Monday, November 23, 2009

Dorseys Search Village Center

Dorsey's Search Village Center set the benchmark when it opened in 1989. First, it was the first Village Center to be built with an open air strip concept, it was the first Village Center in West Columbia to be built in 18 years, and it was the first Village Center to use a large Grocery which, 20 years later is still the same size and needs no expansion.
Dorsey's Search has set the benchmark for newer Village Centers and the redevelopment of old ones.
Over the years, like many Village Centers Dorsey's Search has hosted many tenants in its life time. They include; Video Library, Crown Books, Sundaes, Roy Rogers, Amore Italian Deli, Venture Travel, Party Party Party, Bruggers Bagel Bakery, ZiPani, The Dark Room, Cingular Wireless, European Touch of Beauty, Nationwide Insurance Office, and Beverly's Hallmark.
Today Dorsey's Search plays host to a lot of restaurants and hair salons. The current tenant roster is Giant (which was just renovated inside), Parcel Plus, Cleaners Plus, Great Clips (from Wilde Lake), Hunan Legend, Subway (I worked there from late 2000 to February 2002) Honey Baked Ham (nee Heavenly Ham), Dorsey's Search Wine & Spirits, Avalon Hair, Nails & Spa, Trattoria Pizza Pasta & More, Casey's Coffee, Master Barber, Blockbuster Video (Going Out of Business), Chevy Chase Bank, and a Sunoco Station.
Just like any Village Center or Retail Center for that matter Dorsey's Search has had a turnover of tenants and expansion into different spaces. Video Library left and Party Party Party took over its space, Crown Books left and in came Bruggers then ZiPani then Subway (Subway took most of the space while Hunan Legend expanded into the rest. Venture Travel left after 9/11 and Heavenly Ham (now Honey Baked Ham) expanded into that space.
The Dark Room left and hosted a couple short lived businesses; Cingular Wireless and a Nationwide Insurance Office, now it's home to a Great Clips. Amore, a seemingly successful Italian Deli left or was bought out by the far Superior Trattoria Pizza Pasta and More (They own several Restaurants in Howard County) Sundae's left a while ago and Casey's Coffee has made good use of that space.
When vacancies came on the scene at Dorsey's Search, they were back filled pretty quickly. The vitality of the Center has kept it "hot spot" for chains and Mom & Pop businesses alike. Roy Rogers was the only long standing vacancy in the Center. There is one vacancy right one whose last tenant was Beverly's Hallmark (formerly Party Party Party) this is a large vacancy which may be hard to back fill with just one business.One reason that the old Roy Rogers space stayed as long as it did (roughly three years late '96 to late '99) was that McDonalds bought out Roy Rogers and there were rumors that the Golden Arches might take over the space. This never came to fruition and a Blockbuster ultimately moved in. Now 10 years later, the last Blockbuster in a Village Center (this one) is closing its doors. I don't blame the location or the bad economy for this, I blame the evolution of retail i.e. Netflix. Netflix has killed the Blockbuster chain. Blockbuster is fighting back with its own Mail Order Video Rental and boasts that rather than sending back your rentals through the mail, you can simply return it to your neighborhood Blockbuster, too bad they're all closing.
I don't see this space as being any easier to back fill in 2009 than it was in the late 1990s. This time, it's the economy rather than McDonalds deciding what to do with it. Luckily, I have my own ideas about how to back fill not just the soon to be vacant Blockbuster Space but Dorsey's Search Village Center as a whole. In case you haven't figured it out all my posts eventually tell people what I think needs to be done. Kimco (the Center's Owner) can look within the Center to back fill Blockbuster. Yes, it's Subway as pictured above.
Although it spent a the past 10 years as a Blockbuster, the space still has the bones of a Fast Food Restaurant. Pictured above is the retired Drive Thru path and Window used when the space was a Roy Rogers. Currently, the Subway doesn't have a Drive Thru here but there are Subways that do have them. Moving Subway here will give it a cutting edge advantage of being the only area Subway with a Drive Thru Window. It will also increase business. It's a win win all around.Drive Thrus have evolved since the departure of Roy Rogers and before Subway can take it over, there will have to be some minor changes. The biggest one being the addition of a second window. Judging by the appearance of the back of the space this can be easily accomplished. One window is for paying, the other for picking up your order. That's how Drive Thrus have evolved in recent years. Of course an ordering screen and speaker will have to be reinstalled.
Now we didn't decrease any vacancies with the Subway move we just made a shift in the location of one tenant. The current Subway Space will now be vacant and would have to be back filled. I would suggest a Jeweler. The area boasts a very high median income especially when one factors in that Ellicott City Neighborhoods such as Font Hill, Burleigh Manor, Dunloggin, and Grey Rock Farm use this Village Center as well. Maybe a Jared's or another Everett.

Now to back fill the large space vacated by Beverly's Hallmark. Like I said before, I don't foresee it being one large business but two or three smaller ones. Like I also said before, Dorsey's Search has a lot of Restaurants and Hair Salons so to mix up the Tenant Roster it would be wise not to add more of those. Half of the space can be a High End Consignment Boutique. There's been a successful one in Hickory Ridge forever and one just opened in King's Contrivance. This part of the retail niche has been a good alternative to buying new during the recession. One fourth of the space could be a "Tan Stand" a tanning salon, and the last bit could be a photo framer. In Waverly Woods Village Center there's a great example of one and perhaps the Owners of that one could open another location in Dorsey's Search.

Casey's Coffee is a business that I think of as a competitor to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. Now Dunkin Donuts also host a Baskin Robbins these days, a good way for each business to expand while keeping costs manageable. I think Casey's Coffee, although indepently owned has room to host another business within itself. The Other Business? Smoothie King. Smoothie King is a rapidly growing business that needs to find a niche in Columbia. I suggested one for Owen Brown Village Center and now I'm suggesting one here in Dorsey's Search. I think the brand recognition of Smoothie King will in turn boost business in Casey's Coffee. Another win win. I'm not suggesting Casey's Coffee is struggling by any means I'm just saying that when was the last time a Business Owner has said: "I wish we didn't have so many Customers"

Chevy Chase Bank has been a long time tenant (I believe it's an original) but when facing Dorsey Hall Drive it appears its free standing building is vacant. This picture faces the main strip where the Bank appears as it should; Open For Business.I took this picture when I was getting gas at the Sunoco Station adjacent to the Bank. This is what is seen from Dorsey Hall Drive. I thought Chevy Chase had left the Center because I hadn't taken any pictures yet. There needs to be an illuminated sign and perhaps a second ATM on this side of the Building to attract more Business from Dorsey Hall Drive.Now for some minor Cosmetic Improvements to the Center. There are archways that are freshly painted bright white. This makes the siding and stucco trim in the Center look washed out and faded. So, the siding should be replaced with the same bright white color and the stucco should be painted that same white as the archways. This will give the Center a new and refreshed look. In 2000, the Rouse Company (Center Owners at the time) put up signs to let people know what Businesses were in the Center. One thing that signs don't have for the most part are logos for chains and they're not illuminated for night time passers by. This is an improvement I'd like to see and it will pay off.Last but not least is the intersection of Dorsey Hall Drive and the Main Entrance to the Village Center. This has become difficult to negotiate during peak day time hours and a traffic signal should be installed here to control the growing traffic volume.

Now, Dorsey's Search is one of Columbia's healthiest most vibrant Village Centers yet I wrote a very long post about it, Like any Village Center or any Retail Center for that matter, it needs to be closely examined to make sure it continues to do so.


Anonymous said...

spelling errors in next to last para

Spence said...

thanks for catching them I just fixed them

Anonymous said...

Great photos of village center