Western footwear retailer Boot Barn's northern expansion includes a new shop in Medford.

Western footwear retailer Boot Barn's northern expansion includes a new shop in Medford.

The Irvine, Calif.-based retailer expects to open a 9,000-square-foot store in the Bear Creek Plaza shopping center in November.

The company's stores specialize in cowboy boots, hats and other western apparel.

Aaron Browning, Boot Barn's real estate and construction director, said the firm also plans to open stores in Bend and Pueblo, Colo., in the second half of this year.

Boot Barn operates 83 stores in seven states, and has evaluated Oregon markets since 2010 as part of its three-to-five-year growth plan, Browning said.

The chain's key growth states are Oregon, Montana — where it presently has one store — plus Idaho and Utah.

"With so many of our stores in California and north Nevada, it made obvious sense to migrate north in Southern Oregon," he said.

The chain typically locates in markets that have between 100,00 and 200,000 residents within 20 to 50 miles.

"We have an incredible customer base that's strong and loyal," Browning said. "They come back to us religiously."

Boot Barn's first store opened in Huntington Beach, Calif., in 1978.

The chain grew slowly before doubling in size three years ago when it acquired another chain.

The most recent opening was last month in Fort Collins, Colo.

"We were basically opening one or two stores a year," Browning said. "Now we're doing five a year."

Although there is more foot traffic at the Rogue Valley Mall, the equivalent of two blocks west on McAndrews Road, it wasn't a major target, he said.

"Only six of our stores are in malls. Everything else is freestanding or in strip centers," Browning said.

"We don't need the foot traffic. The visibility of being on a major thoroughfare or freeway is critical to us. The main thing we really like about Bear Creek Plaza is the traffic."

The store will be next to TJ Maxx on the south end of the center.

Tom Fischer of Coldwell Banker Commercial NW, the leasing agent for the shopping center, said the former Toys for the Home space will be divided and remodeled during the next three months to make way for the new tenant.

Fischer said the commercial retail market has picked up steam in recent months.

"I don't know if rental rates have done that well," Fischer said. "But at least the activity has increased and the rates have increased for small spaces."

He said Trader Joe's intentions to set up shop in the still-unbuilt Alba Village in north Medford has spurred interest. Outdoor store REI and the fast-growing Five Guys hamburger chain are said to be among the entities considering options in the area.

Aldy Damian of Bear Creek Ventures in Rolling Hills, Calif., said it took diligence to nail down the center's latest tenant.

"Our direct communication worked out a few challenges with remodeling the space," Damian said. "But Boot Barn recognized the plaza's value being at the center of retail activity in the Rogue Valley."

Browning said once the space is readied, the retailer will need only two or three weeks to open.

"As long as we get the permits on time, it's a pretty simple project," he said. "So we're looking to open between Nov. 10 and 15."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.