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The most for the money

by Staff
| December 12, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - It seems businesses with office space needs and retailers seeking to sell goods are not choosing the east section of Sherman Avenue as often as in the past. And it seems like those businesses are headed up to the north end of town and elsewhere.

The volume of commercial space vacancies on that section of Sherman is hard not to notice. With retail and offices leaving, service businesses account for most of what's left.

Some say the reason for all the for lease and for sale signs is that section could use a facelift because of its run-down, older-looking condition. Some describe it as needing a little attention, some go further, saying it looks bleak.

Buildings there aren't as new as those on Northwest Boulevard, Government Way and Appleway Avenue, and some other places on the north side of town, where businesses and retailers could locate instead.

"It's human nature," said Stanley Moe, of Columbia Valuation Group Inc., at 1602 E. Sherman Ave. "You want the most for the money."

A business looking to lease space is more likely to do so where the price is lowest, and the space is more modern and new looking.

"If there was ever an area that qualified for urban renewal, (the eastern section of Sherman) is it," Moe said. That section "can't compete with the new storefronts up north."

The economy is having its effect too. Job losses and job insecurity have left many consumers halting spending and saving any extra income.

Jerrid Radford, site manager at Coeur d'Alene Budget Saver Motel, said unemployment has slowed business in the last few years.

"People are just barely skimming by," Radford said.

During past summers - three to four years ago - the motel would be filling up early in the afternoon and he'd be referring people to other hotels and motels in town. Nowadays, the Coeur d'Alene Budget Saver fights to fill up in the summers. It's all a competition for guests between the motel and its competitors. Thank goodness for the Coeur d'Alene Ironman and other events, he said.

The down economy, though, can't account for the lack of success for some businesses as some similar businesses enjoying good times.

Take for example the business that was Sherman Junction Restaurant, which doesn't appear to have found the formula for success, whereas nearby Jimmy's Down the Street and Moon Time have both thrived.

Craig Ely, owner of Del Sol, which is in the more thriving western section of Sherman, offers up a simple, common-sense explanation for why similar businesses can have dissimilar results on the popular avenue.

"You've got to have a good product, at a good price, with atmosphere and good service," he said. "People are shopping for deals. You've got to take care of the customer."

It sounds like common sense, but that formula for success isn't always common on the eastern end of the avenue as it is on Ely's.

People on the eastern end can't complain about location too much, he said, because it's closer to an Interstate 90 exit. The east end also has plenty of residents living near the businesses to supply the customers.

Other business operators on the western end interviewed by The Press said it helps them to be in an area with a greater concentration of tourists.

There might be other factors at play that are having an effect on the eastern section.

Radford points to a drop-in center for homeless and mentally ill and transitional housing across from the motel, which he says has created a different atmosphere.

"It makes it less attractive," Radford said.

He said motel guests have complained about people panhandling. The loitering he sees out across Sherman from the motel can make guests, many of them families, feel uncomfortable.

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