Retailers, restaurants raid ex-RadioShack sites for prime real estate

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Pedestrians walk past a RadioShack Corp. store in San Francisco. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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Annie Sciacca
Reporter- San Francisco Business Times


Electronics retailer RadioShack’s loss is a gain for some retailers and restaurants.

Following the company’s recent bankruptcy announcement and its closing of more than 1,700 stores around the country, shops and restaurant chains eager to expand are swooping in to seek out the prime spots RadioShack’s been holding.

Most of the newly vacant spots are in highly visible shopping centers and other coveted locations.

RadioShack (RSHCQ) has struggled the last few years and has struggled to maintain a relevant image in a world of rapidly changing technology.

Now, the 95-year-old electronics retailer is bankrupt and has begun shuttering or selling its total 4,000 stores as it quickly moves forward to restructure.

As many as 1,784 RadioShack stores will shut down in the next couple weeks, and about 500 of those will be in California. That will open up a valuable chunk of real estate for companies eager to expand into the Bay Area.

Retailers that are trying to expand, such as fast-casual restaurants Mooyah Burgers and Pita Pit, and personal services like massage and spa chain Hand Stone, are eyeing soon-to-be vacant RadioShacks.

“Nationwide, where Blockbuster and Radioshack were before — these businesses being displaced by the Internet — we’re coming in behind that and occupying that space in retail centers where we didn’t exist before,” said Todd Leff, CEO of Hand Stone Massage. “It’s an interesting change in business.”

Based in New Jersey, Hand Stone now has 200 locations. It has plans to open more in the Bay Area and beyond, including existing spots in Pleasanton, Dublin and Alameda. A location in San Rafael has been approved.

While RadioShack locations are typically around 2,000 square feet — slightly less than Hand Stone’s minimum 2,500-square-foot format, the electronics retailers’ locations are in the spots that Hand Stone likes.

“We like locating in grocery-anchored, daily-use shopping centers because that’s where customers feel comfortable getting this service … people are comfortable getting it in a retail shopping center,” Leff said. “And it gets a lot of traffic.”

The RadioShack closures, he said, are an example of “old school box items moving out” and reflect the trend toward health related or wellness services — such as massage services or yoga studios — that are popular now.

Food chains are also getting in on the action — particularly the brands of fast casual, build-your-own meal chains (a la Chipotle) that focus on good ingredients. One of those chains, Mooyah Burgers, Fries Shakes is eager to land in RadioShack’s locations in both the Bay Area and elsewhere.

A few Mooyah locations exist in the Sacramento area and one is planned in Los Gatos, but the Northern California developer for the Plano, Texas,-based chain, Loren Katzman, said she’s looking at RadioShack spots and other grocery-anchored center spots to bring Mooyah to in San Mateo, Marin and Alameda counties.

“We like to be in areas that have larger family sizes, typically in locations with household incomes of around $70,000,” Katzman said of her real estate search formula. “That’s typically where the RadioShacks were — within those (grocery-anchored) shopping centers.”

It’s no secret that grocery-anchored shopping centers are prized real estate these days. Along with power centers — outdoor, strip mall-style shopping center anchored by a Target or Kohls, for example — occupancy for these centers is at an all-time high in the Bay Area.

Because of the Bay Area’s “exceptionally strong economic performance in recent years,” both enclosed malls and the other types of shopping centers are doing well, Garrick Brown, the vice president of research for DTZ, told the Business Times in February.

Now, the departure of RadioShack from some of these centers leaves hard-to-get spots available, and the search is on.

According to RadioShack’s list of closures, roughly 30 locations in the Bay Area will be left open, including spots in San Francisco, the peninsula, Alameda County and a few spots in Fairfield, Santa Rosa and San Jose.

Annie covers hospitality food.

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