Personal service providers fuel city’s vibrant commercial real estate market

No malls, lack of big box competition contribute to unique environment for shoppers, small business owners
By Dan Aznoff | Apr 05, 2018
Photo by: Dan Aznoff


Merchants in Mill Creek were able to survive the economic downturn 10 years ago by offering much-need personal services for residents of the community.

Mill Creek Town Center—the heart of the city’s economic base – has maintained full occupancy with medical clinics, specialty restaurants, clothing stores and a variety of unique retailers. The center’s success, according to one commercial real estate broker, has been not trying to compete for shoppers against large national retailers.

“Town Center has gained a well-deserved reputation as a place to meet for lunch, then shop in a relaxed, casual atmosphere,” said Dorrie Johnson, a commercial agent with Redfield Real Estate Services LLC.

“The presence of Central Market and University Books established Town Center and set the tone for the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere where shoppers can enjoy coming back time after time.”

Steve Clark with City Closers in Seattle agreed, adding that the abundance of apartment dwellers in close proximity to Town Center has created a shopping district that caters to walkers and people who live in nearby communities.

He described Town Center as attractive for people at all hours, beginning with an early morning workout all the way through meeting friends for a late night cocktail.

“As the population density continues to increase, there will be more need for personal services, ranging from naturopaths, acupuncturists and nutritionists to sports rehabilitation,” Clark said. “The Internet has eliminated the need for most items found at big box stores. The specialty retailers in Town Center will continue to thrive by matching the needs of shoppers in the community.”

Location is always a vital factor for a successful business, Clark said. The updated architecture at Town Center with upscale shoppers make the Mill Creek shopping district “extremely attractive” to small business owners and to smaller local chain stores, he said.

The number of young families adds to the lure of Mill Creek. Clark said Town Center has become a lifestyle center for the entire city.

Town Center fits the high income Mill Creek residents of the community, and is appealing for visitors, according to Johnson. The center, she said, could not support the same retailers she placed in a similar retail center in Smokey Point.

She said Hobby Lobby and Dick’s Sporting Goods were ideal tenants in the commercial center in northern Snohomish County between Arlington and Marysville.

The Gateway Center in Mill Creek that housed a Safeway store until two years ago was a better fit for a specialty grocer like Sprouts, she said.

“The right tenants that match the appropriate demographic is key to a commercial center that can attract customers because it is new and unique,” Johnson explained. “The right mix will maintain that same level of business for the long-term.”

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