By Karen Brainard
Competition can be good for business, said one Ramona Community Planning Group member after seeing a proposal for a Tractor Supply Company store at Main and Hunter streets.
Developer Steve Powell and Architect Carole Wylie, both from Ramona, along with their client, Haymes Snedeker from Alabama, presented preliminary plans for a Tractor Supply Company (TSC) store at the planning group’s May 2 meeting. Powell said they were looking for feedback.
Snedeker, who develops buildings to lease to Tennessee-based Tractor Supply, said this is the first time he is doing business in California.
“I want to make sure you guys know who’s going to own it,” Snedeker said. “I’m the one who’s going to stand behind it if there is a problem.”
TSC sells such items as horse, pet, livestock, lawn and garden supplies; clothing and footwear; and trailer parts, fencing, and power and hand tools.
While Wylie and Powell were complimented on their design to blend the store with Ramona’s rural character, concern was raised that such a store could put others out of business.
Wayne Elston, owner of Elston’s Hay and Grain directly across Main Street from the proposed site, said Tractor Supply’s product mix will affect at least a dozen businesses in town, including welding, irrigation and hardware stores.
“Get on the website and look at the product mix,” he said. “It is a beautiful store, but I guarantee you this pie is only so big in Ramona. People are not going to drive up 67 to a Tractor Supply.”
“They are going to be priced really competitively. Don’t mean to be rude but their service is horrible,” Elston said, adding that he has been in Tractor Supply stores around the country with his son during rodeo events.
The business owner said he spends half his day answering people’s questions.
“It’s a big box,” he said of TSC.
Snedeker responded, “In my experience the store and what it sells will complement the other stores here.”
Planning group member Jim Cooper said he liked the plan.
“But I think that rather than looking at it negatively, I think the competition will cause people to step up their game and maybe that’s good,” said Cooper. “And, in fact, it might bring some drivers up from Poway and Escondido and bring a little money in.”
Wylie and Powell displayed their plans for a 20,000-square-foot building on four acres that would follow the form-based codes and design standards in the Ramona Village Design Group’s draft Village Core Document.
So the colonnade eucalyptus trees on Main Street would not be disrupted, access to the store is proposed from Hunter Street, which would be improved along with the portion of Vermont Street bordering the north side of the property. Among landscape features is a trail on the west side of Hunter Street and a 10-foot-wide meandering decomposed granite pathway along Main Street.
The most exciting aspect, Powell said, is the Main Street elevation with an American farmhouse-look that resembles images similar to what AMCAL is proposing for affordable housing behind Kmart (see article, page ??).
The elevation “looks more like a rural town,” said Powell. “These elevations or these facades undulate in and out, 2 feet, 3 feet, 5 feet, they have obviously varying heights. It looks like a street scene or building scape.”
The height of the store is masked below the height of the “town,” Powell said. Signage with different colors and fonts on the facades may refer to products sold as part of the architectural character to resemble different shops, he added.
Planning group member Carl Hickman, chair of group’s Transportation and Trails Subcommittee, said subcommittee members discussed the proposed trails and pathways incorporated into the design, and “overall the committee is pretty pleased with the project.”
“It’s one of the best designed projects I’ve seen in a very long time,” commented RCPG member Torry Brean.
Chair Jim Piva complimented Wylie on the design and layout of the building. “It can only enhance our Main Street,” he said.
Planner Eb Hogervorst noted that in addition to Elston’s across the street, Kahoots Pet and Feed store plans to build a new store at Main and Letton streets, and asked Snedeker if the market study showed there are enough people to validate a Tractor Supply store.
Snedeker said market analysts say there is a trade area outside Ramona that brings people into town.
“The pie is getting bigger,” he said.
Matt Deskovick, an RCPG member and owner of Catt Farm and Ranch Supply, said he has been in TSC stores in other areas of California during rodeo events and suggested the Ramona plans include parking spaces big enough for trailers.
Because the plans are conceptual, no vote was required by the planning group.