The driving force behind Newberry Commons' comebackAnchor makes the difference
An anchor is defined as a heavy object used to keep a boat from floating adrift, and also as “a person or a thing that can be relied on for stability.”
Newberry Commons, in the hills of northern York County halfway between York and Harrisburg off Interstate 83, was for several years a shopping center badly in need of an anchor.
Super Fresh grocery store left in January 2010, leaving a huge hole at one end of the 245,000-square foot shopping center, which opened in 1987.
Now, the center is 96 percent occupied, and seven new stores have moved in since April 2014.
That was when Darrenkamp’s, the family-owned grocery chain based in Lancaster County, renovated and opened a new 35,000-square-foot store.
“We thought this would be a great fit for us, and everything so far has shown that to be the case,” said store manager Ryan Darrenkamp, whose store, the fourth Darrenkamp’s and the first outside Lancaster County.
Most of his 120 employees are area residents, and each year has seen “a 20-percent growth compared to the prior year, so we’re pretty happy with that,” Darrenkamp said.
“We do half our business on Saturday and Sunday, which is even more, percentage-wise, than our other locations do,” he said.
Anchor makes the difference
Retail execs say nothing helps a shopping center more than a major anchor, or destination, that draws traffic and lifts up other stores.
Darrenkamp’s could be a textbook example of that, ROCK Commercial Real Estate’s Ben Chiaro said.
“We knew that having the anchor in there would make the difference,” he said, estimating that vacant space has dropped from 80,000 square feet to less than 10,000 square feet now, or two small vacancies, one of which could soon be filled.
Darrenkamp’s “started the domino effect of filling all of the other vacancies at the center,” added Chiaro, brokerage adviser for York-based ROCK and the exclusive leasing agent for Newberry Commons.
Chiaro recently completed deals with: Select Physical Therapy for a new physical therapy practice; a relocation and expansion of H&R Block from elsewhere in the center; the purchase of a single-acre outparcel that will be developed for Fresenius Medical Care, which plans to begin construction of an 8,000-square-foot medical center in coming weeks; and an expansion of Rite Aid corporate offices in the shopping center.
Several shoppers and store officials expressed concern about what might happen if the Rite Aid office closes as a result of the company’s pending merger with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., but others said it might create an opening for a large retailer that could complement existing stores.
Darrenkamp’s provides the necessary anchor traffic, Chiaro said, and another recent addition, Valley Green Beverage, which moved in four months after Darrenkamp’s, also has become a hub for traffic.
“There has been a lot of interest and change in this center,” said Heather Kreiger, ROCK’s director of research and marketing. “Since Darrenkamp’s opened, we have signed seven new deals, with new and continued interest.”
Over lunch at the Subway this month, Paul Spittler of York Haven noticed that the center seems busier these days.
“I’ve been coming here for years, and it has definitely picked up,” said Spittler, a retiree of the New Cumberland Army Depot. “They have been filling in the open stores, and on weekends it’s busy with the church,” Capital Area Christian.
Bill Brownstein, owner of the UPS Store in Newberry Commons, has seen the center change in his 15 years working there.
And while his store was doing well before the Darrenkamp’s moved in, he agreed that the new grocery store has helped the center overall: “It’s a win-win for the shopping center.”
Valley Green Beverage’s manager, Ryan Stough, said he wouldn’t mind seeing a few other retailers move in, like a chain restaurant, maybe a Chili’s.
Northern market growing
Ryan Darrenkamp, 32, is the fourth generation of his family’s grocery business. He has spent time in virtually every department at the Darrenkamp’s stores, including its original location (now closed) on Union Street in Lancaster’s Cabbage Hill area.
Darrenkamp’s also has stores in Willow Street, Mount Joy and Elizabethtown, and while the Newberry Commons store is the regional chain’s smallest, it also may be the most open, with a high ceiling and what Ryan Darrenkamp called an “open footprint” that is particularly inviting to first-time visitors.
“We had been considering growth, and the landlord there reached out to us,” Darrenkamp said. Newberry Commons is owned by Newberry Commons Limited Partnership.
The northern York County area around Newberry Commons is growing. It’s above the median income for York County, and can offer 40,000 people within a five-mile radius, ROCK’s Chiaro said.
“There does seem to be residential growth in that area, and it’s really appealing to what you might call a ‘split market,’ where one person might work in York and one in Harrisburg,” Chiaro said. “And with all of the industrial growth that’s now taking place along the 83 corridor, we feel that will continue to spark housing growth in the future.”
Ryan Darrenkamp sees the need.
“In an eight-mile circle around the store, you see one Giant and a Walmart, and that’s about it. So I think there is a need here. Our biggest struggle has just been getting the word out that we’re here, where we are and who we are,” he said. “And, as we continue to perform well, word of mouth is spreading, and people are starting to check us out.”