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Sunday, May 6, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Big-box stores mean mixed feelings for mom-and-pop shops

Times Southeast Bureau

Maple Valley residents are used to leaving town when they need to buy pants, shoes or furniture. They venture to the superstores in neighboring cities to spend their money.

Now, the potential entrée of large retail stores with their larger selections and generally lower prices, the Maple Valley business community is uncertain how big-box stores will affect them.

While big stores can anchor smaller ones, they can also be competition, said City Manager Anthony Hemstad said.

Cherry Lane Market, a boutique grocery that carries organic produce and specialty products, is one business that could feel the pinch if retail giants move into town.

Cherry Lane, named after a family farm in Grandview, Yakima County, opened nine months ago. Owners Aaron and Denise Thom carry local produce when they can and stock the shelves with products that customers ask for.

There's no question that a big store would affect business at Cherry Lane — probably not for the better, Aaron Thom said.

"I can't imagine how a small business can benefit from that," Thom said.

The allowance of large retail in Maple Valley does have a positive side, said Sue VanRuff, executive director of the Maple Valley/Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce. Larger stores provide an opportunity for businesses to expand, she said.

J. Johnson, who owns the Maple Valley staple Johnson's Home and Garden and three other stores in the Four Corners area, wants to put all four stores and offices under one roof. He is negotiating to build on a site in the Four Corners area.

As for competition with larger stores, Johnson said he's not too worried about it. Large retail stores offer an impersonal shopping experience and aren't rooted in the community, he said.

"I challenge anyone to see Lowe's, [Home] Depot or Wal-Mart on the back of a Little League shirt," Johnson said.

Lauren Vane: 253-234-8604 or lvane@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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