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East Side Story: Merchants worry about changing center

Store owners concerned over increased rents and proposed structural changes

Posted: April 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Owner Curt Waite and barber Dominic Ranalo speak inside My Barber Shop in the Sand Canyon Center in Canyon Country on Monday.

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Video store owner Curt Waite doesn't want to see the Sand Canyon Shopping Center become a ghost town of mom-and-pop storefronts, but the signs all around him are spooky.

"It's like the last of the mom-and-pop stores around here," said Waite, whose My Video Store has been a fixture at the shopping center for 12 years.

Debbie's Hallmark Shop, a 37-year fixture at the center on the corner of Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon roads, is now just a bank of plate-glass windows three car lengths long.

The store grew step by step with the growth of the Canyon Country neighborhood, but is now just an empty shell in the L-shaped center.

It closed its doors last week.

Its neighbor, Rainbow Cleaners, is still filled with clothes, but that, too, is soon expected to change.

"There is nothing we can do," said Maria, the woman who runs the place, as she hung clothes on a rack.

"The (property) owner wants to expand right over to here," she said, stretching out her arm.

"How can we be happy? We have to move," she said.

Also expected to close shop are an eye doctor, chiropractor and dentist.

Across the parking lot from the cleaners is the shopping center's long-standing pet store, Pet Stop.

In big lettering on the side of its building, overshadowing advertisements for "dog and cat grooming," it reads: "We're Moving."

In three weeks, the store will become the latest empty structure on the lot.

A man who identified himself as a Pet Stop manager said, "As long as we're here, we're not talking."

He added: "We'll talk after we move."

Tough choices

The Vons grocery store at the shopping center has plans to expand, causing small-business owners to deal with increased rents.

Vons is owned by Safeway, and Property Development Centers is a wholly owned subsidiary of Safeway Inc. The development company acquired the shopping center last year.

The owners now want to renovate and landscape.

Increased rents for merchants and proposed structural changes are forcing tenants to make some tough choices.

Communication with property owners has been described for The Signal by a half-dozen tenants as spotty.

Phone and email messages left for Property Development Centers were not returned Monday.

Dentist Lila Zarrinnam Ehrlich, whose office sits sandwiched between Vons and Rainbow Cleaners, said she's received scant information about the plans.

"I don't know what's going on," she said. "We've been told pretty much nothing."

Zarrinnam Ehrlich has been at the Sand Canyon Shopping Center caring for the teeth of people living in Canyon Country for more than eight years.

Merchant neighborhood

"This is a neighborhood," she said, indicating the shopping center. "We would like to know what's going on."

One of the many long-standing tenants who wants to stay at the shopping center is Santa Clarita City Council member Bob Kellar.

Kellar and Mitch Davis set down roots in 2000 when Kellar Davis Real Estate first opened its doors at the location.

A couple of years ago, the company expanded, laying down marble countertops and knocking down walls.

"I would hate to lose this place," Kellar said Monday, adding he was just on the phone with property owners trying to work things out.

"We've all basically been here for years," he said about his neighbors.

The Signal found only one tenant happy about his future at the center.

"We're going to stay," said Raul Aragon, manager of Yum Yum Donuts. "In the future, it's going to be good. Yes."

Expansion plans, according to Aragon, are not likely to affect his store.

Waite, who has been at the location 14 years, said all the locations in the center except for Vons are family-owned businesses.

"Now," he said, "They're going to gut every storefront."




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