Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

By Mike Allen

Photos by Mike Allen

October 3, 2022 (Santee) - Santee just got another nationally-known retailer that’s expected to attract loads of shoppers from all over the county.

Sportsman’s Warehouse, a sporting goods chain based in Utah, held a soft opening Sept. 30, and will hold its grand opening Oct. 6-8. It’s the first store in the chain to open in San Diego County. The next closest stores are in Yuma, Az. and Murietta in Riverside County.

The store at 240 Town Center Parkway takes over about 18,500 square feet of space formerly occupied by Office Depot, and is a sure-fire bet to compete with the likes of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Big 5, even REI, says manager Gregg Ritola.

“Our sweet spot for the product line is firearms, ammo, and fishing,” said Ritola, who moved all the way across the street from his former employer, Home Depot, where he worked for 20 years.

At the opening day, Ritola steered a visitor to a digital sign board that features changeable sale items with prices, and another interactive digital board just inside the front doors that provided the most updated info on county fishing sites, including Santee Lakes.

The flyer introducing the store shows a preponderance in its first pages on hunting rifles and hand guns. Ritola said the store appeals to three types of gun owners: hunters, target practice shooters, and people looking to purchase a gun for self-defense.

Among other featured on-sale products were a Coleman wheeled cooler for $100; a Camp Chef pellet grill for $350; and a Higdon pack of decoy mallard ducks for $50.

The store also has a decent collection of sports apparel and shoes, as well as a good deal of backpacking equipment, tents, and related outdoor items. For serious hikers it has a big selection of dehydrated foods.

For the grand opening days this week, shoppers will have a chance to get free giveaways like hats, as well as a limited number of gift cards, Ritola said, without divulging the monetary amounts. Customers will also be able to enter sweepstakes for items such as guns, knives, fishing gear, gift cards and binoculars.

Ritola said his store has about 60 employees, three-fourths of whom will be part time.

In perhaps more exciting news for youngsters and their families, national games and pizza purveyor Chuck E. Cheese could be taking over the long vacant Hometown Buffet site in the Santee Trolley Center, according to a member of the Santee City Council.

“My understanding is that they’re due to close escrow next month,” said Vice Mayor Ronn Hall about the Chuck E Cheese purchase of the building for $3.75 million. A telephone call and email sent to the national chain’s media contact in Dallas weren’t returned.

The chain that touts itself as ‘the venue where a million birthdays are celebrated,” already has five stores in San Diego County, three in San Diego, and one each in La Mesa at Grossmont Center and Oceanside.

The Hometown Buffet site has nearly 12,000 square feet, and is in the shopping center anchored by Home Depot. It’s been vacant for several years.

Although the company practically went dark during the pandemic, it’s been expanding in recent years, and now counts nearly 600 stores along with 120 Peter Piper Pizza locations in 47 states and 17 foreign countries.

In yet another major retail deal that hasn’t been officially announced, a big food store is expected to soon take over the now vacant Best Buy store at the Mission Gorge Square shopping center on Mission Gorge Road just east of Cuyamaca Street. 

Pam White, the city of Santee’s economic development manager, said the 30,000 square foot site has a lease pending for what appears to be “food- related retailer.”

White didn’t know the name of the retailer but was pretty sure it’s not a Trader Joe’s because that chain’s footprint is about half of the Best Buy space. Nor is it going to be either a Vons or Sprouts, she said.

As new stores emerge on the local landscape, there are other stores that fail to keep the cash registers ringing and are forced to close. Bed, Bath & Beyond in the Trolley Square center announced it’s closing as a result of the chain’s decision to close 150 of its stores. In the same center, Mimi’s Restaurant closed last year and has yet to be replaced.

White says while the vagaries of the economy ensure there’s a continual turnover in local retail, “if you looked at the original store lineup that was in place when Trolley Square opened in 2003, it’s amazing how many are still there.”

For more information, visit the Santee Sportsman's Warehouse website at


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.