Retailers on Moana await better days |

Retailers on Moana await better days

Rob Sabo

Derek Dimitri, manager of Reno Mountain Sports on Moana Lane, has seen retail activity in the area decline over the years as business after business departed the Sierra Marketplace Shopping Center, the high-profile property at Moana Lane and South Virginia Street.

And retailing in the area has been even further curtailed this summer with the heavy construction going on up and down Moana Lane as general contractor Q&D Construction works through the long-awaited widening of the Moana corridor.

But Dimitri and other retailers on Moana Lane hopes that the project revitalizes businesses along the Moana corridor when the $36 million project is complete.

Q&D is pushing to get the lane-widening job done in time for Black Friday shopping and it couldn’t come soon enough for Reno Mountain Sports. The venerable ski and snowboard retailer always suffers a seasonal summer swoon and counts on sales of kayaking gear and kayak rentals to carry it through until winter, Dimitri says. But the summer rental business has plummeted due to the congestion and accessibility issues associated with construction efforts.

The store ran specials for kayak rentals through Groupon and LivingSocial that helped spur newcomers to the store, and about 75 percent of the deals purchased were from people who had never before been in the store, says Dimitri, whose been with Reno Mountain Sports for nine years. The store’s regular customers still come in, he says, but new foot traffic has been light all summer.

It’s something many retailers on Moana have grown used to.

“Ever since (Sierra Marketplace) emptied out, it has had an effect on the whole of Moana from Keitzke to South Virginia,” Dimitri says. “That was a big staple over there. It was a real popular shopping center, and there has been a major decline in walk-in foot traffic. This no longer is a popular shopping area.”

Biggest Little Investments, owner of Sierra Marketplace, says the center once anchored by a Smith’s Grocery was 78 percent vacant in the second quarter.

Despite the difficulties the construction has brought, retailers are eyeing the finished product with high hopes.

Heather Crow, owner of the Cosmic Coffee stand tucked away for the past five years in a parking lot about a hundred yards from the corners of Moana and Keitzke, says revenues were halved once construction on the concrete roadbed started. Though she’s clearing enough at the stand to cover overhead costs, the reduction in visitors has eroded her profit margin. She’s begun closing the shop two hours early to shave payroll expenses.

Still, Crow says, the stand could potentially reap more profits once the widening project ends the stand will be about 50 yards closer to Moana Lane traffic with improved access and visibility.

“I’ll be on the corner, and I didn’t have to move,” she says. “They brought the corner to me.

“It’s a good thing; I think we all will be better off when it’s over,” Crow adds. “I would rather look at the big picture than this six months.”

Mary Weneta, owner-buyer with Bobo’s Ski-Board-Patio, also is looking to the finished product rather than focusing on any inconveniences brought about by construction. Q&D and the Regional Transportation Commission have worked hard to keep access open to the various businesses along Moana and inform shop owners about construction schedules, Weneta says.

“They are keeping us informed every step of the way,” she says. “It is a little tough now, because it is a little harder for our customers to get in, and everyone is in a hurry these days. Everyone needs to take a few extra moments.”

At Sportsman’s Warehouse, Store Manager Erica Zavala says foot traffic into the store has been curbed by about 8 percent starting in July. However, Zavala says, year-over-year sales were up about 10 percent in July and are trending up about 12 percent for August. Shoppers who brave the construction are there to buy rather than kick the tires, he says.

The upturn in sales has helped Zavala keep staff members working instead of cutting hours.

“We didn’t see the drop-off that we thought we would, even though it is a pain to get here,” he says.

Kevin Linderman, vice president of Q&D’s engineering division, says the general contractor is about halfway through construction work.