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By D. Shayne Christie
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 3, 1997

Local businesses want to be busier


Chris Richards
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students seek shelter and a warm cup of coffee yesterday at The Coffee Plantation on University Boulevard. The Plantation is one of several struggling businesses in the Main Gate Center.

Although business has increased in shops along East University Boulevard, some store managers complain that "expensive" back-in parking and new sign laws are preventing them from reaching all the customers they want.

"A dollar per hour is too expensive if you want people to come into the area and shop," said Heather Bowers, assistant manager of the university-area Bath and Body Works.

Store employee Lisa Rotellini said it is easier for potential customers to go to a shopping mall, where they can park for free and don't have to back in.

Rotellini and Bowers agreed customers' most frequent complaints involve parking.

Business, however, is improving for Bath and Body Works, 845 E. University Blvd., though it isn't "quite up to expectations," Bowers said.

Rotellini complained that empty storefronts along the street also hurt business.

"There is not enough retail," Rotellini said.

In the first three hours of business yesterday only 13 customers stopped in, she said.

Down the street at The White House, 825 E. University, sales are on-track, manager Teran Cobbler said.

The women's boutique specializes in white or light-colored products along with other gifts and accessories.

"Business is pretty much where we expected," Cobbler said, adding that few Tucsonans are familiar with the chain, since this is the first one in town.

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. yesterday about 13 patrons visited the store. Although Cobbler would like to see business increase, she said there have been some surprising surges since the chain opened in July. Sorority pledges looking to purchase white linens gave the store an unexpected boost early on, for example, she said.

Cobbler also said parking and signs are the biggest problems.

A recent city ordinance forbidding A-frame sidewalk advertising gives area merchants few options to attract customers' attention, she said.

The White House has not been hit as hard as businesses hidden from the street, she said. The Tucson City Council plans to reconsider the ordinance. Cobbler said parking is a big issue and called the rates and ticketing policies "a deterrent."

For example, Cobbler said, drivers who "feed the meter" after their hour is expired can be ticketed. Cobbler said many shoppers spend more than an hour in the area and the City of Tucson policy is discouraging.

For customers afoot, especially students who can't get to a mall, The White House, Bath and Body Works and The Gap are convenient alternatives, she said, adding the area wants to see an increase in non-student customers.

White House regional manager Courtney Diroll said the university-area store needs patrons from other parts of Tucson along with more help from the Marshall Foundation, which owns the majority of property in the area.

She said the foundation is not working to attract those patrons.

Marshall Foundation spokesman Don Semro said the price of parking was a city issue and out of his control. He said the back-in spaces were meant to make the road safer for bicyclists.

Semro said last month the foundation hoped to fill available business spaces along East University by January.

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