7-Eleven Has a Clear Path Ahead to Set Up Shop on Historic Main Street Park City
Park City’s Newest 7-Eleven and Car-Free Weekend Concerns Addressed at Historic Park City Alliance’s Monthly Meeting
The Historic Park City Alliance held its monthly board meeting on Tuesday morning, discussing the forthcoming 7-Eleven store on the town’s historic Main Street and hearing complaints from a handful of businesses about the city’s car-free weekends.
The space that was once occupied by the Main Street Deli, which served unfussy eats for decades, could become Park City’s newest 7-Eleven location by as early as the start of the 2020-21 winter tourist season.
The Main Street Deli at 525 Main St. originally closed its doors in March as Utah was rocked by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The original closure was supposed to be temporary until health restrictions were lifted but the owners opted to close for good soon after. The deli had been a Main Street staple since 1977 and left the space open for a new tenant.
Many residents have been concerned about the impacts of chain stores on Park City and The Historic Park City Alliance’s Alison Kuhlow says the HPCA has been looking at the issue since 2013. She says as resort communities like Park City grow and become more successful, chain stores like 7-Eleven will want to come in not necessarily to make a quick buck, but to drive future business to more profitable locations elsewhere.
“Once you get to a level of interest and once you get to more tourism, higher-end tourism, you’re going to start to see the chain stores want to come in,” she said. “Chain stores, when they come into a small town, they’re not breaking even on that one location, they’re essentially using that location as marketing. They have a deeper budget than a business who’s trying to make the profit and loss work just on that one site.”
Kuhlow explained the legal precedents set in Utah do not allow for Park City to outright ban chain stores. Park City adopted an ordinance in 2017 that limited the number of chains allowed to set up shop in the city to 17. The ordinance allows the city to protect local businesses while still granting a set number of business licenses to chains.
A chain business is defined as a company that has 10 or more locations where the look and feel of the stores and products are comparable.
The Main Street 7-Eleven will be Park City’s 16th chain business and third 7-Eleven location. The others are located on Park Ave. in Old Town and on Sidewinder Dr. in Prospector.
The HPCA also addressed concerns from a handful of Main Street business owners who say they have been hurt by the city’s car-free Sunday program. The program, which was implemented after the onset of COVID-19 has been extended to Saturdays on a few weekends as well.
Marcus Hernandez runs the Alaska Fur Gallery and represented seven concerned businesses at the meeting. He says higher-end retail shops and art galleries have actually been hurt by the pedestrian-friendly weekends.
“I was for the car-free Sundays at first and it took us a little bit of time to do our numbers to find out, ‘hey, is this helping us or is it hurting us,’” he said. “Collectively, speaking to everyone, we just have found that we’re attracting, in my business’ opinion and my other colleagues' businesses opinions, the wrong kind of crowds.”
Hernandez says, in his experience, the typical clientele who flock to car-free Sundays just aren’t looking to buy jewelry or fine art. He says many people who are looking to spend big money are not willing to walk long distances through a crowded street to their car carrying expensive, and sometimes large, merchandise.
Greg Ottoson of Aloha Ski & Snowboard said his business was struggling on Sundays as well until he actively engaged people on the street with product displays or employees striking up conversations with passing visitors. Ottoson suggested Hernandez and the businesses he represents try the same.
The HPCA board stressed that car-free weekends in Park City are an ongoing project. HPCA sent out a survey on Tuesday afternoon to local businesses to gauge the business community’s interest in continuing car-free Saturdays in the future. They also hope to determine how many businesses are actively engaging customers in the street.
The next HPCA board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 15.