Herald/CATRINA RAWSON - Tina Felt, manager of Stetson Cigars and Private Cigar Club, stocks cigars while working the the store Thursday in Harker Heights.

By Matt Goodman

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – The 700,000-square-foot retail development Market Heights has spurred an influx of small businesses into the city since it opened in July 2008.

Harker Heights has increased its sales tax revenue by $1 million – about 26 percent – compared to last year, which shows the economic impact of the development on the city.

Its anchor stores, Target and Cinemark, are doing exceedingly well, which has helped small businesses land loans to start up a location.

"We got the demographics, which included a vehicle count, and made a 42-page business plan to present to the bank," said Angie Felt, majority owner of Stetson Cigars in Market Heights. "They gave us the loan after that."

The Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce monitors demographic information and presents it to Direct Development, which owns Market Heights. The chamber combs the community for suggestions, and has aided in bringing more eccentric stores to the city, such as the cigar shop and a store that sells foreign jewelry.

"You've got to have those small places as well as those large places," said chamber president Bill Kozlik. "Not everything can be a Target or a Dick's Sporting Goods."

The increase in traffic has also poured into the rest of the city. There are a host of shopping centers across U.S. Highway 190 that are also filling fast.

"This was the only area where I did my research and found that it's growing in terms of residency and spending," said Brandon Liu, owner of V.I.P. Nails & Spa on

Farm-to-Market 2410. "My business has been diverse; I have customers from Killeen to Temple."

Direct Development officials also thrive on the success of its businesses. After Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Market Heights was named the most successful Five Guys in the state, Genghis Grill moved in.

"Other restaurants and businesses have heard of how well everyone is doing," said Megan Kneipp, a broker with Direct Development in Austin. "The junior anchors and anchors have done well above projections; when retailers do really well, it circles around the real estate community who are talking to brokers."

The city's location is another incentive, business owners said. Harker Heights lies in the middle of the corridor between Fort Hood and Belton. It's not unrealistic for customers to come from both sides of Bell County to shop.

"We had a store in Salado for three-and-a-half years, but we closed it because business was so doing so well here," Felt said. Stetson Cigars opened in July. "We've been cleaning up at 9 or 10 (p.m.) and had people knocking on the door."

Compass Trading Co., which sells foreign jewelry at wholesale prices and has stores from Arlington to San Antonio, opened a location in Harker Heights for these reasons.

"Harker Heights is a regional draw," said owner Brent Pennington. "Obviously, the military base is huge, but also the towns around more or less come to Killeen or Harker Heights to shop."

As the city furthers to develop its niche of small businesses, Kozlik said he is planning to set his sights on banks, health care professionals and lawyers.

"We need more professional people, more professional buildings and more offices," he said. "They've got a good drawing card with that on (FM) 2410."

Contact Matt Goodman at mgoodman@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7550.

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