This one felt good.
On Monday, Feb. 10 Hobby Lobby opened their doors in Livingston Parish. In Juban Marketplace, to be exact, directly across from Juban Crossing.
The 55,000 square foot store is a replacement for the retail chains O’Neal Lane location in Baton Rouge, so it’s not exactly a ‘growth’ from a regional perspective, but it sure feels positive for Livingston Parish.
In a world where the development just across the street lost Kohl’s, sees two more big boxes closing, and has yet to move past ‘Phase 1.5,’ to see a large retailer come to the area to bring sales taxes to the parish, and jobs, is a welcome sight.
While the parish council did grant the retailer a property tax exemption, the sales taxes they’ll bring in will far outweigh the property taxes generated. Why? Because Hobby Lobby shoppers from the O’Neal store will simply relocate to the Denaham Springs store, plus new customers will arrive at the store from further parts of Livingston Parish.
Hobby Lobby still has two other locations to service the Baton Rouge area - one in South Baton Rouge and another near mid-city, so the third location moving to Livingston Parish makes sense.
But, it surpasses the X’s and O’s of number crunching, in a way, as a reflection of a post-flood lifestyle that’s been adopted by the parish.
Tax collection and commercial growth in a post-flood Livingston Parish hasn’t been much to write home about, largely due to new issues with wetlands mitigation, store closings, increases in commercial real estate property because old buildings were torn down in prime locations that were now available, and shifts
So to see a retailer, a large one at that, buy into the community that just three years and change ago suffered one of the worst disasters in its history is definitely a feel-good story.
However, look a little further and there’s a national trend looming that Hobby Lobby’s relocation seems to buck - the persistence of Amazon.
Granted, there are things inside Hobby Lobby that can’t necessarily be purchased via Amazon, but in a world of the growing digital marketplace it is hard to stay competitive.
And yet, here’s a 55,000 square foot, brand new building popping up out of what was once woods on Juban Road to serve up arts, crafts, and collectibles for the residents of Livingston Parish (and a few of the aforementioned East Baton Rouge Parish residents).
Amazon is currently growing by nearly double-digits annually in revenue, with nearly the same being said of their profit margins - it makes life difficult for the local folks.
And while Hobby Lobby isn’t necessarily ‘local,’ they do bring in hyper-local sales tax collections, and provide jobs to local citizens.
Those employed persons, typically, go spend money at local establishments, generating more sales taxes. Even if they use Amazon for some retail purchases, the chances they will visit a local grocery store and buy more perishable goods increases as their income rises.
As local retailers still try to hold their spot in the world amid growing digital purchases, we can at least celebrate an employer and sales tax generator choosing Livingston Parish.
J. McHugh David Jr. is publisher and editor of the News.