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Shopping south of the border

Staff Writer

A newly opened Best Buy and BevMo just beyond Nevada County are drawing a mixed response from local people, rekindling the long-simmering debate among Nevada County residents about shopping down the hill.

Some believe the proximity of the Auburn stores will lure more shoppers away at a time when small businesses are struggling to survive the slump in the economy.

“People already go down the hill to the big-box stores,” Mary Anne Mueller, CEO of the Nevada County Chamber of Commerce said. “Best Buy’s opening in Auburn will be a bigger draw, as it’s closer than the Best Buy store in Roseville.”

But for 34-year-old Joe Setting of Grass Valley, the new Best Buy is a “good thing because it brings business up here, rather than having people go to Roseville.”

“Staples is up there, but it’s not putting anyone out of business,” Setting said, emerging from the spanking-new Best Buy store on Wednesday. “Walker’s Office Supplies is a small business doing fine. I still do my shopping there and will continue to do so.”

“This is more convenient and they’ve got better prices,” said another Grass Valley man who gave his name only as Mike. “I know it’s tough competition, but no one gets you better prices.”

The development spurt is likely to continue in Auburn, with a Home Depot under construction on Willow Creek Drive and the City of Auburn processing an application for a Costco on Nevada Street, according to Gerry Haas, a planner with the Placer County Planning Department.

The Home Depot is expected to open in late winter or early spring, Haas said. If the Costco store is approved, it could take a year and a half to build, he estimated.

Dee Hayes, of Lincoln, isn’t perturbed about new big-box stores opening in Auburn. Competition is the American way of free enterprise, she said.

“You should compete,” she said. “Do something with your prices.”

“I’m glad Best Buy has finally come to town,” said 17-year-old Kevin Ballment of Auburn. “Before, we used to go to Best Buy in Roseville. But this store is probably going to hurt small stores, because small stores can’t fight big businesses.”

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

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