Big Business Leaves San Angelo Small Businesses Scrambling
SAN ANGELO, TX – This month, more than 20 small business owners, located at 4106 Sherwood Way, learned that they would have to relocate in less than 45 days. Some of the business owners had just moved in and had no idea the owner of the property had plans to sell.
Although they understand this is the nature of business, many of these business owners are a little perturbed at how the transaction was handled and that they are being ousted, some after 20 years, for an automated Champion Car Wash that will employ one or two people.
Because of how things occurred, a few of the business owners discussed the frustrations facing small businesses in San Angelo in lieu of progress.
Posh Pooch Owners Get the Runaround
Tinker Keeney and Jonie Pritchard with Posh Pooch have been at their location on Sherwood Way for 12 years. Keeney said she heard the property was for sale, but when she asked about it, the property manager told her if the property sold, the business owners would have a three-month notice. Additionally, they would have the availability of a real estate agent who guaranteed to find a comparable place with similar traffic flow at the same price.
Keeney said, “So I didn’t worry about it too much, and then I got a call on a weekend. The 10th is when they sent out the letter.”
However, instead of 90 days notice, they had less than 45 days. To add insult to injury, the business owners also had 30 days to get their items out of the storage units behind the building. Some of them had two or three units with items in them for more than a decade.
Keeney mentioned that on Monday, March 13, she went to work and found her letter. Overall, the businesses got three copies.
“They wanted to make sure we all had our letters,” Keeney laughed in frustration. “But I asked, ‘What about the three months?’”
Keeney said property manager Case Hardin’s response was, “Well, that’s just not the way things ended up.”
Unfortunately for Hardin, he’s simply doing his job on behalf of the property owner, Max Sanders, Keeney said. Also, neither Hardin nor Sanders are in the wrong. Since the businesses paid a month-to-month lease, the property owner, by law, only has to give a 30-day notice.
All of the business owners understand this, but being that some of them have been there for more than 20 years, and some just relocated there a month ago, they felt common courtesy would have been nice.
Since finding out the news, the business owners have all been scrambling to find new locations. Some are deciding whether or not to close their doors for good because they can’t afford to relocate to a new place and pay more money.
Keeney said she and Pritchard panicked a little when they heard the news, and set out to find a new place immediately.
“We got all our dogs out by 1 o’clock and just took off,” she said. “So did everybody else.”
Unfortunately, all the business owners have struggled finding new locations in town at comparable prices.
“Some are having to go from $500 to $1,500 a month, and we just can’t afford that,” Keeney said.
Luckily for Keeney, they are ahead of other businesses being that they found a comparable place, but they’re having to pay a lot for plumbing. Despite being ahead, Keeney said progress comes at a price. More than 20 business owners are left scrambling for an automated Champion Car Wash, which will have one employee.
As a small business owner, these types of property transactions create challenges. Keeney said Posh Pooch has a good customer base, and she and Pritchard want to keep things that way. She doesn’t want people to drive by the current location and not see them there. They may assume they’re out of business.
“It’s hard keeping customers informed,” she said, especially with such short notice.
Unfortunately for a comic book store owner who just moved in a month ago, he’s out money for the signage he put up.
“He doesn’t have a place,” Keeney said. She noted that the owner is looking at places in the same area as Posh Pooch, but the rent is $900 and he’s paying about $400. Because of this issue, she said some people are not going to bother finding a place because of the timeframe they have to work with. She said “it’s dumb to put up a car wash that will affect so many people.”
The owner did explain that his wife has medical issues, but Keeney said the least they could have had after all these years is a three-month notice.
Additionally, Pritchard mentioned that the owner could have also given the business owners an opportunity to buy the property themselves, but that was never an option. The business owners never knew the property was for sale, or for how much.
“It was pretty hush hush,” she said.
Quality Embroidery Business Owner Forced to Move Again
Irma Morales, owner of Quality Embroidery, has been at her location for eight years, and she’s moving closer to where Posh Pooch will be moving to. She said she too is lucky to have found a place under such short notice, but will have to pay more.
“Really no one is happy that we have to move, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said.
Morales said she had no idea about the property being for sale, and out of nowhere, this happened.
“[The property manager] just came in and said you have 45 days to move out,” she said.
With this move, Morales will be paying $100 more, and her new location is not the ideal spot. Currently, Morales enjoys a store front at her current location.
“If I wanted a store front, I would have had to pay a lot more,” she said. “For a small business owner, there’s no way we can pay [$1,500 to $2,000].”
Morales noted that this is her third time moving. She’s been in business since 2000 and had to move from Concho and Oakes when another business was built. She moved to where Sealy Flats is at on Oakes St., and had to move when the restaurant was put in.
“That’s when I moved over here, and I’ve been here since 2008,” she said.
The main concern for Morales is she hopes she doesn’t lose customers in the shuffle. Therefore, she wants them to know her new place will be at Jackson Square, close to Long John Silvers.
She too said this sale is a bad thing because there are so many people having to scramble to relocate. A lot of them are not going to continue since they have to close their doors.
“For a small business, it’s hard to stay in business, and they make it harder,” she said, referencing property owners.
New Business Owner Out Money and Misled
Coach Gilbert M and his wife took over Next Level Nutrition in October of last year. They has been at their location on Sherwood Way for five or six months. They didn’t get official notice about the property selling, but started hearing rumors in January of this year. Also, the first red flag was the billboard for the Champion Car Wash. But no one would answer whether or not there were plans to sell.
“Any time we would call the office, it was kind of the run around,” he said. Coach Gilbert added that he and his wife were told by the the property management company that it was not selling.
“It’s kind of been a roller coaster ride,” he said.
Hardin didn’t appear to be sure either, Coach Gilbert said.
“He was real confused about a lot of things,” Gilbert noted. He said Hardin is working on his business degree at Angelo State University, and told Coach Gilbert that he wondered how this will affect him as well from a business and education standpoint.
“It’s just a huge slap in the face,” Coach Gilbert said. “And I feel really bad for the newer people.”
Coach Gilbert said he’s fairly new, but there are people who moved in less than a month ago. They bought signs and remodeled their offices. Gilbert and his wife spent over $5,000 just to get things going.
“I had to do plumbing. I have four sinks here that wasn’t offered when I moved in,” he said.
Coach Gilbert noted that where his business is, that area may be sold for a restaurant. One part of the property will be the car wash, and the other is expected to be a restaurant.
“So it’s really weird,” he stated. “I was told both lots were sold for $750,000, and the car wash is selling this building to a restaurant.”
Coach Gilbert said he heard that restaurant may be a Cotton Patch, but that hasn’t been verified.
Overall, the business owner said these types of situations make it hard for small business owners in San Angelo. Coach Gilbert has been in San Angelo for 10 years. He attended ASU and got his business degree.
“I love Angelo now, and wanted to start a business here, and give back to San Angelo….,” he said.
Luckily, Gilbert said he found a place as well. It’s further away from the busy roads. Where he’s at now is ideal, however.
Additionally, Gilbert said he and his wife just established their client base and spent money on advertising, so like the others, he’s worried about how this will affect his customers. They have to switch everything over quickly with no compensation.
Coach Gilbert said had he known about the property being for sale, he too would have looked into the possibility of buying. But, at the least, he was expecting the courtesy of having 90 days to move. People who get evicted get that luxury, but the business owners didn’t get that. To add insult to injury, the realtor who was helping with the sale was supposed to help the business owners find a place, but that realtor has been no help, he said.
“It just made it so difficult to find a spot,” Coach Gilbert said. He too had to cut his hours to find something.
The location Gilbert found is on off the Loop, so it’s still a little busier area, but it’s not the Sherwood type of busy. Also, Gilbert said he’s lucky he did get a storefront, and he and his wife will be paying less. The new location is also smaller in size, and the plumbing works. However, his fellow business owners haven’t been so lucky.
“We’re just locally owned and home grown,” he quipped. “We’re trying to do something good for San Angelo, and it’s kind of hard to do when we get backlashed by [big corporations]. It kind of worked out for me, but it’s harder for my neighbors, and it will cost an arm and a leg to get plumbing transferred over [to my new location].
After experiencing this, Gilbert wanted to impart a bit of advice for other business owners renting month to month.
“Always have a back up plan. You never know when the owner’s going to sell that spot,” he said.
Gilbert said when he signed his rent agreement, he actually asked the owner, “You don’t have any plans to sell do you?” He was told no, but now he’s having to move.
He added that San Angelo is growing, which is a good thing, but he “just wants it to grow in a positive way for small business owners, and not just for large corporations.”
One Insurance Company Fears Loss of Business
Brandi Harrison-West with Texas Insurance said the letter she received gave 45 days to move, but they got the letter on Monday, and it was sent out on Thursday. So they actually had less than 45 days notice.
Unlike Keeney and Pritchard with Posh Pooch, Harrison-West said she was never told anything about the property being sold.
“Usually in commercial, you expect 90 days relocation [notice],” she said.
Harrison-West said she has been at her current location for almost 13 years. She hasn’t spent tons of money on renovations, but she is an established business and doesn’t want to get lost in the mix.
“Obviously, it’s not a lot of time to notify our customers and things like that,” she said.
Harrison-West said Texas Insurance has seasonal clients, and clients who don’t go in often. Also, many people don’t check their mail these days with technology.
“Or, if they do, they throw it away, so it’s not enough time to tell people we’re moving.; We don’t know where we’re moving, and we’re working on that, but that’s just business,” she said.
However, Harrison-West said she expected common courtesy would have given them more notice.
She said, “Once this gets demolished, we can’t leave a sign on the door and say, ‘Hey, we’ve moved to this location,’ so we just don’t want to lose our customers, or get lost in the move.”
Harrison-West said that this is more about what the business is going to lose down the road. There are insurance companies almost on every block, so if customers can’t find them, they may choose another.
Like the other businesses, Harrison-West stated she is having a hard time finding a location with small square footage and a reasonable price.
“What we found is our relocation is twice the size, twice the bills, twice everything, so it’s a substantial change for us financially too,” she said.
Overall, the businesses didn’t have time to prepare for the expenses of the move, but she said, “That’s business. It’s unfortunate on our side for them to sell it, and they're fortunate.”
Harrison-West said she hopes the next establishment has the courtesy of notifying them of changes more in advance. She said she understands the property owner did not want the downturn of businesses moving out, so wasn’t up front about the move, but for the businesses that have been there for so many years, that would have been a good courtesy.
“But on the other hand, business is business. What’s best for them is not always what’s best for us,” she said.
The Chamber’s Response
Dan Koenig with the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce said small business is the backbone of the San Angelo community and economy.
“The Chamber and City feels for these businesses, and we want to make sure we can do everything under our possible means to help them,” he said.
Koenig said he has staff whose specific job is to help businesses find space. They keep track of office and retail space, and manufacturing space.
“We are more than happy to dedicate staff to help these businesses find possible relocation opportunities,” he said.
He added that it’s unfortunate this is happening, but if the zoning is appropriate and the land owner has an opportunity to conduct a business deal, even though it’s a car wash, or results in the loss of jobs, it’s an unfortunate but legitimate transaction.
Koenig said, in terms of economic development, he can remember when communities were trying to prepare for a Walmart to come into town. A car wash is different than a major retailer putting a smaller retailer out of business, however. Of course, the City likes to see job creation, but it’s a free market place and the developer is looking at this from a location standpoint.
"If they see a for-profit opportunity, that’s the result, and that’s what the market place produces,” he said. Despite this, Koenig is sympathetic to the business owners.
He said, “Anything that our staff can do to help them relocate…and if the Chamber doesn’t have the answers, we can certainly call any of our partners to help as well. The other side to this is now we have the issue of someone being unemployed. If a business owner chooses not to go forward, that’s a job loss and employment issue for San Angelo. We have customers who are now displaced. There’s a whole domino effect of how these things transpire.”
If the business owners choose not to go forward, however, Koenig said the Chamber can get them in contact with Workforce Solutions or one of their other partners if they are closing their doors.
Koenig has been in this business for some time, and these types of transactions occur because people find the best uses for their land. That parcel is on a high traffic and visible location, and it’s business for the property owner. Also, if the demand is there, a location can have more than one of the same type of business.
Also, Koenig mentioned that unfortunately it’s not the city’s role to dictate how many businesses can be within so many blocks.
"That’s a market place decision,” he said.
He concluded that for those individuals who do go with a month-to-month lease, they want to consider the prospect of situations like this.
LIVE! attempted to contact the property manager and owner for comment; however, we were unsuccessful.
Editor's Note: Posh Pooch was misspelled at Posch Pooch. The story has been updated with the correction.