It's official! Home Depot coming to El Centro

May 13, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

When HomeBase opened in the old Pace warehouse facility on Wake Avenue in El Centro in 1999 there was some concern about whether there was enough business to support the large home improvement center in addition to similar local businesses.

While HomeBase closed its El Centro store after being in operation just over a year, city officials interpreted it as a corporate action unrelated to the level of local business.

Now another major home-improvement company is ready to give that same Wake Avenue location a try.

On May 1, Home Depot was awarded a permit by the city of El Centro to start renovation work on the warehouse in the southeast section of the city just off Interstate 8 near the Fourth Street exit.

"It means they are here," said Dean Davidson, El Centro's top building official of the fact the company was awarded a permit.


City Manager Abdel Salem said for the last five years Home Depot officials have voiced interest in moving into the city. He said the company is moving ahead with the project without seeking incentives from the city.

Chuck Sifuentes, a spokesman for Home Depot, said the company is moving forward quickly on the project and plans to open the outlet July 26.

He said the store likely will hire 150 to 175 people, with the majority of those positions being filled by local residents.

Sifuentes said anyone interested in working for Home Depot can go to the store site and ask for an application. He added at some point soon the company may place a trailer in front of the store to take applications.

Sifuentes also said he would likely be able to provide a telephone number to the local store this week.

Salem said he is pleased to see Home Depot working to open a local facility, stating, "I think it is a plus for the community."

Councilman Jack Terrazas said he also is pleased to see a Home Depot outlet move into the Wake Avenue facility.

Still, Terrazas said he has the same concerns he had when HomeBase moved into the area in 1999.

"The reservations have always been there," he said. "Whenever you see two or three major players pursuing the same venture I get concerned because eventually someone gets hurt."

Terrazas did say he is hopeful the Home Depot venture will be successful.

Councilman Jack Dunnam said the closing of HomeBase "was in no way a local problem."

He added he thinks there is enough business to support Home Deport along with other local businesses that also provide home improvement products.

Home Depot's chief competition in the Imperial Valley will be Imperial Stores, which for decades has operated home improvement stores in cities throughout the Valley.

When the city awarded HomeBase a permit to open a warehouse facility, Phil Heald, president of Imperial Stores, filed a lawsuit against the city.

Heald was unavailable for comment Saturday on his reaction to Home Depot's plans.

Heald closed his Imperial Stores in Yuma after a Home Depot moved into that city late last year.

In an interview with this paper then, he said the Yuma market could not support his store, plus Home Deport and Lowe's, another national home improvement company that was moving into that market.

However, he also said the Yuma market is about half the size of the Imperial Valley market because the Valley is on the border of Mexicali.

Heald is in the process of expanding his operations in the Valley. He recently opened a larger facility in Calexico and he has plans to expand his store in Brawley.

Once Home Depot opens in El Centro, Imperial Stores will find itself in competition with a company that states it is the world's largest home improvement retailer.

Sifuentes said Home Depot did research before opting to move into El Centro. He said the sense is there is enough business in the area, in particular with the population of Mexicali figured into the scenario, to support the store.

He added of Imperial Stores, "The way we see it we think competition is good, not only for us, but for our competition."

He added it will be up to the customers to decide where they want to shop.

According to the company's Web site, each store stocks up to 50,000 different kinds of building, home improvement, and lawn and garden products.

Sifuentes added each store offers weekend and evening clinics on building projects, and he said that same service will be offered at the El Centro store.

Home Depot has stores in 46 states and seven Canadian provinces. The company also has expanded into Chile, Puerto Rico and Argentina.

The Home Depot Web site states the company is expected to be operating 2,300 stores in the Americas by 2004.

For fiscal 1999, the company reported its net sales totaled $38.4 billion.

Staff Copy Editor Richard Montenegro contributed information to this story.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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