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Feb 14, 2014 9:17 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

Shell Beach business owners say rent in Downtown SLO was too much for them

Two small business owners in Shell Beach claim rent in downtown San Luis Obispo can be too much for some entrepreneurs to handle, but a local commercial real estate broker says you pay for what you get and that can be major exposure for your business.

Small-business owners Li Li Clever and Nicole Watson say they are paying significantly less in Shell Beach than they were in downtown San Luis Obispo. They each owned their own businesses in downtown SLO for decades, but say they both found rent was too high. They decided to join forces and open up a boutique together in Shell Beach.

Their new location is on Shell Beach Road. Clever used to sell her jewels out of shops on Garden Street and Chorro, but rent became too high.

"I think the building owners in downtown San Luis Obispo realized that that's prime real estate, and they're subsequently charging much larger rents," said Clever.

She says she is now paying a third of what she used to pay for rent downtown.

"You know who it helps? It helps the customer because it's reflected in the prices of the merchandise," she said. "I don't need to charge as much because the overhead isn't as steep."

But commercial real estate broker Marty Indvik says there's a reason why rent is pricier in downtown SLO than most of the Central Coast: the foot traffic is higher. That kind of business, he says, you just can't buy.

"Property owners in town are enjoying a really tight marketplace and have a good list of prospects of businesses that want to come in behind others that find that this isn't the place for them to be," said Indvik.

Clever believes the real estate market downtown is not particularly fair. But luckily for her, she was able to move her business out of the busy hub and still prosper.

"I'm doing better here than I was in downtown San Luis," she explained. "Interesting, this is one of the best Januarys and early Februarys that I've had."

Indvik says the demand for space is high in downtown San Luis Obispo, and while it may seem like there are vacant units, there is a constant turnaround.

A couple of other businesses have popped up in Shell Beach in the last three months, including Shell Beach Brewhouse and Kanpai Sushi.

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