Buy Low Closes, Surprises No One

Buy Low, a grocery store near Movies 8, is closing, according to an article by my former colleague Genelle Pugmire. Honestly I was surprised to hear it hadn’t closed already.

The article states that the store never had the support it needed.

“There was not enough business to support the store,” Afsari said. Buy Low managers also had complained about losing business by not being open on Sunday when other grocery stores in the area were open seven days a week.

“It was also kind of hard to support it in Utah,” Afsari added. The Provo Buy Low was the only one in Utah. The Buy Low chain has 25 stores in Southern California and Nevada.

What’s odd is that the owners attribute the difficulties to the store’s hours of operation when really it was in just about the worst spot imaginable for a grocery store, or for anything at all:

The Buy Low grocery store was surrounded by a massive parking lot.

The Buy Low grocery store was surrounded by a massive parking lot.

Even by conventional suburban standards this isn’t a good location for a grocery store. It’s not located near any residences and, more importantly, it’s not visible from the street:

Incredibly, Google Street view is actually available inside the Buy Low parking lot. This is the view from the most distant parking spaces.

Incredibly, Google Street view is actually available inside the Buy Low parking lot. This is the view from the most distant parking spaces.

And this is the view from the street, where the potential customers are passing.

And this is the view from the street, where the potential customers are passing.

By more human-oriented standards this location is even worse, with its massive — and massively underused — parking lot that feels less like a sea than a desert of pavement. It’s ugly, uncalled for, and clearly a bad spot. The fact that Buy Low corporate honchos chose it suggests that they probably just looked at demographic information and never really understood the situation on the street.

I occasionally visited this store and its predecessors while waiting for movies to start. Tellingly, it felt like a very long walk from the theater — just out of view in the top left of the first picture — to the Buy Low. In other words, it wasn’t even easy to walk from one side of the parking lot to the other; the environment is so antagonistic it’s no surprise people generally don’t go there.

As Genelle’s article points out, this situation has doomed several other businesses:

Buy Low, located at 2250 N. University Parkway, is one of a number of grocery stores that have gone in and out of business over the past decade at the location, including Food 4 Less and Reams.

After three failed grocery stores it seems like it’s time to address the structural problems with this location rather than throwing money at it and futilely hoping it’ll work. Or at least, that’s what I’d do if I owned this spot and wanted to attract a tenant. Ultimately landlocked Provo can’t afford to have these huge, wasted spaces that underperform at best and more often drive businesses to ruin.

But in any case, this is a perfect example of poor design costing business owners, property owners and the city money. Or said another way, building or allowing these types of environments impoverishes a city.

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1 Comment

Filed under Development, economics, parking

One response to “Buy Low Closes, Surprises No One

  1. Pingback: A Mall-To-Neighborhood Case Study | (pro(vo)cation)

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