Although Tyler’s economy is diversified, with strength in several sectors, the retail sector seems to grab much of the attention due to its significant, continued growth. Tyler’s location makes it especially desirable for retail, as it pulls from a large regional market bordered by Interstate 30 to the north, Nacogdoches and Lufkin to the south, Shreveport to the east and Dallas to the west.
National chain stores and franchises also notice that the population of Tyler’s entire metropolitan statistical area is 225,000-250,000, and that number is growing by about 3,500 residents every year. People shop in Tyler from surrounding cities like Canton, Gilmer, Gladewater, Henderson, Jacksonville, Kilgore, Lindale, Longview and Mineola.
The city’s latest retail development is enormous. The Village at Cumberland Park covers 700,000 square feet and accounts for about 2,000 jobs and a projected $200 million impact on the local economy.
One of the regional mainstays is Broadway Square Mall, which opened in 1975 and continues to thrive. The mall has nearly 600 employees, and tenants wanting space are on a waiting list.
Another key shopping destination is Bergfeld Center, the city’s first shopping center and among the first in the state. One of its several interesting stores is Valerosa Designs & Gallery, where talented local artists display and sell their works.
“When I was looking for a place for my business, Bergfeld Center seemed perfect for a small, independent, woman-owned business,” says Neita Fran Ward, Valerosa Designs & Gallery owner. “Of the 20 or so businesses operating today at Bergfeld, 13 are owned by women.”
Ward says her gallery represents more than 30 local artists, whom she even promotes on a Saturday morning radio show, Art Connection of East Texas, that airs on FM 97.5.
“Bergfeld Center is a quaint and distinctive plaza in the heart of Tyler’s beautiful Azalea District, and two more new businesses opened in early 2018,” she says. “The center offers a real shopping experience where people can walk up to a storefront window and see beautiful displays.”
Another neighborhood of Tyler’s retail industry is the downtown area, where boutique shopping includes stores like 903 Handmade, Moon Rivers Naturals and El Guapo Records.
“I opened my store in November 2017 as a way to bring even more retail life to the downtown district,” says Aristeo Rodriguez, owner of El Guapo Records. “I enjoy doing business on South Broadway, just off the public square and within walking distance from the downtown parking garage. I invite people to stop by and check out my store and the others in the district. They are unique and unusual.”
Rodriguez, who originally hails from the Houston area, says he opened his music business because he enjoys the vibe of living in Tyler and the city's great music scene.
“I’ve made my business into a true vinyl record store, with about 80 percent vinyl record originals as well as some new releases on vinyl,” he says. “We even sell turntables for playing the records, and we also sell a lot of merchandise from local bands who sell their records and CDs through us. We are a hub for anyone local who wants to sell their music items in our shop.”
Rodriguez adds that even though his business is young, he has received a lot of support from the community, with many customers observing the city’s “Shop Tyler” campaign.
“We are an interesting shop located in an interesting shopping strip with several one-of-a-kind businesses,” he says. “If you haven’t shopped in downtown Tyler in a while, plan to spend a couple hours down here soon. You’ll have a good time at the stores and restaurants.”