Curt and Jean Waite, owners of My Video Store and Barber Shop at 16674 Soledad Canyon Road (near Sand Canyon Road).
Mom and pop businesses – like a fragile bubble – are going “pop” at the Vons Shopping Center in Canyon Country.
Curt and Jean Waite, co-owners of the My Video Store and Barber Shop, are the latest to call it quits since the landlord, the Safeway Corp., started dramatically raising rents.
“From day one all we get was a letter saying okay we bought the center. This was back in September last year. This is your new owner and oh, by the way, this is going to be your new rent. Take it or leave it,” said Curt Waite.
For My Video Store and Barber Shop the rent was jacked up 35 percent. According to Waite, Safeway Corporation (which owns Vons) wouldn’t sign long term agreements or establish a set rent amount to provide the business owners any stability.
“We’re a small business here. We couldn’t afford the 35-percent increase. But to anticipate what was going to happen next, another maybe 60 or 70 cents a square foot? I mean, come on, we have a finite amount of business,” said Waite.
This year My Video Store and Barber Shop is celebrating their ninth anniversary. Jean Waite thought it better not to comment on their treatment at the hands of Vons because the words wouldn’t be suitable for a family publication.
Her husband Curt says because the had a lease they were able to hold out longer than many of their neighbors.
“As you can see, everyone started moving out. The Hallmark store had been there 32 years. The eye doctor had been there 30 years,” said Curt.
The Waites had heard talk that Safeway Corporation was going to replace the Vons with a fancier Pavilion’s grocery store.
“The Vons Pavilions was a rumor. They said this center and this area doesn’t warrant a Vons Pavilions. We’re not a high enough income level for them. So what they’re going to do they are going to expand Vons,” said Curt.
Even with that expansion eating into the square footage of many of the former independent businesses, there will still be a lot of empty store fronts, leaving Canyon Country residents scrambling for services they used to enjoy like a jewelry store, dry cleaners, and a chiropractic center.
“If our customers attitudes are indicative of what’s going to happen, this center is going to be in serious trouble. People are very upset that all of their places are gone,” said Curt.
Jason Crawford, Economic Development and Marketing Manager for the City of Santa Clarita said the city doesn’t get involved in lease negotiations between businesses but expressed his sympathy.
“It’s disappointing for the residents, for the community and the business owners,” Crawford said.
With the pervasiveness of pay-per-view movies on satellite dishes and cable, plus online entertainment resources such as Netflix, Curt knows the video store business model lacks viability into the future. However, he feels Vons made his business sustainability much more precarious.
“The other nail in the coffin with Vons. They stuck a Blockbuster kiosk in front of the Vons. And when we confronted them on that and said hey look we have the exclusive rental. Oh, we have an exclusive contract with Blockbuster for 10 years so we have to put that in. No, you don’t. I have a contract. Just wait until I’m done,” said Curt.
The prior landlord of the shopping center helped the Waites when a similar situation presented itself.
“Blockbuster tried to put a kiosk in front of Rite-Aid. It wasn’t there 30 days and our previous landlord had them move it or they were going to take it and throw it in the trash,” said Curt.
Curt says Vons continues to show disregard about cutting into one their own tenant’s business.
“Blockbuster sells out to Redbox. Now, there’s a brand new big Redbox sitting there. So it impacted our business. I would see our customers standing there. You know, come on…Hurts,” said Curt.
The Waites considered relocating but felt the City of Santa Clarita’s business ordinances were too onerous.
“We were going to go on Soledad Canyon but the new sign ordinances…the sign that we have to put up is $5,000. I mean come on. We don’t have the income to come out of pocket again and use all of our savings to do that. It’s better for us to just liquidate the store,” said Curt.
The Waites say they will miss their customers and their customers will miss them.
“We have people coming in here crying that this was their place – their last bastion. Barber shop, video store. Come in, get a haircut, kids are running around the store getting movies, candy, whatever. It was a community place. People would come here and just hang out,” said Curt.
My Video Store and Barber Shop at 16674 Soledad Canyon Road will have a liquidation sale on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m.
The Safeway Corp. did not return calls for comment.