When the Key West Citizen newspaper relocated from the heart of “Old Town” to the less commercialized side of the island in 1988, they had much working in their favor. Property values in the Florida Keys were running higher than the national average and this daily newspaper was sitting on almost a half-block of prime island Real Estate. The property was worth … well, let’s just say millions.
As Key West evolved from a tiny fishing village to a popular tourism destination the Key West Citizen was there to chronicle the lives of its inhabitants. Recognized as the “Southernmost City in the Continental United States” Key West was once home to literary great Ernest Hemingway and made even more enchanting by resident-songwriter Jimmy Buffet and his popular drinking song — Margaritaville.
The sale of the newspaper’s property netted enough money to purchase a sizable plot of land on the interior of the island, construct a new building, and install a new printing press with still plenty of cash left over to buy several rounds of drinks for the local natives.
You could say the newspaper benefited from that old real estate quote: “location, location, location.”
So it is with the Mountain Democrat.
Located at 1360 Broadway in Placerville since 1991, the Mountain Democrat is currently operating in what was once a grocery store with a parking lot that would make any used car dealer envious. This is the fourth location and fifth building of the newspaper since moving from Coloma in December 1851. (At our last downtown location we occupied two different buildings simultaneously before moving to Broadway.)
During the past several weeks, we’ve been approached by readers asking two questions: When are you going to move into your new building and when is Tractor Supply Co. coming to Placerville?
We’ve started plans on renovating the old Blockbuster building at 2889 Ray Lawyer Drive with hopes of moving our newspaper operation there sometime early next year. And now with a signed lease in hand from Tractor Supply Co. we can formally announce this major retailer will be moving to our current location shortly after we relocate.
Unlike the Key West Citizen, our family owned newspaper isn’t selling the building but rather leasing it to the nationally recognized small tractor and implement retailer. The ample size of our building, its proximity to Highway 50, and the generous parking lot made our current location very attractive to this new business.
Subsequently, the decision to lease our current building necessitated a search for a new home for the newspaper and reinvestment in the community we’ve served since 1851.
Relocating the Mountain Democrat anywhere outside of Placerville was never considered. “California’s Oldest Newspaper” needed to remain in Placerville and our new site fulfills that objective while also keeping me from the end of a hangman’s rope.
Our purchase of the Ray Lawyer Drive property gives us an opportunity to remodel a long vacant building to meet our current and future needs. The new location is well suited for our business with ample visibility, good proximity to serve our customers, and most importantly for our employees — parking and restaurants nearby.
While it would’ve been nice to move our newspaper offices to a location within the shadow of the Belltower, our current staff size and the need for parking made our decision to move to Ray Lawyer Drive more logical.
Being the small town we are with so many questions running through the community, I hope that by answering these two we can now move on to more pressing ones like, “Who’s going to win the Supervisors race for District 3?”
Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Wednesday.