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Local businesspeople reflect on location choices

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by Patrick Nolan

SBJ Contributing Writer

About 10 years ago, Bob Greene purchased the James River Catfish House on Highway AA. The restaurant was located in a river valley about three miles from Nixa and three miles from Springfield.

"I assumed it to be a good location for a catfish house," Greene said. "I worked my butt off for three years and it never achieved what I expected. It was a good experience like going to college. I got my education in location."

Now, as the area franchise co-owner of Village Inn restaurants with his brother Bill, Greene chooses his locations a bit more carefully. In picking a location he looks for churches, family venues, shopping areas and schools. "Churches are a key sign of strong population growth," Greene said.

"You want to position your business on the main arteries. Think of it as your body the arteries provide the lifeblood," Greene said. "Be aware of stacking near intersections. Ingress and egress are big points. If the lights back up, are your customers going to be able to enter and exit?"

Susan Budde, manager of Silver Fetish jewelry store, agreed. "You want people to have access without any problems. If you're not in the right location, you're not going to make it. You have to be in the area of people who want your product."

In choosing a good location you should do your research, Budde said. "Choose a place, watch the area and talk to other business owners."

"I suppose effective marketing could counter a poor location," she added. "But I don't want to have to try. Location is everything. That's your business; you want to have traffic continuously."

Kristy Frisbie, marketing director at retail giant Battlefield Mall, said location is the difference between success and failure of a business.

"Choose a location based on traffic and accessibility, and saturation of the product," Frisbie said.

But cost is often a key factor if not the deciding factor in location choice.

Cost is what prompted Danny Skaggs, owner of Skaggs Heating and Air, to pick his location.

"The main thing for me was the cost of location," Skaggs said. "In our business location is the key because we go to the job site, to the customer's house." And as a service business, a highly visible location in a prime, high-rent area was unnecessary.

With about 20 percent of the space at his location used for office space, Skaggs uses the rest as a shop or warehouse area. "We need the space to store equipment and build duct work."

Industries like construction and manufacturing have to be careful of location but for slightly different reasons than retail and restaurant establishments.

"Factories and distributing centers need to have good access for trucks and trains," said Chip Johnson, an independent trucker based out of Springfield.

Dan Beck, an owner at retailer Bailey and Beck, said access was important to location, but being where the customers are is more important. Bailey and Beck is located in the Walnut Street Historic District, within a mile of where 70 percent of Springfield works.

"For a business starting out, rent can be tough. We didn't want to rent, we wanted to own," Beck said. "We did our research. We looked all over. The house drew us to it."

Greene said proper research is invaluable given the expenses of opening a restaurant.

"I have a good real estate person," he said. "Get the demographics of the population and their spending habits. How often they go out to eat, what type of restaurants they frequent.

"We know who our customer is use the demographics and know the area, then select the location," he said.

"From there on out it's a crap shoot."

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