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Wilsonville's economy a mix of uncertainties

The Oregonian

WILSONVILLE, Ore. – Business | Sales at some stores are down, others are doing OK, but a big project is on - Wilsonville's economy - a mix of uncertainties

Wilsonville is a mix of messages when it comes to the economy.

"For lease" signs sit in empty store fronts at the Old Town Mercantile, but people are still buying $800 puppies at a pet shop. A dry cleaner laid off an employee, but every electronic lottery machine in Dotty's was full on a Wednesday afternoon.

Fred Meyer still has an application with the city to build a 145,600-square-foot store and Sonic opened a drive-in, but Cold Stone Creamery shut its doors. Hallmark also closed but was replaced by Sherwin-Williams.

A florist is shuttered in Old Town Village, but a bicycle shop that opened in June is doing OK. Not a single store is closed in Argyle Square north of town.

Asked about the economic impact on their businesses, store owners' replies varied from "no change" to "not so good."

"This economy has so many uncertainties," said Steve Gilmore, chief executive of the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, which is funded by businesses, is doing "OK," Gilmore said, but memberships, which total about 380, are down.

Still, Gilmore pointed to the "bright spots," including the proposed Fred Meyer complex in Old Town, west of Interstate 5, proposed for 2010 or 2011.

Developers submitted new plans this week, which include a Fred Meyer store with a garden center and two adjoining office and retail spaces. Another developer is proposing a multistory building with retail and residential space.

The total development would be 250,600 square feet, according to the Wilsonville planning department. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 24.

Mayor Charlotte Lehan said she's noticed the empty store fronts and worries about the small shopkeepers.

"There are so many things that little shops sell that are not necessities," Lehan said. "They're nice things to have, but it's very easy for people, if they're nervous at all, to put off buying those things."

Vendors have raised their prices or added "fuel" fees for deliveries, forcing some shops to pass along the prices. Even puppies cost more.

Critter Cabana recently raised prices on dog food, toys and puppies, said Marie Post, manager of the pet store.

Post said a few people have changed to less expensive dog food or decided against buying pet toys, but so far, puppies are selling.

"We haven't felt it yet," Post said, but she expected to feel the pinch soon.

The Town Center Dry Cleaners is feeling it.

"It's really slow," said Nyung Lee, who owns the store with her husband, David.

Sales are down nearly 20 percent, and costs are up, David Lee said.

He's worried he will lose more customers if he raises his prices. The business laid off an employee, and the couple have taken on more work hours.

At Old Town Village, Shawn Parsons opened Bicycle Service Direct in June and is entering the slow season for bicycling.

"It's going to be a struggle during the winter," he said, but Parsons isn't worried about the economy. He pointed to the Villebois development as a strong future customer base.

But Lehan said the development has slowed dramatically and isn't expected to be completed for four to five years.

So far, about 25 percent of the proposed 2,500 homes and apartments have been built. Roughly 1,100 people live in Villebois, which was proposed to bolster Wilsonville's 17,000 population by about 50 percent, according to Villebois developer Costa Pacific Communities.

Wendy Owen: 503-294-5969;

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