New year for Signal Hill means new business

Photos by Cory Bilicko/SignalTribune<br><strong> A worker (far left) puts the finishing touches on a sign at new 99¢ Only store in Signal Hill. </strong>
CJ Dablo
Staff Writer

99¢ Only Stores opens another store in Signal Hill
The 99¢ Only Stores opens a new Signal Hill location today in a place that badly needed a retailer big enough to fill the void left when the former OfficeMax store shut down.
One of the better-known retailers that use the “dollar store” model, 99¢ Only will be selling groceries and other miscellaneous goods at its new location at 1851 Willow Street. The grand opening of the store has been scheduled to take place on Jan. 10.
While it may be welcome news to bargain hunters, the new store’s sales will also mean more revenue from sales tax for the City of Signal Hill. It also had a couple of extra advantages, according to a Signal Hill city official.
“Our perspective [is that] it gives more choices,” Community Development Director Scott Charney said in a telephone interview Monday, “and most importantly it’s taken over a spot that had been empty for several years.”
New business also means jobs in Signal Hill. The store has hired about 55 employees, according to the new store’s district manager, Pascqual Canales.
“We are excited and very happy to open the store here and be a part of the community,” Canales said in a telephone interview.
<strong>The new 99¢ Only store at 1851 Willow St. has provided jobs for about 55 locals. The retailer takes over a spot that has been empty for several years, and it will also provide revenue from sales tax for the City of Signal Hill. </strong>

Plans for a new Applebee’s restaurant in Signal Hill in progress
Signal Hill diners may add Applebee’s to their choices of family-friendly restaurants soon.
“We have all intentions to be open this year,” said Jim O’Keefe of Apple American Group, the largest Applebee’s franchise company that owns about 439 restaurants throughout the country. If all goes according to O’Keefe’s estimated timetable, ground could be broken for the building by April. It will be very close to the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. O’Keefe said in a telephone interview Monday that his company plans to submit building plans to the City within the next 60 days.
O’Keefe acknowledged his company’s restaurants do not have much of a presence in Los Angeles County, but he said that will soon change.
“We fully intend to expand our bases in the LA market,” O’Keefe said, “and we’ll be showing up with more locations, I assure you.”
He noted the economic downturn especially hit every restaurant operation in 2008 and 2009, but now they plan to grow by building new restaurants.
He acknowledged some resistance to the plans in Signal Hill for a new Applebee’s when Councilmember Ed Wilson was the lone vote last month against the permit that the company needed to operate a bar and restaurant. The rest of the Council voted in favor of the permit even though Wilson cited concerns that the restaurant will not have a patio that takes advantage of city views.
O’Keefe recognized the concerns, but he explained why the restaurant couldn’t have outdoor dining seating.
The site is not big enough to have a patio without taking away parking spaces, and parking is a major convenience to the customers, O’Keefe said. He said there will be windows on three sides of the building so guests at the tables will be able to see outside.
“We’re excited that the City welcomed us into the community,” he added, “and we’re doing everything to get ready for that…we’ll be a good neighbor to a bunch of good customers.”
The building will be located at 899 S. Spring St.

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