Ruffalo: Dust off your charge cards, ‘Macy’s lite’ coming

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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As much as it pains me, I have to admit that Dave Rosenthal was right all along. A few months ago, that KAHI afternoon guy insisted that the old Gottschalks building would eventually be occupied by McCaulou’s, an upper-scale department store chain which currently operates nine stores in the Bay Area. All of the experts in town had a good laugh at Dave’s expense, but from what I’ve been told recently, he had it exactly right. Auburn Mayor Dr. William Kirby confirmed that McCaulou’s was, indeed, headed for Auburn. “Not only is the move a nice anchor for the Auburn community, but it also could help attract other notable (stores) to come here,” he said, adding, “It’s really a step in the right direction for us.” A check with those involved with the city planning operation discovered that McCaulou’s has already received the necessary documents to make the move, although has yet to return signed copies of same. “They won’t need much to get here, just a business license and a permit for the sign,” a source said. Kirby also said that McCaulou’s would take the whole store, which is about 40,000 square-feet. Some earlier suitors wanted just part of that building. The McCaulou’s people haven’t been exactly stealthy about wanting to get into Auburn. Several proprietors along Elm Avenue have made it known that McCaulou’s people picked their brains prior to Christmas, seeking information as to whether the area could support such an operation. Carl Creel of The Breakfast Club said word had already been going through the Elm Center community. “We were told that McCaulou’s would have somebody at the site by March 1 to start the rehab, and that the store would be open no later than early summer, although not by Easter as had been originally thought,” Creel said. Of course, one question I’d like answered is “why McCaulou’s and why now?”  The answer may have come late last year when I checked with City Manager Bob Richardson about the possibility of filling the vacant building. He told me that there were at least three notable companies (including the new Gottschalks operation) looking into coming here, although he refused to identify the other two. “There are a lot of companies that all want to come here, but they’re all searching for the best deal. With the economy the way it is, it’s all about the financial risk,” he said. According to the McCaulou’s website, its stores are all in better locations, such as Walnut Creek and Lafayette, which bodes well for Auburn. Reluctantly, I confess, I’ve never heard of them, but we’re no doubt even because they darn sure never heard of me. Rosenthal describes McCaulou’s as “Macy’s Lite,” adding, “They aren’t Nordstrom, but they aren’t a hole-in-the-wall, either.” Thanks, Dave. Now if you’ll just track down some other rumors for me such as the one hinting that there’ll be a massive cutback in the original Streetscape concept, I’d appreciate it. Meanwhile, Third District Supervisor Jim Holmes made it as official as can be that he’s going for a third term. No, it wasn’t just the short but courteous note to me making said announcement. Instead, it was the attached missive pointing out that he’s having a Feb. 24 fundraiser over at Loomis’ Blue Goose Fruit Sheds. You can’t get more official than that. Why, I wondered, would anybody want to be re-elected to the Placer County Board of Supervisors the way things are going at present? It certainly can’t be the salary. “I enjoy coming up with solutions and solving problems, especially with the dialogue that leads to such answers,” he said. Holmes insists that this area will soon sail out of the economic doldrums, and he’d like a chance at the helm. “What it will take is for government to be as local as possible, and for us to make things friendlier for small businesses,” he said. Along those lines, the county has already extended the time period for some stalled proposed projects, and allowing permit extensions without additional costs. “Besides,” he added, “government can use mature expertise these days.” Finally, this quick note to State Sen. Ted Gaines: While I truly enjoy reading the “Gaines Gazette,” I really don’t need seven copies e-mailed to me all at the same time. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Contact him at