City working to bring more retail to area

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

City of Andalusia Planning and Development Director Andy Wiggins told the Lions Club on Wednesday that the city is in preliminary discussions about potentially opening an incubator site for retail businesses and the possibility of a new retail trade area.

Wiggins said the proposed incubator would be for “mom and pop” type businesses and they would provide training opportunities to teach small business owners.

“We had a conversation yesterday about doing a retail incubator,” he said. “What that is is trying to find a space to help grow – I call them mom and pops – and set up this some type of facility with little store fronts that they can go into and provide them with a service of how to run a business.

“One of the things we are seeing in Andalusia is our mom and pops – we don’t have that many mom and pops,” he said. “We have a couple of different problems in Andalusia.”

The first is available space, he said.

“We are very limited to the amount of space we have for a retailer,” he said. “You take a major clothing retailer outside of JCPenney, like Cato. If a company like that wanted to locate here, there is not 20,000-30,000 square feet that they can go into.”

Wiggins said it’s called second-generation space.

Lion John Vick asked if anyone was in the old Piggly Wiggly building.

Wiggins said the city is trying to market that building.

He said 30-40 years ago everyone wanted to be downtown; today, they want to be on the bypass or next to a specific store.

“The dynamics of retail have changed a lot,” he said. “The bricks and mortar stuff is becoming more and more difficult. They stick to their guns on where they want to be, which makes it challenging for the city to recruit those retailers.

“I will tell you that (City Clerk) John Thompson and myself do a lot of this work. We go to trade shows where retailers and developers are,” he said. “I’ll tell you this, there is a tremendous interest in our city because we have the economic base to back it up, but our problem has been space.”

Wiggins said city leaders are currently looking into fixing that problem.

“One of the things we have been talking about, the retail trade areas change over time,” he said. “Take Montgomery, you have East Chase Mall, the dynamic trade changes. We are set where I think we need to start developing a new retail trade area. We have started meeting with developers and see what the possibility of creating a new retail trade area.”

Wiggins said Andalusia has different dynamics.

“We can get out on the bypass and loop it in like 10 minutes,” he said. “That’s one of the things we try to explain. We are rural Alabama, we are accustomed to driving 10-15 minutes to go to wherever we want to go.”

Wiggins compared that to Orlando or Montgomery, where it takes 10-15 minutes to travel a mile.

“We are set up a lot differently than the cookie cutter city,” he said.