Kitchen store in Towne Center closing
BD Kitchen Co.—one of the city's only locally owned kitchen stores—is closing its Towne Center location at the end of the month, less than two years after opening. Owners Bill Bethea and Ronnie Daley attribute their decision to permanently shutter the store to a lack of marketing support from shopping center management and a lack of foot traffic, something that has been a common complaint of retailers located on the "back," or Jefferson Highway side, of the development.
"I need 90 people a day walking in front of my store—with half coming in—to make this business work," Bethea says. "We weren't getting one-tenth of that."
The 3,000-square-foot space was the second location in Towne Center for BD Kitchen; it previously was located in a smaller space on the Corporate Boulevard side, commonly considered the "front," of the shopping center. Bethea says they were barely breaking even when the store was located on the Corporate Boulevard side of the center, so they moved to the bigger space, where he could offer cooking classes and, presumably, generate more business. It helped but not enough.
"You have five times as much foot traffic in the front of this shopping center as you do in the back," says Bethea. "Yet you still pay the high, monthly CAM [Common Area Management] charges, and they don't do anything to help you advertise."
Bethea and Daley say they regularly complained to management about the lack of marketing support. They point out that Perkins Rowe rents an electronic billboard—located directly across Corporate Boulevard from Towne Center— promoting its retail tenants, some of which compete with Towne Center's tenants. Perkins Rowe and the Mall of Louisiana also sponsor seasonal events—Christmas caroling or pictures with Santa—and host community gatherings, which Daley believes go a long way toward drawing family foot traffic to retail shops.
"This is a family town," says Daley. "Who ever heard of a shopping center without a Santa? We've never had a Santa here. And when we've asked, they said they couldn't do it because of liability."
In a written statement, Towne Center owner Stephen Keller defends the center's marketing efforts, saying, "We engage in yearlong marketing campaigns and advertising efforts. … The fact we're nearly 100% leased is a testament not only to our strength as a retail center but also [to] our retailers' confidence in the support they receive from us."
BD Kitchen is the latest of several local retailers to close in Towne Center this year. Privé, a lingerie boutique, shut down in late September after nearly five years in business. Earlier this year, the Shipping Center closed its location next to Cold Stone Creamery.
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