Danville Express

Newsfront - November 16, 2007

YardBirds neighbors report mixed results

The Dog says sales back up; others say walk-in traffic still down

by Natalie O'Neill

Retail shops that rely on YardBirds employees for walk-in business - like The Dog in Alamo - have found their way out of a sales slump, now that the home improvement center has been open six months.

"Sales are back up. We have employee customers coming in again," said Drew Nichols, co-owner of the popular sausage restaurant in Las Trampas Center.

Last November, owners of the restaurant explained they had seen a 27 percent decrease in sales from the time YardBirds closed five months earlier.

"I love having it back," Nichols said.

But other neighboring businesses say the new home improvement store isn't attracting as much foot traffic as it did before Home Depot bought out YardBirds two years ago. This is having a negative effect on business in the center as a whole, they say.

"It's still been slow. They don't have as much small stuff - the light bulbs and bolts. People want knickknacks," said Wendy Luu, manager of Wendy's Hair and Nail Studio, located a couple doors over from Home Depot-YardBirds.

Fewer people drop into the salon for hair and nail treatment because fewer people drop in to Home Depot-YardBirds for quick purchases, she said.

"There's too much showroom space. How often do you remodel your house?" Luu said.

When Home Depot took over YardBirds two years ago, one of its goals was to add an appliance section in addition to the staples. Alamo shoppers spoke up against the change at a meeting with corporate representatives in March 2006, explaining they wanted a simple nuts-and-bolts shop.

Now, businesses are echoing the same desire.

"They took away some of the basics and tried to make it a little more upscale. People want to go in and find a nail or a screw," said Tina Goldman, manager at Design Concepts Interior, located across from The Dog.

Kathryn Gallagher, West Coast spokeswoman for Home Depot, said she did not have numbers for sales in individual stores. Returning store manager Keith Gilbert said he could not comment on sales or why the center has been quieter.

But some conjecture that the colder season could be playing a role in why Alamo folks have less of a desire to take on improvement projects - and why the center is less bustling.

Mary Jane Jossey, owner of the House of Fashion Wigs, which is several doors down from YardBirds, said her clothing and wig sales have gone up slightly since the opening, but it's too early to tell if business will be slower permanently.

"I think it's going to take a little time. When you open a new business people don't come flooding in the door," she said.

The store is the same size and shape as the old YardBirds and has been remodeled on the inside.

When it reopened officially in May, managers said the only major product the store has taken out is lumber. Nuts, bolts and nails can be purchased in small plastic packages.

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