Anthony Hall

Pet owners and electronics buffs alike will soon have more shopping choices in San Luis Obispo. A Circuit City and PetSmart, among others, are slated for construction as part of the Irish Hills Plaza, a 140,000-square-foot shopping center on Los Osos Valley Road, near The Home Depot and Costco.

The development is being headed by the Madonna family, and will also include Linens ‘n Things, OfficeMax, Beverages & More, Vitamin Shoppe, Panda Express, Artistic Nails, It’s a Grind-a coffee shop franchise – and a small restaurant.

Many people think that the two new stores don’t make much sense, as there are already a Best Buy and a Petco located on Madonna Road, just over a mile away.

“PetSmart is retarded. I don’t know why they’d want to do that,” said mechanical engineering junior Brian Ambrosini referring to the decision to put another pet-centered store in town.

As far as Circuit City being built, Ambrosini said that he could understand another electronics store coming into town, because he believes there is more of a market for electronics in San Luis Obispo than there is for animals. He said that it would come down to “company loyalty” for many people living along Los Osos Valley Road, such as himself, as the competing stores would be “about the same distance away.”

Small business owner Josh Cohen was indifferent toward the stores’ effects on their national competitors, but also saw an overall effect on the downtown area of San Luis Obispo.

“It still means more draw away from the center of the city to the outskirts,” Cohen said. “The reason that neither new store will have the significant impact that the Best Buy and Petco did is because the town had no big box electronics or pet store previous to their arrival.”

Cohen said stores would not lower their prices to compete because each is a national chain retailer, so prices are set by higher-ups within the companies.

Cohen also said that advertising prowess would win out in the end, hurting small local businesses, such as those downtown.

“Local business cannot match the advertising power that the giant chain stores have, and because of this, even if a local business has a better product, better price and better service, the general public will simply go to what is the most heavily advertised without often doing much research.”

It remains to be seen what will happen, if anything, to the local economy when the shopping center is completed. San Luis Obispo’s efforts to keep up with the times may cause other businesses to suffer. But the Madonna family will honor their late family member Alex Madonna’s wishes and continue his vision he had when he first broke ground on the yet-to-be-built Home Depot in the early 1990s: a large retail space with plenty of variety for locals and tourists alike.

Developers expect to finish construction on Circuit City in time for a late 2006 opening, whereas all other stores will open within the first few months of 2007.

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