A Retail Road Trip

Summer is a time for vacations. But Fred Hakimeh, owner of Outrageous Gallery, combined pleasure with business last month when he drove 4,500 miles and visited six states to find a new city where he can reside and expand his retail jewelry store.

Hakimeh calls Scottsdale, Ariz., home. For nearly 20 years he has been able to conduct a lucrative living in a store where fine jewelry is sold alongside fine art. But for the last year or two things have slowed down about 50 to 60 percent and the current economy may make things worse during the upcoming winter.

Hard times often force retailers to take a hard look at their business, and Hakimeh is no exception. In addition to finding a more vibrant retail market, he also wants to change from a seasonal retailer to a year-round retailer. With this goal in mind, his journey began.

His first stop was Utah, but Salt Lake City "didn’t work" for Hakimeh, and Park City is already a crowded retail sector, with shops offering a similar mix of products. Jackson Hole, Wyo.’s ski season was suffering, and it was a little "too Western" for Hakimeh’s more contemporary store, as was White Fish, Mont.

He also explored Sun Valley, Ketchum, and Boise, all fine cities in Idaho, but it was the developing tourist town of Coeur d’Alene that finally made Hakimeh’s list of possible cities for relocation.

The Pacific Northwest provided additional possibilities for Hakimeh with Cannon Beach, Ore., his second choice. One thing Hakimeh does know for sure at this stage of his retailing career, staying in Scottsdale isn’t advancing his business, as sales continue to decline. The 4,500-mile road trip may or may not result in a move to Idaho or Oregon. But at least he took the time to get away from his store, think about his business model, and give serious thought as to where he could prosper, not when.

—Paul Holewa, Retail Details, Aug. 14, 2009