It’s a retailer’s version of hitting the lottery — a high-volume, crowd-attracting merchant moves in next door.
Think Trader Joe’s. Or Voodoo Doughnut. The crowds never stop. Adjacent retailers can’t help but benefit from customer spillover.
“Our sales have close to doubled,” said Jody Bouffard, co-owner of the Blush & Blu bar and coffee shop next to the enormously popular Voodoo Doughnut at East Colfax Avenue and Humboldt Street.
Savvy retailers, however, know that there’s more to it than just watching the cash registers ring.
Bouffard and her partner, Holly Hatch, have worked the Voodoo connection hard, marketing to the crowds lined up on the sidewalk, expanding their space and adding new equipment such as a soda gun for the bar and a larger espresso machine.
Some of the newly generated business is from Voodoo customers who, doughnuts in hand, come in to Blush & Blu for a latte or cocktail. Others, seeing the hours-long line outside Voodoo on weekends, surrender and hit the bar instead.
Bouffard even has been known to hold Voodoo customers’ places in line while they step into Blush & Blu for a drink.
Specialty grocer Trader Joe’s has produced a similar phenomenon at its Denver store at East Eighth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, one of three metro locations that opened last month.
“Our daytime sales have gone up noticeably,” said Crystal Nash, assistant manager of Silver Mine Subs just south of the grocer. “We’ve added another manager.”
But with more business comes the potential for problems — notably parking. Neither Voodoo nor Blush & Blu have designated spaces for customers. And around Trader Joe’s, parking and traffic congestion have become a headache for retailers and residents alike.
Crowds and sales gains may level off after a period, but they won’t evaporate, experts say.
“Big-name retailers will be around for a while, and so the uptick in traffic for nearby businesses will be more of a long-term thing,” said Darrin Duber-Smith, a marketing professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Part of Blush & Blu’s approach has been to broaden its customer base beyond its primarily female clientele. By leasing extra space when the adjacent Rent-A-Center moved out, the bar now has room for families with kids, including an upstairs space with books and board games.
Popular new restaurants can have the same boosting effect that crowd-drawing retailers have on their surroundings. In Lafayette, neighboring restaurants and shops have benefitted from the standing-room crowds at The Post Brewing Co., opened in January by Big Red F restaurant group, operator of Lola, Jax and Zolo Grill.
“It’s been kind of an eye-opening change,” said Vicki Trumbo, executive director of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. “The Post is the first place in Lafayette where there’s routinely been an hour-long waiting list. People will come in, put their names on the list, and then go out and do some shopping.”
One of The Post’s main draws is beer master Bryan Selders, formerly the lead brewer at the award-winning Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware. With last year’s openings of Front Range Brewing Co. and brewpub Odd 13, Lafayette is building a reputation as a destination for beer enthusiasts.
Trumbo said the popularity of the brewpubs has rippled into other restaurants.
Miller’s Bar & Grille owner Rich Womack initially was upset by the Lafayette Urban Renewal Authority offering a $75,000 development loan to The Post.
Now, he’s happy to be drawing patrons who can’t find a table at the new restaurant a few blocks away. Business is up by an estimated 15 to 20 percent since The Post opened, he said.
A fringe benefit, Womack said, is that Miller’s has upped its service quality in an effort to convert first-time customers into regulars.
“If you’re going to rely on that new business,” he said, “you’d better give customers a reason to come back.”