Slowly building a new Peppertree

The Peppertree Square Shopping Center is hopping, though tenants will admit much of that activity is happening in front of their shops rather than within.

Fences went up around the business complex in February as construction crews began to re-grade parking, remodel existing buildings and create space for 2 potential anchors to the center, possibly a grocery or drugstore. Shops have remained open despite the deluge of construction, with limited parking provided to the rear of the center and a jungle of chain-link fences protecting the pedestrian pathways from busy service trucks and tractors.

While customers and shop owners alike have welcomed the work, happy to see long-awaited changes to Peppertree, businesses have borne the brunt. As the south Claremont shopping center bustles with construction, shopkeepers try to hold on despite admittedly slow sales.

“It’s already been 3 months, what’s another month?” Maribel Rosales, the owner of Yum Yum Donuts, shrugged.

Though her statement might suggest she’s unconcerned, Ms. Rosales asserts construction has been a daily challenge for her business. Foot traffic has dropped from about 2000 customers a week to about 1500 or 1600, Ms. Rosales estimates. She adds that though donuts are made fresh every morning, they are lucky to sell 100 donuts in a day: “Sales are bad,” she recognized.

Jose Jimenez, store manager of the Subway restaurant in the middle of the complex, is having similar troubles. He estimates that employees dish out about 50 sandwiches for customers a day, as compared to volumes upwards of 150 in days before construction began. Mr. Jimenez has had to cut back on shifts and scaled back on store hours because of how sluggish business has gotten.

Though the flow of customers has definitely slowed since construction crews appeared, Mr. Jimenez says he embraces the temporary lull as a necessary evil as the center gets a much-needed fix. He noted that, in general, business has been declining for years, ever since the CVS drugstore first pulled out of the shopping center. In years following, Peppertree has lacked the ability to get any business to commit to being the complex’s anchor store.

Tim S., an employee of the smoke shop next door  to Subway, attributes the lack of an anchor at Peppertree to the marketplace’s dilapidated appearance.

“It looked like a prison,” he said. “Just really old.”

Work is underway to give Peppertree the warm and inviting look that the shop owners seek along with 2 spacious pads to lure the anchors to the center that they hold out hope for. Until then, Tim maintains they will just have to deal with the challenge of customers who just don’t want to deal with “the maze.”

“It’s a hassle,” he acknowledged.

The hassle hasn’t kept all from venturing out to Peppertree. Isaac Nuñez says he has made no changes to his ritualistic routine of pizza nights at Little Caesar’s with sons Isaac, Jr. and Matthew. The construction is not a problem in the slightest, he proclaims.

For those who do mind manuvering through the mess, construction will not be an issue much longer. Preliminary work is near complete, according to Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor. He says Peppertree tenants and customers can expect to see the fences removed  by June 1, though Steven Simpson, a construction worker engaged in the Peppertree renovation project, believes the fencing may be gone even sooner.

—Beth Hartnett


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