Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Smith's Marketplace Looks Snazzy: Now, How About A Bike Rack Out Front?


Festivities, ho...
 Today was my day to get goodies for the folks in our coffee club, so I stopped at the new Smith's Marketplace just as they opened the doors. Huge store, looked like some good food and wine. Lots of household items. Fair number of bicycles and some accessories. From the looks of the opening, this was the biggest thing to hit Los Alamos since Oppenheimer came up here and kicked out the Boy's School. That said....

First thing I noted was the lack of a bike rack anywhere in sight, even though there are plenty of bicycles for sale. I asked a couple of the management-looking folks wearing nice suits and Kroeger's nametags. They looked at each other with this "Who dropped that ball??" look on their faces, so I suspect we might eventually see a rack or three.  I sure hope so, because the new place ain't exactly short on car parking and we keep being promised that new development in BombTown will not be entirely auto-centric.What also remains to be seen is how easy and safe it will be to cross Trinity as a pedestrian with a bag or two of groceries. We designed Central to make it easy to cross safely by narrowing the road and providing bulbouts. Now, Smiths is on the other side of a wide, 35 mph arterial from the rest of town. I'm also wondering how cyclists will arrive there. Many local cyclists are not terribly fond of riding Trinity, so I suspect we will see a lot of sidewalk riders or perhaps, folks riding on Central and crossing at a crosswalk. That all remains to be seen. What I'd like to see is that paved trail located on the south edge of the development continue west so that cyclists could ride down Central or Deacon St, and cross Trinity without having to ride on it, using Knecht or 15th to hook up with a "back door" bike path that would also avoid cyclists dodging cars in the parking lot. Such a trail could continue and provide connection between Townsite and Airport Basin. Not everyone is as willing to ride the length of Trinity and 502 as I am.

Plenty of parking...if you came in a car
Even though I still can't find #6 Melitta coffee filters on the Hill, the place was quite festive and welcoming--a whole lot more inviting than the old, small store and strongly reminiscent of the big, upscale Wegmans in North Buffalo, near my late uncle's home. Lots of free food and friendly, helpful faces. The wine selection looked quite nice, as did the home made type breads and the layout for organic produce (although I didn't check out the produce). I didn't have lots of time to spend, so got on with my search for pastries. There is a lot of space to explore.

After checking out, I took a quick look at the bike stuff. Not suprisingly, most or all of it seems to be Target-quality, and I wonder if Smith's did a market research study to see if that is appropriate for the local clientele. One adult bike I examined briefly, a Schwinn, had a badly adjusted front linear pull brake, with one arm pushed hard against the rim while the other was quite distant. Another had the brake pads badly misaligned with respect to the wheel rim. Seems someone did not balance the brake arm return spring tension or pad alignment on assembly of these bikes, so I suspect the local bike shops might get some work. I saw quite a few examples of bike accessories, but again, I didn't see any floor pumps that had Presta heads, only Schraeder. There were some frame pumps which I did not examine. Hmmm....hopefully these limited offerings will get sorted out. I wonder how hard it would be to carry a better floor pump that has both Schrader and Presta capability. The available stuff is clearly mass market, and will not compete with Local Bike Shop clientele or merchandise. It does clearly provide more consumer choice, but I wonder who will support these bicycles once they are on the roads and trails.

On leaving, I noted what looked like an extension of the Canyon Rim Trail on the South side of the new development. It disappaeared from view to the East and dead-ended to the West at a fenceline and there was a small blacktop sidepath hooking it up to dedicated "trail only" parking at the south side of the lot (most of which was filled with cars) so I assume one could ride the trail to the mall. I'm hoping this is a useful trail for getting cyclists around the poorly designed (for casual cyclists) NM502 and down towards Airport Basin. I have to explore that or wait to hear from one of you who has.

Hopefully, this new facility will be a success not only for Smith's but for other local merchants in making Bombtown a little less of a shopping desert. I sure hope so, anyway, given we are all indirectly on the hook with this new development.  As anyone following my blogs knows, I've long been a skeptic on whether Los Alamos has enough market to support a big store/mall and whether it will, in the long run, stop the leakage of money off the Hill. Well, I'll say one thing. If its there and I need it, I'll probably buy it up here rather than down there but if I need bike stuff, I probably won't find it in the current presentation.  Lisa Shin, meanwhile, asks which local businesses might be casualties of the "Wal-Mart Effect":

Letter to the Editor: Smith’s Marketplace Will Be The 'Wal-Mart Effect' On Main Street

Let's also hope they remember to put in that bike rack and down the road, provide more pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly way to connect the Marketplace to the rest of town. To some degree, this development was dictated by the location of the old LA Schools properties. In another way, its a failure of vision to have not provided better transportation amenities from the get-go to those who don't want to drive there. Hopefully, this will all be filled in soon. I know at least one ornery old cyclist who will remind them if it doesn't happen.

Late Notes: As far as bike racks, I heard from Philo Shelton, the County DPW director, "There are bike racks shown on the site plans and it is a punch list item.  Smiths just finished the store front the day before opening and the racks would have been in the way."   So I guess they will be there shortly. As far as pedestrian safety, even on calmed Central Ave, people can't always assume they will get across the street intact. Hence my worries about crossing Trinity unless everyone is being a good citizen: From Carol Clark's Daily Post: Driver Runs Into Woman Walking Near Central Avenue


Just released on the Daily Post:  Steven Fode Charged With Reckless Driving After Hitting Pedestrian in Downtown Los Alamos Today
Bikes Galore. Target/Costco quality
Helmets, tubes, pumps, seats, etc. 
Mostly 26" tires and I didn't see any Presta-equipped floor pumps

The small blacktop trail goes to a main paved trail on the south side of the parking lot.
I didn't see where it went to the East.
Surprised there is no ADA ramp that would double to let you ride up and down the spur trail from the main trail to the front of the store.




12 comments:

JerryM said...

Have to get down there soon and have a look around. I'm wondering how one would go about getting in and out of there "safely" on a bicycle since it's across Trinity from essentially all of town.

Chandra said...

Khal,
Not sure our Kroger has a bicycle parking. I will have to check. I haven't ridden my bike to the Kroger, yet, but when I go to Publix, they don't mind that I bring my Brompton into the store. Well, it doubles as my cart. The Manager at Publix is a cyclist. I might talk to him about having a bike rack in the parking lot. Possibly even do the same with Kroger.

Peace :)

Kimberly said...

I spoke with a manager today. He said he would make sure they get some bike parking.

PCS said...

I like that the Smiths Marketplace under construction in North Ogden and Kaysville Utah also have trail access. I wonder what other brands Fred Meyer buyers have relationships with?

Steve A said...

Don't feel too bad, they don't have bike racks at the Ocean Shores IGA OR at the Bedford TX Tomb Thumb. We make do until there's a better choice...

JerryM said...

Finally went down there today (Saturday morning) with the truck. Did not see a bike rack. It was packed with cars and people. I had to park a great distance from the store. The view from the patio area is spectacular in all directions. very nice and well done. My impressions of the store itself is that it is immense! Take your walking shoes or maybe roller blades. I find it hard to believe that the store will ever seem crowded after the novelty wears off. I could not find a decent tomato. All were hard as apples. Had to go to the Coop to find some that were acceptable. At the Coop, you can park near the store and the walking distances are negligible compared to the new Smith's. My opinion is the new Smith's is extremely well done, but seems like overkill by a factor of about 3 for this town.

Khal said...

Jerry, did your search for tomatoes include the "organic" section of the new Smith's?

JerryM said...

khal... well it's possible I missed the organic vegetables. I have found it is difficult to find an actually ripe tomato anywhere these days unless you grow it yourself. Most of them are red, probably artificially and hard as apples. The Coop has regularly had some pretty good ones.

Jimbo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimbo said...

It's not surprising that you found that at least one bike didn't have a brake that was properly centered. A few weeks back a guy called me and asked if I wanted a contract to assemble all the bikes. The price per bike was ridiculously low—we're talking insultingly ridiculous. Makes the margin bigger I guess. I politely declined.

I found myself at the store this weekend. My thoughts are pretty much in line with Jerry's: the patio is wonderful; the rest? It's just a big grocery store. With what I had heard floating around in the aether of the community for the past few days, I full expected to walk in, drop my pants and masturbate right next to Murray's Cheese Shop to gain release from the shopping ecstasy that surely would ensue. Masturbation was not necessary and I wished I could have procured a Hover-Round at the front of the store for my odyssey through the cavern of shopping. It's a huge store, non-intuitive to navigate, and pretty much filled with all the same stuff the other store had: Just more of it.

I'm glad the store is here, but for the life of me I can't understand what all the hubbub is about. From all the chatter, you'd think no one around these parts had ever seen a grocery super store or a WalMart before. I guess we're a town of Bumpkins—bumpkins with PhDs.

No, on the other hand, I guess I forget sometimes. We're special...

Khal said...

Maybe the new store, sans Hover-rounds, will encourage more aerobic exercise in the local population. Shit, it sure did take me some amount of time to navigate the place. And not find #6 coffee filters....

Jon said...

Obligatory plug, if you want good tomatoes, go with Farmer Monte. Part of the problem is that they'll turn red after coming off the vine, but won't properly ripen up (flavor won't really improve, texture doesn't improve as much), so closer to the source the better.