other in-house ones). Want flowers on your tables? We have a flower store right on Flower Ave. We also have a great Long Branch fish store, and great business accountants, and lawyers; we have wine stores and a computer store … the list goes on and on. Don’t believe me? Look it up right here on DiscoverLongBranch.com!