City, broker say Village business climate is strong despite closures

by Andrew Alonzo |

A stroll down Yale Avenue in the Claremont Village yields two different sights. Most businesses on the east such as Pizza N Such, Union on Yale, and Amelie, are thriving, while three vacant storefronts occupy the west: the former Barbara Cheatley’s Antiques, Heroes and Legends Bar and Grill, and most recently, We Olive.

Over the last 12 months, several Village businesses have closed or relocated, including the aforementioned Heroes and We Olive, and also Neon Moon Art Supply, Sonja Stump Photography, Del Anno California, Curtis Real Estate, Honeybird, and Rhino Records. Barbara Cheatley’s shuttered in May 2021. The Press Restaurant, which has been closed since March 2020, may reopen, but tenant issues are keeping it from returning, said Nicholas Quackenbos, a longtime commercial real estate broker at Quackenbos-Bell who handles commercial business in the Village.

Asked about the vacancies, Claremont City Manager Adam Pirrie said, “There are multiple factors at play. You are seeing an increase in rents. And then there are other businesses that are closing for other reasons. Some of their concepts may not be as viable as they were before. It’s more than just a simple issue of the rents that are being charged.”

Construction paper obscures the windows at the former Heroes and Legends location at 131 N. Yale Ave. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Rents “have gradually risen as inflation has risen, as supply has shrunk and demand has risen,” Quackenbos said.

According to Quackenbos, Village commercial monthly lease rates rose about 19% between 2019 and now, from about $2,850 for a 1,000 square-foot space in 2019 to $3,400 today.

Ann Ogden Brown and her husband Jeff Brown opened We Olive in November 2018. The business did well, attracting local olive oil and wine lovers. Then came the pandemic.

“It changed a lot of things like the way people recreate and shop,” Ogden Brown said. “With rent going up, costs of everything going up, we had to face reality.” She spent Tuesday going through We Olive’s inventory and other items, deciding what to send to storage, charity, or elsewhere.

Ann Ogden Brown packs up inventory from her Village shop, We Olive and Wine Bar, which closed its doors last month. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

The final straw arrived after the holidays, a period small businesses like We Olive rely on to get through the early part of the following year.

“I kept thinking, It’s got to come back. But … it’s not coming back right now, and right now is when we have to make a decision,” Ogden Brown said. “It just seemed to be the time.”

Both Quackenbos and Pirrie said despite recent turnover, the Village remains prime commercial real estate. Pirrie said Village-based businesses generate about $950,000 in annual sales tax revenue for the city.

Available storefronts are for the most part snatched up quickly. Maison Garrison, a women’s boutique, opened its doors two weeks after Del Anno left at 323 W. Bonita Ave. When Neon Moon left in August, the Pomona Valley Art Association was in its former spot within a month. And when 75-year Village institution Curtis Real Estate shut its doors in January 2022, Ahmad Shariff Art Gallery was in by February.

The Village will likely soon see another clothing boutique, The Rave Box, at 141 N. Harvard Ave., Quackenbos said.

La Popular Restaurant, the third stateside offering from Mexico City restaurant group Grupo Carolo, currently awaiting approval of its building permits, is set to open in the fall at the former Rhino Records site at 235 N. Yale Avenue. Rhino closed last September, and is now thriving at 5458 Moreno St. in Montclair.

Longtime commercial real estate broker Nicholas Quackenbos, of Quackenbos-Bell, at his Claremont office. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

“The restaurant’s taking 4,600 [square feet],” Quackenbos said. “That leaves 3,000-ish feet, which will probably be one, two or three retail businesses.”

The former Heroes and Legends space is comprised of two units, a 1,500-square foot space to the north and 1,000-square foot unit to the south. Nosy Neighbors Coffee and Donuts owner Keith Strenger recently signed a 10-year lease for the north portion, with an estimated move-in in May, Strenger said. Nosy Neighbors’ current 305 N. Harvard Avenue site will become a quick service pizza, boba, and soda restaurant.

Ogden Brown, a Claremont resident and frequent Village shopper, offered this advice to those looking to make a go of it in downtown: “Get connected, talk to other business owners, and just learn as much as you possibly can about the Village and how things operate.”

Quackenbos believes the future of Village business is bright.

“I get calls from 15 different types of users for any one space,” he said. “There are entrepreneurs out there wanting to open a business, expand a business to another location. It’s hard to tell what comes along.

“This little place, as compact as it is with parking issues as it has, just thrives.”


Submit a Comment

Share This