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Study shows what franchises might fit Warren County's demographics

A few mentioned: Trader Joe's, Chipotle, Old Navy

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL -- A new study conducted and published by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority sheds light on the franchises that might accept a location in Warren County.

Researched by Kelly Beale, a master's in business administration candidate at Shenandoah University's Harry F. Byrd Jr., School of Business, the study looked at the population size, median income levels and traffic counts of the county and compared it with the criteria retail businesses have for opening in certain areas.

For example, Wegman's requires a population of 50,000 within three miles earning $75,000 as its average household income. Warren County's median income is $61,379 and has a total population of 37,575.

"We have tried and tried and tried with Wegman's," said Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the EDA. "That is one we're definitely not going to give up on."

As for all of those Facebook petition groups to bring certain businesses to the area and phone calls and emails to customer service at the company, she said they don't have much of an effect on businesses opening.

"We knew there was certain criteria for these companies," McDonald said. "We just wanted to put a document together to show where we are, which businesses we match up with. So when people call and ask us, 'Why aren't you getting a Banana Republic?' we can say we don't fit their demographic. 'Let us point you to this retail study so you can understand how these companies choose where they locate.'"

The study selected two similar counties, Jackson County, N.C. and Union County, Pa., and compared their retail businesses with the ones in Warren County. The study also analyzed Queen Anne's County, Md., as an ideal model for Warren County to follow. McDonald said it's their goal to meet the criteria of Queen Anne's County eventually, though they have a higher population (48,595) and median income (higher than $80,000).

"We found not only that we have most of the same things they do, but we have more," McDonald said. "But we're still not quite there at the Macy's level."

She said the study's publication comes at a perfect time because it matches up with Envision Front Royal and can be used as a reference for what people recommend for the city.

Some of the 48 businesses, listed exhaustively in the study, that might see Front Royal-Warren County as a possible site for a franchise are Trader Joe's, Costco, Chipotle, White Castle and Old Navy.

She said recent businesses opening in Front Royal include Popeye's, IHOP and an ABC store.

The study, "Front Royal-Warren County, Virginia Retail Study 2013," was funded through an entrepreneurship grant for $500 and was started in April. It can be read on the EDA's website at wceda.com.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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