Randy Exelby owns what is called a "destination shop," so his business will not be drastically affected by others going out of business around it.
However, the owner of Behind The Mask, a hockey equipment and apparel store with three locations, does not like what has become of Kyrene Village shopping center, site of Exelby's Chandler shop. The once-thriving mixture of shops and eateries at Kyrene Road and Chandler Boulevard has suffered a parade of closings in recent years: the anchor Bashas' grocery store, Hallmark, Dairy Queen, Discount Tire, Burger King and Heart Attack Grill.
"We never have been dependent on traffic in the plaza," said Exelby, who has had the Chandler location for 12 years. "People didn't go to Bashas' and then impulsively decide to buy hockey equipment.
"But the plaza is empty, which is kind of a downer. People come in and say it looks like a ghost town. And there are less places for my employees to eat, so it is an inconvenience for us."
Chandler hopes to address the condition of such places as Kyrene Village through Mayor Jay Tibshraeny's Four Corners Plan designed to revitalize or re-use aging, high-vacancy shopping centers. A committee of business people, real-estate professionals and citizens, expected to meet in August and provide recommendations in the fall, is the plan's first step.
"We're having trouble keeping ahead of the older centers," said Chandler economic development specialist James Smith. "We'd like to give (the committee) a blank slate and see what can happen with these areas."
Among the city's concern spots are shopping centers along Dobson and Alma School roads and Arizona Avenue, East Valley Mall at Arizona Avenue and Warner Road and a center at the northwest corner of Alma School and Queen Creek roads, where Bashas' has departed, and Target will soon follow.
"The best kind of economic activity is the kind that creates jobs, but also fills vacancies," Tibshraeny said. "The group we're putting together will address those key corridors in Chandler. We'll address that proactively as a city and come up with some long-term solutions that will help us address those issues."
Since the plan is in its infancy, Smith said, specific strategies have not been discussed.
He said all options are on the table, from improving a shopping center's appearance, providing financial and other incentives for businesses to relocate, re-using the space for non-retail purposes and tearing down and building anew with residential or office space.
Terri Kimble, president and CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, cited the Chandler Preparatory Academy, located at former retail space on the corner of Warner and Alma School roads, as a successful re-use transformation.
"You have 1,100 students and their families there every day, and that's great traffic flow for other business around there," Kimble said.
"We want business to thrive and not have blighted corners. The chance to re-use and re-develop and think outside the box is an exciting possibility."
A similar plan worked for Chandler in the 2000s, when the opening of Chandler Fashion Center and Santan Freeway led to businesses relocating at or near the mall and traffic patterns changing. Such areas as Chandler Mercado and North Park plaza were hit hard by vacancies, but rebounded.
"Those centers were re-energized," Smith said. "North Park Plaza went from 40 percent to about 97 percent occupied."
Exelby is hopeful that it can happen again in such places as Kyrene Village.
"I think it's great if the cities can look at it," Exelby said. "In the whole economy, the mom-and-pop shops have been by themselves. The government has bailed out and saved the big corporations, and the mom-and-pops got decimated by the economy. It's nice if someone would do something to help them."