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PERKING UP PROMENADE STYLISH NEW SHOPS, RESTAURANTS OPEN AT WESTFIELD MALL.

Byline: Brent Hopkins Staff Writer

WOODLAND HILLS - Hoping to inject some extra zing to the Westfield Shoppingtown Promenade, mall owners continue to refine the tenant mix.

Operators of the mall, already a dining and movie destination, are adding new stores and restaurants.

High-end home-furnishing retailer Beau Interiors will celebrate its grand opening on April 26. It follows California Roll & Sushi, which opened several weeks back, and precedes swanky Tex-Mex restaurant Reata, Urban Leather and children's spots Oh Baby! and Mission Renaissance.

Construction crews are also hard at work on the much-delayed Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory, which they aim to finish this month. Westfield operators hope the mall will finally hit its stride by midsummer.

``Things are definitely looking up at the Promenade,'' said Rebecca Boehle, the center's marketing director. ``It's been such the ugly stepchild since it (re)opened. This is the best mix of stores we've had yet.''

When the high-end entertainment destination reopened after 18 months of remodeling in November 2001, locals heralded it as a revitalization of the West Valley. Investing millions to make it a place where visitors could relax, dine, go to the movies and shop under one roof, the mall's owners projected it would give a hip edge to a flagging center.

But its tenant mix never jelled, and merchants complained the center lacked focus.

Westfield operators hope to reverse that with a revamped tenant mix - a defined, friendly niche for families - and a home-design focus.

``When I found out Ruth's Chris (Steakhouse) and Reata were coming, it seemed like this was becoming more of a destination spot,'' said Gary Johnson, Beau Interiors' co-owner. ``You look out and don't necessarily see a lot of traffic, but all the (furniture) stores are doing well. People come here, get what they need, and go.''

His 14,000-square-foot store, which opened last weekend, has already seen sharp interest from shoppers. Its opening shores up Westfield's crucial home-furnishings segment, one of its strengths in a soft retail sector, joining Macy's, Z Gallerie, Restoration Hardware, The Bombay Company and others.

Though its California chic designs, with $2,632 leather-headboard beds and $3,500 custom-made bedding, attract a higher-end customer, store manager Veronica Salinas expressed no worries that the mall would draw them in.

``When I first came to the furniture business, I thought a $1,500 chair was outrageous,'' she said. ``But if you're in the market and sophisticated to know about the designs, there are definitely people who will pay.''

Current merchants think nailing down a solid tenant mix would help the center become more of a shopping draw, rather than a destination-specific mall. Several store managers complained that they attract only loyal customers, rather than the walk-in traffic many malls enjoy.

``The only thing that really keeps this running is the movie theater,'' said Justin Welter, a salesman for Gary's Tux Shop. ``They need more stores here you can't find anywhere else.''

And the mall needs them very quickly, according to Cathy Cates, vice president of the family-owned gift shop Lolita's. With her sales off drastically since the war began in Iraq, she's hoping to see the mall quickly invigorated.

``Right now, it's pretty scary,'' Cates said. ``Our type of business is based on consumer confidence, and people don't have that right now. ... On the weekend, we probably get 200 to 400 people coming through the door, all from the theater. Of them, maybe five buy something. People just aren't spending.''

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Store manager Veronica Salinas, left, shows Mary Kontos some custom-made bedding in the new Beau Interiors store.

(2 -- 3 -- color) Westfield Shoppingtown Promenade is getting some new stores and restaurants. At left, elegant glassware adds flair at the new Beau Interiors store. Below, a construction worker walks from the boarding that soon will come down to reveal a new Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory shop.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 10, 2003
Words:649
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