When Ricky Turner relocated The Cedar Bucket Cafeteria and Catering to the Food Lion shopping center on Lascassas Pike, he had no idea the supermarket would be closing some six months later.
“It was so unexpected that they were going to close,” he said. “We were just as surprised as the (Food Lion) employees.”
Turner said he remembers families coming in to dine before their regular grocery shopping, while others opted to eat afterwards. The foot traffic of shoppers brought new and returning clientele to The Cedar Bucket.
“Some would notice a new restaurant had opened, so they’d stop by,” Turner said.
The same was true for the restaurant’s original Murfreesboro home in the Kroger Shopping Center on Middle Tennessee Boulevard.
“You always try to stay grounded by an anchor store,” he explained, adding that’s why he opted for the current location.
Six months later, no retailer has filled the space left vacant by Food Lion. Along with The Cedar Bucket is Carolyn’s Consignment, Hair Five-O, a dry cleaners and nail salon – all of which could benefit from a large retailer next door.
“Any time an anchor store leaves, it always kind of hurts other businesses,” Turner said. “Not only did the store closing hurt us, it was kind of convenient when we ran out of something or needed something (because) we could just run over there – but it also hurt the employees.”
Business has certainly taken a hit, but The Cedar Bucket patrons keep coming back for home-style cooking.
“We’re going to tough it out,” Turner said.
West on Northfield Boulevard at the corner of Memorial Boulevard is another shopping center left vacant-looking. First Bi-Lo shuttered its doors, and the building sat quiet until Publix filled its place for a short spell.
On-again, off-again foot traffic makes for inconsistent business for shops like Crystal Cleaners, adjacent to the empty supermarket.
“Once Bi-Lo closed, it hurt. Then Publix moved in, and (business) started picking back up, but it really wasn’t there long,” owner Mark Chung recalled. “We noticed things picking back up, but when (Publix) left, everything dropped off again.”
With an anchor store to garner constant activity to an area, passers-by often forget about smaller businesses located within shopping centers.
“It just makes the shopping center look dead,” Chung said. “Even though Northfield and Memorial is one of the busier intersections in Murfreesboro, people assume there’s not shops in that shopping center. Even some of my regular customers assumed we closed because the shopping center looks dead.”
Chung said he has hopes the Murphy Oil currently under construction at the corner of Northfield and Memorial boulevards will bring about much-needed foot traffic.
“Whenever there’s a lot of movement, people seem to notice,” he said. “With the gas station on the corner, I’m hoping it will help out because I can definitely use all the help I can get.”
Murphy Oil could aid in the search for a large anchor store, as well. An outdated building previously housed a restaurant-turned-night club until it was torn down to make way for the gas station. It, too, contributed to the deserted look of the shopping center’s parking lot.
“We were hoping we could find a replacement for that (building); it needed to be gone,” says John Harney, a commercial broker with The Parks Group, who represents the shopping center owners.
“We were happy when we could get that building torn down,” he said. “We think it’s a positive to the center to have that old building gone and a new replacement.”
Harney agreed that until an anchor tenant is replaced, retail traffic to a shopping center is lessened and could affect shop owners.
“Like in any situation, a lot depends on the location of the property as to how likely you can find another tenant. If it’s a strong location, it’s easier to find a backup tenant or user for that (space),” he said. “In the case of the old Publix center, we have been talking to more than one different user to move into that space, and we are presenting talking with a couple as we speak.”
Although Publix closed that location to open a new supermarket farther north on Memorial Boulevard, business hasn’t dissipated so much as to force nearby shops to close.
“None of our small tenants have left, but I’ve seen it in other centers,” Harney said. “In the case of Northfield Court, those shop tenants are so close to Northfield Boulevard, they’re not quite as dependent on foot traffic (from an anchor store). This center is a little bit different because exposure for those tenants is good on Northfield, so it doesn’t have the effect it could possible have in other centers.”
Turner said he’s hoping building owners and even leaders with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce can take a step toward filling the numerous vacant buildings throughout Murfreesboro.
“I think if we could fill these vacant buildings, we could get a lot of people working,” he said. “They’re always trying to put an emphasis on big business, but they never put enough emphasis on small business. If you give these guys a tax break and other incentives, it could really benefit them, and they’d be more committed because they’ve got local ties.”
In the meantime, Turner said he is looking for new, nearby development to continue drawing traffic to his neck of the woods.