In the eastern corner, weighing in at an estimated $600 million in taxable sales annually, Llllllllllllegends at Sparks Marinaaaaaaaa! With an intense training regimen and pumped up on STAR bonds, Legends is the hot newcomer challenging to become the retail champion in northern Nevada for the holiday season.
In the western corner, weighing in at 600,000 potential square feet of retail space, Victoriaaaaaaaaaan Squaaaaaaaaare. A longtime champion of Sparks summertime activity, the thoroughfare formerly known as B Street has seen the retail aspect of its repertoire practically disappear in recent years. With its Hometowne Christmas parade, Victorian makes a strong first-round start in this annual December battle royale, but then fizzles out the rest of the fight.
If the boxing metaphor doesn’t suit you, how about comparing the firepower of each locale’s Santa Claus? Legends held its tree-lighting and holiday shopping kickoff Saturday night with the jolly old man accompanied by a U.S. Marine escort. In two weeks, Victorian Square will host its annual parade and tree-lighting, which draws large crowds for a day of fun. However, Santa’s escort will be the guy who played the little brother in the film “A Christmas Story.” Remember that one, in which little Ralphie tries to acquire a Red Ryder BB gun for his present?
Leathernecks versus a kid in a cowboy suit? Not quite a fair fight, is it?
That’s how it is in Sparks today. Victorian Square is the quaint grandpa that people pay attention to for a few minutes at holidays and ignore the rest of the time. Legends is the showy uncle who wears a new suit and drives a new car to the Christmas party but is constantly borrowing money from relatives. (Aren’t metaphors fun?)
OK, enough of that. For three years, I have watched and wondered what will become of downtown Sparks and whether the Legends experiment will pay the dividends city leaders are banking on. As for the first question, I have seen one retail business open there and it closed inside of two years. I also saw the Silver Club close and a major residential/commercial development idea buckle under the economy. Some existing restaurants and bars have given themselves makeovers and the special events have stayed, but once the festivities of Hometowne Christmas are over Victorian Square goes into hibernation for the winter. One day, the economy will pick back up and perhaps give Victorian Avenue a lift, but I won’t be holding my breath for a holiday miracle.
So how about Legends? Will the shopping season there be fruitful this year? Experts anticipate a better overall holiday season this year over last, but Legends has seen a few closures already this year — with Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH to shutter on Jan. 1 — thereby taking away some of shoppers’ choices for fulfilling gift requests. However, Legends is doing what many retailers are doing this year: starting the Black Friday shopping frenzy late Thanksgiving night. Will that be the start of a strong six weeks, or will it also be a fast first-round showing followed by a weak performance the rest of the way? I guess we’ll find out in January.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start my shopping — online.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.