The Ceres City Council took steps on Monday to continue its economic development push.
One course of action was to approve the spending of $45,000 for the Chico firm of Chabin Concepts, Inc. to complete an update of the Ceres Economic Development Strategic Plan (CEDSP). The plan was crafted 10 years ago to define appropriate, realistic and implementable strategies to help the Ceres achieve economic development objectives.
The council also heard from the agency that has been promoting Ceres to new businesses.
Since 2019 The Retail Coach (TRC) has been helping the city to recruit retailers to Ceres and has created a “Developer Opportunity Package” for each targeted retailer of specific restaurant/retailers that has been the focus of marketing efforts. The firm has been actively recruiting retailers, as well as commercial developers, on Ceres’ behalf. Additionally, TRC is assisting marketing efforts to retailers, developers, and brokers at retail industry conference and trade shows as well as provide ongoing coaching and support.
Aaron Farmer, president of TRC, told the council that there are plenty of reasons why Ceres should be optimistic about an expansion of new retailers on the immediate horizon. He said using cell phone data helped his firm determine Ceres’ retail trade area – not just city population – “is a lot larger than we thought it was and really a lot larger than a lot of retailers think it is.”
While Ceres is just under 50,000 residents, cell phone data of folks coming into the Ceres business sector reveals a retail trade area of over 250,000. He said that data can better “tell the city’s story” and to sell that narrative to potential companies that could fit the market.
“For a long time you’ve really been clumped in as what we would call a ‘tweener,’ which is a community which is really sitting in between two other competing communities,” Farmer said. “And so a lot of retailers and developers have historically just lumped Ceres in as an extension of the Modesto market or an extension of that Turlock market.
“Ceres is actually a standalone market. We’re not just this in between ground in between two other markets.”
Last year TRC conducted a “retail gap survey” and identified over 30 firms not in the market area which Ceres stands a chance to attract. Farmer noted that Ceres lacks many businesses, including full service dining merchants and clothing retailers.
The companies identified as possibilities for Ceres to snag were: Anytime Fitness, Arby’s, Best Buy, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, California Pizza Kitchen, Chick-Fil-A, Cinemark Theaters, Corner Bakery, Cracker Barrel, Einstein Bros Bagels, Fry’s Electronics, Kohl’s, Marshall’s, Men’s Wearhouse, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, Pacific Cinemas, Panera Bread, Pet Supplies Plus, PetSense, Raising Cane’s, Regal Cinemas, Sephora, Sprouts Farmers Market, Stein Mart, Studio Movie Grill, Target, TJ Maxx, TJX Companies Brands, Top Golf / Drive Shack, Trade Joe’s, Tuesday Morning, Ulta Beauty and WinCo Foods. Only Raising Cane’s is expected to come to Ceres in the immediate future.
The firm says it helped Ceres to snag Harbor Freight Tools and the forthcoming Raising Cane’s restaurant, Dutch Bros coffee shop and Ono Hawaiian BBQ.
Farmer said TRC is close to snagging a retailer to occupy the vacant Rancho San Miguel store in the Ceres Marketplace on Hatch Road. He said over the next 12 months the company will go out and proactively promote existing sites for retailers, including for the abandoned Walmart store building.
He also noted that retailers are optimistic following the economic slowdown due to COVID.
While some retailers are cool to coming into Ceres currently, Farmer said it’s all about “staying persistent” in highlighting Ceres’ “pretty good” demographics and making sure retailers keep Ceres in mind when they look to expand.
He also predicted that retailers will be interested in traffic corridors other than Highway 99. Farmer noted that his firm has been selling Ceres to one unnamed “higher tier fast casual” restaurant, pitching the new Ceres Gateway Center at Service and Mitchell roads. He said the company seems interested in building a pad at the former Walmart store at Hatch and Mitchell roads when that vacant building is rehabilitated for new retailers.
Farmer also suggested that the abandoned Walmart store could be filled by divided into two or three sections if it doesn’t work as a large-scale indoor recreation facility or indoor movie theater. He said the goal is to stay clear from having that site used for industrial or storage uses despite an interest in doing so.
“Obviously we want to drive what’s going to be the best long term for the community but from our end we’ve been proactively putting that site in front of entertainment concepts … Fun Zone type users. We’ve also gone out to big box retailers.”
No firms have expressed interest in the old Walmart building other than indoor storage or industrial uses.