Riverside’s Galleria at Tyler Fills Former Ruby’s Diner

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past week, it has been hot this past week in Southern California.  Thank God for the enclosed mall, huh?

The last we heard about Galleria at Tyler, The Elephant Bar closed and Famous Dave’s BBQ was slated for an empty storefront next to the Yardhouse.  Well, both locations are still very empty with no signs of life to be seen unless you count the labelscar left by The Elephant Bar.  Checking the mall’s website, Famous Dave’s BBQ is still coming but when?

In more positive news, a replacement has been found for Ruby’s Diner (which was a Johnny Rockets at one time).  Pizza 90 is being built with the normal wood boarding touting its arrival at an unknown time.  Good luck finding information about what I assume will be a fast casual restaurant where pizzas will be cooked in obscene amounts of heat.  The application for a liquor license sign is already hung up and I didn’t notice an opening date.

On the opening/closing front:  It looks like a certain target demographic will be well served in the near future.  Torrid is undergoing renovations and the former Coach store will soon re-open as an apparel store for the plus-size woman.  Body Basic is becoming the new Duke’s of Tyler.  It was taken over the former X-Players space on the second level next to American Eagle.  Coffee Tea & Leaf has opened a branch in front of JCPenney.  So, it could be safe to assume that General Growth won’t be staging entertainment in that area for a long time.

The storefront for 2b Bebe now sits empty.  Of course, it’ll take a few minutes to remove the from the directory.  No sign of who will replace 2b Bebe.

Downtown Burbank: Johnny Can’t Pick on You Anymore

(Hello friends, I’m sure you’re aware Southern California covers a vast and diverse area. I can’t be anywhere.  Today, I welcome guest blogger Denise Talas from Burbank, Calif. as she gives a tour of a shopping district in her backyard.  Enjoy!–David)

I have visited several places in the San Fernando Valley. Downtown Burbank is the most interested and diverse, in my opinion.

 

Located between Verdugo and Burbank Streets, you can find a mall district, a civic district, a village district and the AMC Walkway.   Parking is plentiful, so you don’t have to worry where to park your car. Parking at the structures is free for two hours—enough time to spend in this area.  When I go shopping here, I park at San Fernando and Magnolia adjacent to the mall district.

 

Sears, Macy’s, Victoria Secret and Forever 21 are some of the more popular stores that you find in the mall. During the weekends there are a lots of activities for Children which include a little train and a play  area for kids.

 

I have to talk about the food area located in the third floor, where you can find several restaurants for children and adults. There’s a variety of menus, from vegetarian to fast food, that allow you to have more choices. You never know if you decide to stay extra hours.

 

Ikea is another option for those who need to buy some home furniture. This store has also a nice a cheap restaurant, which offers salads, meat, and pastas with a variety for children who can also eat for free every Tuesday (under 12 years old).

 

In the Village district in addition to the AMC Walkway, you can find several coffee shops and restaurants. One of my personal favorites is Octopus where you can find a variety of sushi (cheaper for eat there than take away), Fuddrucker’s (nice hamburguers and all you can eat salads) and a nice coffee shop, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf ( I recommend the biscotti because it  is good and cheap).

 

If you like to go to the movies and watch one of the Oscar-winning features, the AMC Cinemas are nice and comfortable. Big rooms and lots of seats but I recommend patrons arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the film begins, to have get a nice seat.

(Thank you, Denise. It’s obvious to this mall rat that Downtown Burbank can no longer be the butt of Johnny Carson’s jokes. It’s good to see that Burbank has come a long way. Sounds like a road trip is in order.–David)Image

Photo by Denise Talas

Ready for the Coming Tsunami?

Any one paying attention to retail news recently knows that Staples and Radio Shack are slimming down.  Staples by about 250 stores and Radio Shack by over 1100 stores(!).  Yes, unfortunately, a Super Bowl commercial going viral wasn’t enough to save the Shack.  Retail experts believe we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  

Only recently did JCPenney close some underperforming locations as did Macy’s.  JCP still hasn’t fully regained his footprint after the disaster that was the Ron Johnson era (or was that error?).  

Only time will tell who will survive this predicted disaster, if it happens at all.  Did retailers overextend themselves by opening too much too soon?  Or are the doomsday scenarios from 15 years ago finally panning out?

We shall see…….to be continued……

Westwood Village is Showing a Pulse

If there’s a date that will forever haunt the westside of Los Angeles it is January 30, 1988. Karen Toshima, 27, was hit with a bullet while on the streets of Westwood. It shattered the notion that gang violence was isolated to South Central Los Angeles.  It affected Westwood Village for years. Many attempts at revitalizing the village failed.  

As I researched this post, I found an article that as recently as last year Westwood attempted to follow Downtown LA’s lead and reposition itself as an arts destination. As I look around the area, I think that idea hasn’t stuck.

Along comes retailer Urban Outfitters. The Philadelphia-based retailer is renovating a former Tower Records building on 1038 Westwood Blvd into a new flagship storefront. It will be double the size of its current operations down the street at 1500 Westwood Blvd. Advocates are hopeful that the retailer’s commitment to the area sparks activity that Westwood hasn’t seen in a long time.

Their wishes maybe slowly coming true.  While construction is underway for the new Urban Outfitters property, vacant storefronts now have “coming soon” signs attached to their windows. Ralph’s opened at a shuttered Bullock’s property. Target opened a location nearby. Newly opened restaurants have lines snaking outside their doors on busy lunch hours. A new development is being erected on the corner of Gayley and Lindbrook Ave.  I’m curious as to what the finished construction will bring.

While Westwood Village may never regain what was lost that fateful January 1988 night, I am certain that the area is getting its groove back. Other areas (Santa Monica 3rd St. Promenade, The Grove at Farmer’s Market, and Culver City) may have replaced Westwood as a nightlife destination.  However, Westwood is slowly making its comeback and will soon be a player in competing for Angeleno’s hard earned spending cash. 

 

Mall World Tour, Stop #1: Moreno Valley Mall

Note:  The first of an occasional series highlighting the mall scene in Southern California

Moreno Valley Mall has a soft spot in my heart.  It isn’t because it’s an awesome mall (It isn’t).  It isn’t because of the variety of retailers inside the mall (Well…I’ll address that later).  Mo Val Mall gets some love from me because it is closest to my domicile.  Therefore, it is the first of what I hope will be many tour stops featured here on Mall World.  I mean to blog about you have to go to malls, yes?  

Moreno Valley Mall snapshot:  Opened in 1993, the mall sits on land that once was the Riverside International Raceway although you’d be hard pressed to find any reminders of its former glory.  It was developed by Fritz Duda and initially owned by General Growth Property.  It beat out a competitor for the Mo Val market (We’ll talk about Canyon Springs Mall in a future blog post) and opened with May Co., Sears, Harris’ and JCPenney.  Bullock’s was going to be a fifth anchor but pulled out shortly after the mall opened.

A bursting housing bubble and the realignment of March Air Force Base in 1996 was a double whammy that hurt the mall.  Soon, retail chains closed up shop.  Some because of the sales volume.  Others because they ceased operations.  In their place came mom and pop operations that people outside of Mo Val never heard of.  

Around 2005, Harkins Theatres claimed the spot once reserved for Bullock’s.  It marked a minor resurgence for the failing mall.  However, four years later, GGP declared Chap. 11 and sold off the low hanging fruit which included Mo Val Mall and its cousin, Montclair Plaza.  In 2009, the mall lost one of its original anchor stores when Harris’/Gothchalk’s closed their doors.  That space has been empty ever since.  

The mall can market itself as having one of two Round 1 Centers in California (the other being at Puente Hills Mall in Industry).  It also will be adding a Crunch Fitness in the near future.

The Good:  The city should be thankful to have an enclosed mall.  Depending on your personal style, the mall isn’t anything you haven’t found in every other mall in So Cal.  Most of the usual suspects are here:  PacSun, Wet Seal, Champ’s Sports, Express, Aeropostale, among others.  Also a lot of stores you’d never find at any respectable mall in California.  I mean honestly, how does that Rasta store stay in business?  I suppose a recent attempt to market the mall for date night (dinner and a bowling game, my love?) might pay off.  I will say that the Macy’s is nice (formerly a Robinson’s May).  And there’s a nice movie theater.

The Bad:  The mall was built too big.  It should’ve been built a lot smaller and then expanded when it was time.  Enter through Macy’s and then take a good look.  The mall is 50% empty storefronts.  The owners claim a 93% occupancy rate but those must be disguised as empty storefronts.  Or, I’m going blind.  It doesn’t help that some stores still there could use a few shots of Windex.  The absence of some chains means that tax dollars are going to Riverside.  I’m really hoping the new owners find a way to bring more stores to the mall.  The appearance of so many shuttered stores just gives the customer a perception that this mall is dying.

My take:  The new owners are talking a good game.  Although I have to wonder how Crunch is going to help bring customers to the mall and spend money.  Time will tell if the Japanese gamble with Round 1 will pay dividends in the future.  I’m really hoping a genuine big box retailer like Dillard’s will increase their presence in California.  Changing the tenant mix would be a good start.  If and when we ever get a full on economic recovery maybe retailers with a national footprint may come.  In the meantime, the mall is good enough for your basic needs.  If you’re a label whore, there’s always Cabazon.  

Deadmalls.com good website for retailing failures

Deadmalls.com good website for retailing failures

     As I passed by my local mall, Moreno Valley Mall, I am reminded of what could’ve been.  

     However, even after losing Anna’s Linens to a smaller (probably cheaper) strip mall next the 99 Cent Only store, the mall is gaining a new tenant in the form of Crunch Fitness.  That’s head-scratching addition considering a one point Mo Val officials had touted that the mall was becoming an “entertainment destination” after Round 1 opened last summer.  

     When I see movies at the Harkins Theatre (a replacement for what was going to be a Bullock’s), and see all the empty storefronts (It is said to be 93% leased, maybe I’m blind.) I also look for a defibrillator. I mean the mall is on life-support, in my honest opinion.  

     Gaining a movie theatre was a godsend, but the mall lost an anchor when Gottschalk’s when into retail heaven a couple of years ago.  General Growth Properties, who owned the mall, sold it along with other money losing properties to the Spinoso Realty Group of Syracuse, NY.  Spinoso has its work cut out for them.

    Anyway, my news about Moreno Valley is coming on a later post for Mall World.  Today, I’m directing your attention to the website, Deadmalls.com.  It’s a website that pays its respects to regional malls that have given up its fight for profits.  You might recognize a few names (Central City Mall anyone?).  

     A second website that kicked some butt was labelscar.com.  It did a better job at updating and had a longer list of casualties.  Unfortunately, the website seems to have joined the malls it covered in the afterlife.  Clicks on links provided by Google got me a 404 error.  The website no longer lives. *sniff*

     At any rate, as I patiently wait for a reply from Laurie Lucas of The P.E., check out the website http://www.deadmalls.com and tell me some stories of the malls you may have visited that are in retail heaven.  Go ahead, I’m listening.

Ontario Mills continues to reinvent itself

News out of Ontario is that mall/outlet/destination hybrid Ontario Mills has added a new tenant, Express.  Notice they didn’t say Express Outlet.  Just Express.  So I can probably accurately guess that this store will change full price for their merchandise.

That the Mills has added another retailer to their mix isn’t news.  The mall is kind of like the old Fergie song, when one store closes it doesn’t stay empty for long.  Stores that closed at one point have come back, bigger and better.  Take Sports Authority, for example.

What surprised me after reading The PE’s Laurie Lucas’ report on Friday, was how continues to renovate.  The Mills needed bigger restrooms.  Has there ever been a time when there wasn’t a line outside the ladies room?  Apparently Simon heard the complaints and will shortly open “family style” restrooms between neighborhoods 3 and 8 in November.

Lucas also reported that the Mills has also welcomed over 70 new or renovated stores within the past two years.  Sounds like I need to visit the mall personally and see the changes.

Changes were made to the food court as well.  Consumers get to choose from 11 eateries and will enjoy their meal in more comfortable furnishings.

You would think that a destination that supposedly attracts more visitors than Disneyland wouldn’t fix anything that isn’t broken.  However, like Disneyland, the Mills must bring in retailers that give visitors (and their money) a reason to come back.  After all, go further east on the I-10 and Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon beckons.  They can brag about being declared the best outlet center in the country by GQ Magazine.  It too, is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation that will add an additional 60 retailers to the outlet center.

Of Note:  The Promenade in Temecula had added Lids to its retail mix. . . .The store had been listed in its directory for a long time. . . .Lake Elsinore Outlets adds a Puma Store to its mix. . . .A job fair to staff the store was held recently. . . . The question for Lake Elsinore is will the center ever return to its former glory?

Welcome to Mall World

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      You’ve probably read much about the imminent death of the shopping mall.  Well, perhaps you haven’t.  I honesty don’t know which side of the fence you’re sitting on but that’s not the whole point of my post.   

     I just checked out the website for Sydney-based Westfield, a world-wide operator of shopping malls.  Did you know that they operate 22 malls in Southern California?  You did?  Well, good on ya, mate!  

     It is difficult to think that the mall world is dying.  While some stores are here today, gone tomorrow, the mall world is simply going through a reinvention of itself.  What was once a vanilla dull, big box eyesore is now opening up to the elements and including retailers that you wouldn’t think belonged in the mall.

     Moreno Valley Mall is rebranding itself as a entertainment destination.  The recent opening of Round 1 (Japanese equivalent of Dave & Buster’s) along with Harkin’s Theatres has Moreno Valley officials proposing the mall as a place for dates.  Yeah, ok.

     It seems Westfield also thinks it’s great to squeeze every acre in the San Fernando Valley with retail.  Their latest proposal, The Village at Topanga, will bring more retail to an area with two other malls (both owned by Westfield).  On top of that, will be high rise offices and a hotel.

     Downtown Los Angeles will also mark the location of a new mall.  Granted, not brand spanking new, but developers plan on wiping down the former Macy’s Plaza with some Windex and renaming the area The Bloc.  No, I’m not making this stuff up.

     Finally, to prove not mall culture isn’t dead yet, the World Trade Center 2.0 will be the location for yet another Westfield develop.  Go watch the video.  One word:  wow!

     I suppose the reason for wanting to cover the mall world is too practice generating eye balls for a concept that often replaces town centers for a majority of suburbanites.  Malls in some areas have replaced genuine downtowns.  

     What companies like Simon, General Growth and Westfield have to realize is that consumers won’t return if you’re offering the same old stuff.  And that’s where I come in.  Sure there are other writers that write about retail but they won’t cover the mall world the way I plan on doing that job.

     I hope you like what you read.  If you have some good tips or want to share your nickel hit me up at david.parada@yahoo.com.

     I hope to continue updating this blog daily.