GONZALES — In the next six months or so, shoppers will see five new national store chains opening for business in Gonzales as new retailers, in a flurry of new retail for the city, fill formerly empty spaces in existing shopping centers.

It's coming on the heels of a growing number of new residential developments inside and outside Gonzales city limits in Ascension Parish, which gets the attention of the retail sector, said Lynn Daigle, a commercial sales and leasing agent with NAI/Latter & Blum of Baton Rouge.

"They have such a robust increase in the number of rooftops" in both the Gonzales and Prairieville areas that retailers are taking notice, said Daigle, who tracks retail for the annual Trends in Real Estate seminar for the Baton Rouge area.

"Retailers follow disposable income," Daigle said. 

In the last two years, more than 1,000 new lots/housing units have been approved in Gonzales for single family homes, apartments and townhomes, Scot Byrd, chief administrative officer for the city, said in a recent interview.

Among the new stores coming to Gonzales is Pennsylvannia-based Ollie's Bargain Outlet for closeout, namebrand goods, which will open in the Eastbank shopping center, on La. 30 near La. 44, on Wednesday.

Ollie's stores will also be opening that same day on Staring Lane in Baton Rouge and on South Range Avenue in Denham Springs.

"We've been opening stores for 13% to 14% growth each year since 2003," Jerry Altland, vice-president for the store chain that's named after one of its founders, the late Oliver "Ollie" Rosenberg.

"We got down to Florida and now we're going west" with new stores, Altland said.

A $1.5 million renovation of the shopping center created the additional space needed for the 28,000-square-foot Ollie's store in Gonzales, in the spot formerly occupied by La Mexicana Restaurant, which built and moved to a new, nearby location on La. 30 about three years ago. 

Across town, at the Cornerview Plaza shopping center in Gonzales at the corner of Airline Highway and Cornerview Road four new retailers — Marshall's, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta Beauty and Five Below — are moving in as part of an $8.8 million renovation. The store are locating on the site of a former Kmart that closed two years ago as part of a nationwide closing of the store locations.

A stand-alone Aspen Dental Office is also going up in the parking lot of the Cornerview Plaza shopping center, which continues to be home to a Rouse's Market and an AT&T store. 

"This is definitely the best case scenario" for the former Kmart store, said Ryan Pécot, senior retail leasing and development executive with Covington-based Stirling Properties.

Stirling Properties is redeveloping the site for the family ownership group Brown-Gonzales II, LLC, out of Clearwater, Florida.

The new retailers coming to the former Kmart space like to open near grocery stores — Rouses Market, in this case — which often generate daily trips for shoppers, Pécot said.

The new Marshall's, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta Beauty and Five Below stores anticipated possible openings in the fall, he said. 

Kate MacArthur, chief executive officer of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., said  her contacts with development groups across the country "like the fact that Gonzales has very high occupancy rates for its shopping centers."

"I always say I can't stand to see an empty building," Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux said. "Needless to say, we're very happy to have these new businesses." 

Along with additional sales tax revenues for Gonzales, the stores also mean "more job opportunities for local employees," Arceneaux said. 


Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.