Business feature: Local businesses expanding with economic recovery

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Sonic Drive-in’s Area Manager Jim Howard said his company chose a lot on U.S. 60/84 as its third location because a demographics study pointed to the area as a solid investment.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

With the economy starting to turn the corner, local businesses are expanding and developing, but national chains still aren’t part of that picture.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said things are definitely picking up, but it’s still slow as global and national companies work to regain their footing after the market slumps in 2008 that led to recession.

“It’s really been slow over the last couple years because of the economic situation that’s been going on,” she said Monday.

“(But) we are seeing people starting to inquire again.”

In the local area, most of the growth seen is in expansion of locally-owned businesses, she said.

Construction on a third Sonic Drive-in location on U.S. 60/84 near Schepps Boulevard is expected to be complete by early June.

A strip of nostalgic styled retail and office spaces at Main and Seventh streets should be ready for occupants in a month, and plans for a new, third McDonald’s restaurant on North Prince has been announced.

“It’s improving and it’s still going to be a while,” Brumfield said. “I don’t know why some of these big guys (aren’t coming in, but) we’ll just expand with our smaller businesses and hopefully over time some of the national (chains) will start looking at us.”

Brumfield said commercial development typically follows the housing market.

Sonic Area Manager Jim Howard said his company had considered building on north Prince, but chose to place its newest location near the highway after a demographic study showed that to be the most promising.

Howard said his company saw Clovis as a solid investment.

“They think the other two stores do really good,” he said. “The economy here in Clovis is good enough for a third location.”

The new restaurant should bring about 50 jobs with it, he said.

Weather has been a factor in slowing some of the ongoing development.

Charles Wade, who together with a partner is behind the project at Main and Seventh Street, said the difficult winter had an impact on progress.

“The weather, all the snow and the rain that we’ve had, they couldn’t lay brick,” he said. “It’s just been slow.”

But Wade said they are already talking with a retail entity and a prospective office leasee for the business center.

Brumfield said the one question she gets asked more than any other is “When is Target coming?”.

“Trust me, nobody would like to see Target come in more than me,” she said with a laugh, but countered that chains like Target, Olive Garden and Starbucks simply haven’t expressed interest. That, she said, could change if Clovis’ population reaches the 50,000 bracket, as in Roswell.