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COLUMN: National retailers are setting sights on Culpeper

National retailers apparently have their eye on Culpeper.

At least three—rue21, Sports Authority and Panera Bread—have expressed interest in opening in shopping centers.

“In the course of the last few months there has been some interest in retail areas that were vacant,” said Maxie Brown, the town’s zoning administrator. “That’s a good sign, and we’re real happy about that.”

So far, none of the three retailers have submitted a signage or business application, she said. But rue21, a trendy shop for teen fashions, and Sports Authority, one of the country’s largest sporting goods retailers, have posted openings for management positions in Culpeper on their websites.

Rue21 is tentatively expected to open on July 15 in Dominion Square Shopping Center at the intersection of James Madison Highway and Ira Hoffman Lane, according to the Culpeper Star Exponent.

The retailer offers exclusive, branded merchandise for girls and guys that it describes as “young, fresh and affordable.” The “21” in its name refers to “the age that everyone wants to be!” according to its website.

Rue21 currently operates 900 stores in 47 states, and expects to open another 125 stores this year. The closest location now is in Hanover Square North in Mechanicsville. Long-term, the company plans to have more than 1,700 stores.

Colorado-based Sports Authority is expected to open a store in Culpeper in August. The location hasn’t been announced, but Brown said she’s heard rumblings that it also might be Dominion Square.

A Panera Bread franchisee has expressed interest in Culpeper Colonnade, 15341 Montanus Drive, according to Brown. Marketing manager Cori Lintner was checking on Friday, and was able to say that the company will open a location on South Gateway Drive in Stafford County in late fall.

April Laney, leasing agent for Culpeper Colonnade, said that she is in negotiations with two nationally known quick-service restaurants, but declined to name them.

“We are definitely starting to see a lot more interest, especially in the Culpeper market, which is really exciting,” said Laney, who works for national owner, developer and operator Regency Centers.

Her office in Vienna handles about 50 assets from Richmond to Baltimore, and is seeing a “pretty large” prospect list for top-tier shopping centers with anchor stores. Even those without anchors are getting calls, she said.

“People are fishing, kicking the tires, thinking about opening again,” Laney said. “It feels good. It feels positive.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407