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Another View: Costco" Wal-Mart" Consider ‘other’ options, poll says

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, Auburn Journal publisher
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The votes are in and, well, it’s a split decision on what consumers want on the Bohemia Retail project property off Highway 49 in North Auburn. In a highly unscientific, weeklong poll conducted through Auburnjournal.com, online voters selected Costco as the most favored big-box store for the 19-acre site near Luther Road and Canal Street. Costco earned 37 percent of the 1,464 votes cast, while Wal-Mart tallied 22 percent and Lowe’s garnered just 2 percent. “Other” actually took top honors with 40 percent, but this tally jumped dramatically when “or none of the above” was added halfway through the seven-day polling period, when it was clear voters and online commenters were looking for another option. See what I mean about the lack of scientific validity? Then again, maybe if “Other (or none of the above)” was an option to our state and federal election ballots, we might have a better read on what voters want in their elected leaders. Of course, these poll results don’t have any official weight. Developer Jim Conkey will partner with the business of his choosing that meets the planning criteria for the site. Coincidentally, Conkey wrote a letter to the editor in response to the poll, saying his own poll of a similar sample size indicated “the clear ‘winners’ are Costco, Wal-Mart, Winco and Lowe’s.” But the votes, and the dozens of online comments that accompanied the results, paint a community that’s divided on the type of store, or stores, they want added to Auburn’s retail quilt. Costco has its supporters, such as online viewer goldustwoman, who believes the warehouse giant would bolster the tax base while helping smaller stores, too. “Yes to Costco, no to Wal-Mart,” goldustwoman wrote. “I’m tired of driving to Roseville for Costco shopping trips. I end up spending more money down there, too. Wake up Auburn! We need the tax revenue and jobs of new stores!” Wal-Mart has fans, too, although many by default. “I like the idea of a large craft and fabric store like JoAnn’s — Citrus Heights has a beautiful one, but I’m tired of driving there,” wrote ezk317. “I voted for Wal-Mart though. We need a Wal-Mart type store somewhere between here and Grass Valley.” With raves came rants — sometimes for all stores. “Wal-Mart is cheap and the welfare system of America. Won’t be long and that’s what they will issue those who need help, a Wal-Mart card. You can buy clothes, food, get your eyes checked, your hair done … and some Wal-Marts have doctor offices,” wrote Mustanger. “Costco sucks unless you have a big family and buy big quantities and they charge you for shopping there. Most of the stuff goes to waste, then you buy more to replace it. They got that down!” Mustanger continued. “A Trader Joe’s might be OK and a new restaurant, like a Chili’s, would work, too!” Trader Joe’s was mentioned, mostly favorably, in more than a dozen online comments. Winco Foods also scored high with commenters, with Auburnkid touting that “Winco is a once-a-week shopping-trip-kind-of-star (that) offers a selection that the whole community can benefit from.” Kohl’s and Whole Foods earned some kudos, and there were even a few tears for Gottschalks, the Fresno-based, family-run department chain that folded up last year, taking its Elm Avenue store with it. That store space remains vacant, a reminder of the rough-and-tumble world of retail that is starting to show signs of renewal. Assuming project approval, whatever big-box store ends up on the site is likely to have more than a developer’s survey or an online poll behind it. Market research and spending trends will drive the decision, and that data continues to be collected on all of us. Wallets, not clicks and words, are the real votes here. Tony Hazarian can be reached at tonyh@goldcountrymedia.com.