Hamilton Marketplace Has Improved Life for Many Nearby Residents

March 14, 2011

Novato Patch, Erin McGinnis

It’s been 2 1/2 years since the grand opening of Hamilton Marketplace, a highly-anticipated shopping center that brought new restaurants, shops and services to southern Novato. With its 18 businesses and welcoming outdoor spaces, the center on Nave Drive has gone a long way toward transforming the area’s dining and shopping scene from ho-hum to happening.

So, at this milestone of sorts, we wanted to know: How's it going at Hamilton Marketplace? One way to gauge that is to check with several businesses occupying space there.

“It started off a little slower than we would’ve liked,” said Mike Murray, director of community relations for Pet Food Express, located in one of Hamilton Marketplace’s larger retail spaces. “On a scale of one to 10, with one being failure and 10 being fantastic, I’d give it a seven. And it’s growing. We’re certainly happy with it.”

Oakland-based Pet Food Express is an independently-owned pet food and supply retailer with 38 Bay Area locations. The Hamilton store is the company’s second Novato location; the other is in the Novato Fair Shopping Center on Diablo Avenue. Murray said business is strong at the Novato Fair location and has not dropped off since the opening of the Hamilton store.

Just around the corner from Pet Food Express at Hamilton is Sonoma Latina Grill, one of the marketplace’s four sit-down restaurants. Co-owner Mike Tamayo said his restaurant has built a loyal following among Novatans who seek fresh, preservative-free food. “We really appreciate that we’ve been accepted by this community,” he said.

In return, Tamayo is listening to his customers. Next month, he's starting something new, which we’re happy to announce here. Starting April 6, Sonoma Latina Grill will open for breakfast at 8 a.m. They are adding nine breakfast items, ready in 10 minutes or less.

"We're doing it because so many customers have requested it," he said. "Many are on the go and want something healthy."

As a result of the expanded hours, Tamayo said he’s also hiring two new part-time employees.

Another part of Sonoma Latina Grill’s business is catering, and Tamayo said in particular their lunch catering is strong and has bounced back from a slump after a big client, ImageMovers Digital, started moving out of its studio in Hamilton last year. “Recently, our business-to-business catering has been increasing every month,” said Tamayo.

The anchor tenant at Hamilton Marketplace is Safeway. From my point of view as a shopper, the store seems popular, but Safeway officials won’t comment one way or another. “We won’t talk about store performance for competitive reasons,” said Susan Houghton, director of public affairs for Safeway. She did say that they are “proud” of the Hamilton store. As for Safeway in general, she said, “We’re in a good place.”

We got a similar company line from Peet’s Coffee and Tea, which also does not discuss individual store performance. But officials shared their enthusiasm for the location in general.

“We’ve enjoyed being a part of Hamilton Marketplace and the neighboring community since 2008,” said Erica Hess, a senior manager in the community relations department. “The Marketplace is a true destination for those who appreciate unique and distinctive offerings, and we’re proud to be in such great company.”

The corporations may be tight-lipped, but southern Novato residents are eager to share their thoughts about Hamilton Marketplace.

“Our family loves it,” said Dave Ruiz, a long-time Hamilton resident.  “The restaurants are great, and we love having a bigger market that is clean and well stocked.”

Ruiz, who remembers when the site had an old bowling alley, Nave Lanes, and later just an empty field, appreciates the new construction. “It has a great overall look and it brings so much to the community. It adds great value and character to our neighborhood,” he said.

Another Hamilton resident, Kristi Grusby, loves the convenience the shopping center offers. “When we moved here, Hamilton Marketplace was just breaking ground," she said. "I did not like the Safeway in Ignacio, so I would go downtown. Now, going to Safeway is a quick trip instead of a chore.”

Grusby said her family enjoys eating at Toast, one of the marketplace restaurants. She uses the dry cleaners too. “The one thing I wish was that it had a drug store like a Walgreens or Rite-Aid.”

No such chance of that, at least for now. Hamilton Marketplace is 100 percent occupied. According to the shopping center’s general manager, Tory Glossip of Madison Marquette, the tenants are all on long-term leases and she said to her knowledge, no one is leaving early.

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