Closing time

Two women’s clothing stores shutting their doors

Summer Ballock, owner of Betty’s on Broadway, wears a sign asking her customers not to cry over the store’s pending shutdown.

Summer Ballock, owner of Betty’s on Broadway, wears a sign asking her customers not to cry over the store’s pending shutdown.

Photo By tom gascoyne

Two downtown Chico businesses are in the process of closing and leaving a couple of large corner storefronts vacant.

Betty’s on Broadway at the corner of Third and Broadway streets and Katie’s Corner on Third and Main are both women’s clothing stores but closing for very different reasons.

Summer Ballock, owner of Betty’s, said she is closing after a successful 25-year run because she is ready to retire and travel with her husband. She credits her success to the location and the loyal customers who have become her friends over the years.

“We put up the [‘Going out of business’] signs late Sunday night so people didn’t see them until Monday,” she said. “Then the phone started ringing off the hook.”

She also credits her success to opening and running a business long before Internet sales began. The store stock is now almost gone and her lease ends in June.

The store is named for her mother, who started in a location on Main Street 30 years ago. Five years later, it moved to its present location, and Ballock, who was a Miss California in the 1970s, took over ownership.

She also credited longtime friend and artist Sophia Boulas for the store’s success.

“For 30 years she has done our windows, and I’ve gotta tell you, people walk in and say they come down here just so they can see the windows,” she said. “We go all out for Christmas Preview.”

She said though there was “a lot of angst, a lot of thinking about it,” closing and retiring is the right decision at this time.

Betty’s on Broadway.

Photo by Tom Gascoyne

“Our story is all good,” she said. “The reason I get to retire is because this store has been extraordinary here. This is a success story, and now it’s time. I had the best of everything. I had the best customers, good timing before the Internet, and the best location in Chico.”

Katie Vaclavik, whose store has been open since February 2010, has a very different story.

“I felt like the economy is really slow and I’m just not doing all that great,” she said. “And I don’t like where I am anymore. The homeless live in my front door and urinate there. I can’t seem to get them out of the door, no matter how I try.”

Katie’s Corner’s window says it is having a moving sale, but it is more likely a going-our-of-business sale. Vaclavik said she can no longer afford the $3,500-a-month lease and has been looking, without success so far, for a new location. Her lease doesn’t expire for another two years.

“What I have to do is wait until the landlord finds someone else to take the lease over before I can actually leave,” she said “It’s very painful. What I thought I would do if I could get out of there was find another place in a decent spot with lower rent than what I am paying now. If it takes me too long, then I’m stuck with that and my business isn’t any better, then I’m going to close down. I am surviving, but that is about it.”

Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce, called the closings “heartbreaking.”

“I am a regular customer of Betty’s, and I just bought my wedding dress there last month,” she said. “This of course is not about me, but I think as a consumer I will certainly miss that business. I’m happy for Summer that this decision benefits her life and her future.”

She said she was not familiar with the closing of Katie’s Corner and as such, couldn’t comment.

“As an organization representing businesses, we are certainly doing everything we can to connect business with resources,” she said. “But people make decisions all the time. They retire, they move their business, they close. We are here to support the businesses in whatever way they need.”

Shawn Tillman, a senior planner for the city, said the closing of the two large and highly visible storefronts may give a false impression. The vacancy rate in downtown Chico as of the end of last year, he said, was only 5 percent, compared to 7 percent city wide.

“A 5 percent vacancy rate is considered healthy from either an economic-indicator standpoint or if you’re an investor,” Tillman said. “In commercial real estate, if you have less than a 5-percent vacancy rate, the old adage is that you’re not charging enough.”