Amazon strikes again

Reef Connections closes; updates on Toys R Us and Claire’s; Lulu’s outlet store coming; and loyalty program heebie-jeebies

Amazon is a beast. I remember back in the day, when it focused almost exclusively on books and other media—and spelled the end for stores like Borders Books and Tower Records. Over the past decade, it’s expanded to other retail categories and more stores closed. For smaller operations, the fight’s been rough. I was driving down Mangrove the other day and was shocked at the number of former retail stores that are now occupied by service-industry offices like mortgage companies.

Amazon’s latest local victim, Reef Connections, leaves another hole on Mangrove. I spoke briefly via Facebook Messenger with owner Jody Smith, who lamented closing up the popular fish-centric store after 23 years. He said if he had to point to one reason, it’d be Amazon. “Really the cost of business and the management of employees is not worth the rewards,” he told me. Clearly, he’s not alone—and it makes me sad, as it means less diversity in our retail landscape. Aquarium owners, don’t fret: Smith will continue to do service calls. The phone number remains the same: 892-8183.

Wait, there’s more Claire’s filed for bankruptcy last week, blaming a decline in mall traffic. The good news for local teenage girls: The Chico Mall location is not on the list of immediate closings. As for Toys R Us, get over to East 20th Street before April 21, especially if you have an unredeemed gift card. Expect going-out-of-business sales to get better, but inventory to clear out quickly. Related news: a company that bought the name KB Toys is planning to revive that once-popular toy store by Black Friday. There’s no list yet of where the new stores will be.

Downtown lowdown I was walking down Broadway last week with a couple of co-workers when we noticed work being done inside the old Trucker (between Second and Third streets). According to one of the construction workers, it’s going to be a Lulu’s outlet store, which is pretty cool. Messages seeking comment from Lulu’s weren’t returned by press time, so I’m not sure when it will be opening.

A block or so over, Chico Coffee Co. is making progress on its new digs at the corner of Second and Main streets. A peek inside revealed a weird makeover, though—a diagonal wall extending from the left side of the front door to where the counter used to be. That means roughly half the space of what used to be Peet’s will become part of one of Will Brady’s new bars, Bill’s Towne Lounge, in the space previously occupied by Lyon Books.

Loyalty programs I’m a sucker for a good deal, but I feel like lately every store I walk into is offering a different kind of loyalty program. Recently, I was offered 7-Eleven’s new loyalty card and membership in Cold Stone Creamery’s My Cold Stone Club. The weird part about that one? I entered my phone number at the register and received an email confirmation. Turns out Cold Stone uses Spendgo for its rewards—and so does Jamba Juice. I like getting free stuff, but I’m feeling like Big Brother is overly interested in my eating habits lately. Bring back stamp cards!