Maybe I’ve been too hard on pundits. Through the three quarter mark of the year, I have had seven shareable thoughts. Four were provided in the previous article and three you will soon read. The “experts” that bother me most reside on television and radio where they are generally required to produce a large amount of content on a weekly or daily basis. I write an article once a month.
So I wondered if it was possible the unkind words I direct at these folks are less about them peddling nonsense and more about jealousy of their ability to generate so many hot takes on a variety of issues?
And then football season started in the midst of a presidential election. The opinion and predictions started rolling in complete with overreaction, overconfidence, confirmation bias, hindsight bias, selective perception, and the total dismissal of randomness. Nope—it’s not about jealousy.
I had three thoughts this month—here they are:
Fantasy Football and Investing Aren’t All That Different
I don’t play fantasy football and have no issues with those that do. I choose not to play because there is always a scenario in which I would be forced to cheer against myself or the Steelers—and I prefer not to do either, but particularly the latter. For those that do play—an interesting phenomenon has been discovered within the data.
“Owners” tend to pick more players from their favorite team even though there may be better players available from other teams. The reasoning is simple enough—our favorite team is familiar, offers the opportunity for asymmetrical insight, and is likely the subject of some irrational optimism. It’s also been proven that it is a failing strategy. In other words, diversification is better, but it’s difficult for bias not to sabotage our efforts. Let’s call it the homer effect.
For those that invest in commercial real estate—ask yourself if making decisions based on proximity and comfort level sounds familiar. It’s probably not a failing strategy like it is in fantasy football, but you’re also not scoring as many points as you could.
The Food Truck Transition Isn’t Easy, But May Be Worthwhile
Across the country some popular food trucks have been supplementing or totally abandoning their mobile locations in favor of a permanent home. In theory, converting a truck to a brick-and-mortar location should be easy. The concept has likely been proven, so it should be a matter of scaling the business, right? It’s not—it’s a totally different business.
Sure, scaling is an important component to accommodate increased volume, but so is the development of a reorganized business plan and pricing strategy because the metrics between a truck and permanent location are very different. Both real estate and labor costs represent a significantly higher percentage of sales revenue within a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant. More importantly, these two items represent a different challenge with regard to managing additional employees and site selection decisions.
In Harrisonburg, we’ve not seen too many considering the jump. For many of these trucks, good locations have been delivered at relatively low prices—especially as compared to an equivalent brick and mortar location. While the mobility, flexibility, and agility that come with a mobile-based business is compelling, I can’t help but think these same attributes have served to stunt growth for some. A stationary location comes with additional planning and expense, but also provides the opportunity to operate at a greater capacity with higher margin items and a fuller menu creating a complete guest experience. So, we don’t have many considering making the move now, but we should because Harrisonburg has some great food trucks that could navigate the challenges and be rewarded as even better restaurants.
Can Neff Avenue Become Something More?
There are a million different ways commercial corridors evolve. Some are created with new infrastructure, some are a result of changing traffic patterns, and some are designed from the beginning to be a primary corridor. As the Harrisonburg metro continues to grow, traffic counts continue to increase and businesses continue to seek out locations to capture these consumers.
The Southeast Connector is likely an example of a road that was designed to be a primary corridor from the beginning. Based on the development on and around the road, it would seem that there is general agreement on that point. As another example, Reservoir Street has quietly jumped up to 22,000 vehicles per day fueled by student housing and residential developments on the east side of the City. The road has attracted several national retailers with the probability of more on the way as the road is widened. What about Neff Avenue?
The quiet road that stretches from the Valley Mall to Port Republic Road accommodates approximately 12,400 cars by the last count I read. Anyone that drives Neff on a regular basis knows how ridiculously low that number seems—especially if you’re stuck for three or four cycles of the signal light at the corner of Reservoir. There are approximately 10,000 office employees, not to mention high density housing, in the area behind the mall utilizing Neff as an access way to Reservoir, the Southeast Connector, and University Boulevard and vice versa. The mostly four-lane road is bounded on both sides by one-acre parcels and seems to provide the opportunity for additional lane expansion if necessary.
As the population continues to grow and with quality sites in the City becoming increasingly scarce, it makes me wonder if the future will force Neff Avenue to evolve into something more than a commuter road for office workers. Maybe…or maybe development will just keeping shifting outward.
Tim Reamer provides commercial real estate brokerage and consulting services with Cottonwood Commercial and specializes in retail representation, investment property (multifamily | commercial | NNN), and development projects. Learn more at www.timreamer.com.