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Village Hit Hard by Economic Crisis, Decides to "Rebrand"

November 9, 2008

by Shelby Leighton

The Claremont Courier reports that many businesses in the village expansion ("Village West") are closing after being in business for just a few months. Businesses including Red Line Leather, Peyton Gray, Chloe and Hunter, and Celley's have been the first ones to go, but more popular businesses, such as Coldstone Creamery and Maui Wowi are also looking to sell and we can definitely expect to see more empty storefronts in the near future.

Luckily, the businesses in Village West that are most popular with Claremont Colleges students, like 21 Choices, American Apparel, or Jamba Juice, have not reported that they are closing, but we will have to wait and see how they fare as their neighbors shut their doors.

The Courier reports that, aside from the current economic crisis, the City of Claremont admits it may have a problem with "branding."

While much of the hardships of the $22.5 million redevelopment project are blamed on the dismal economy, some shopkeepers have complained that the city has not done its part to promote the area as a vibrant shopping destination.
In response, city officials are in the process of discussing a “branding study” that they hope will re-define the city and draw in visitors and their sales tax dollars from around the region. City staff estimated the project would cost $50,000 to hire an outside consulting firm to come up with the brand and another $50,000 to promote and advertise the new brand.

The goal of a new brand would be to promote Claremont as a shopping destination, rather than just "The City of Trees and PhDs." The article compares Claremont's situation to that of Upland, who has just spent $150,000 on consultants for development of a new image. However, while Upland and Claremont are near each other, the attitudes and demographics of the residents could not be more different. Upland has tried to market itself as a shopping destination by attracting big box stores, such as Target, Best Buy, and Office Depot, but Claremont would be making a big mistake in trying to attract these types of stores and giving up their image of being a small college town. It seems that members of the Chamber of Commerce agree, and It is likely that Claremont will not go that far, but rather try to market itself more like an Old Town Pasadena.

Mayor Ellen Taylor, a former Chamber of Commerce CEO, believes the branding study has merit. Claremont has never been a one stop-shopping destination where residents can buy everything from large appliances to daily shopping needs, Ms. Taylor said, but offers shoppers an alternative to places like Victoria Gardens or the Montclair Mall.

While some residents welcome any growth in Claremont, others feel that spending $100,000 to market the town is going too far. Either way, most residents seem to be in agreement that the town needs to attract popular businesses with staying power, despite the economic situation.

It seems to me that Claremont does need a new image (whether it needs to pay to get that image I'm not sure) and that a good place to start would be having fewer specialized stores like Himalayan Collections or Phebie's Needle Art, and more businesses that will provide a real alternative from malls or shopping centers in the area.

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