Monday, October 26, 2009

Paradise Foods opens (partly)

Took a quick look at the new Paradise Foods market, which quietly opened its doors last week at Pacheco Plaza. The "soft" opening was no doubt engineered to get their staff and systems fully functioning before the official grand opening, November 2.
The photos below show that the store has the wooden floors and shelving units that will look familiar to fans of the original Paradise Drive market. Also present are the deli counter with gourmet sandwiches at $6-$7, and the well-stocked meat and fish counters, which were getting the most attention from the small number of shoppers in the store.
Another hallmark of Paradise Foods is their range of prepared foods and meals, which are made on site. Lots of these to choose from, including salads, burritos, meat and rice dishes. prices range from $7 for a meal for one, through to $35 for a party-sized lasagna.

The Pacheco store is much bigger than the Corte Madera Store, so the aisles are wide, and there are open spaces at each side of the store and plenty of room around the checkouts. Some of the shelves are also empty, though we'll assume they'll be fully stocked by the time of the official opening next week.
As for Pacheco Plaza itself, the remodel is coming together, with nice landscaping and new shading that's brought the center into the 21st century. The photos I took last year look like they came from the 1970s. What they need now is a few more new specialty stores to breathe some new energy into the mix.

Oh, and is it too late to do something about that huge electricity pylon...?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weekly news update

A few stories from around the County this week...

DeLano's in Tam Valley is to get its own Post Annex.

The Marin Store is a new on-line store promoting food, fashion, art etc created in Marin, or made by companies based in Marin.

Peet's proposed new outlet in Sausalito has to pass the "no chains" rule that blocks formula retailers from locating on the waterfront.

Restoration Hardware relaunched it's Corte Madera store last week with a cocktail reception. The store shall be know from here on as something like The Gallery at Restoration Hardware. To emphasize the point, they've hung curtains outside the entrance (see photo). The merchandising matches Resto's recent strategic decision to position themselves at higher price points, and the store has some impressively huge sofas, industrial chic tables and massive metal floor lamps. There's also a new children's section.

Finally, as the opening of the new Paradise Foods at Pacheco Plaza draws near (planned for November 2), I couldn't help but notice a very candid quote in the IJ from the owner, David Gilmore, who said of the new store, "I had been kind of talked into doing this at the start". And while he "feels really good about it now", let's hope the people of Novato feel good about paying top dollar for the store's premium product.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coming soon... Marin Country Mart

Marin Country Mart is set to become the new name for the Larkspur Landing Shopping Center. While not much more than the logo has been made public to date, BVN Architects (Ferry Building, Oxbow Market) have been quietly working on plans for refurbishing the mall, which was purchased by JS Rosenfield in January this year.

The LA Times last week carried an article about Rosenfield and his retail philosophy, which is based around the Brentwood Country Mart:
Built to woo shoppers in a more rural Brentwood neighborhood after World War II, the red wooden structures evoke a country marketplace with stores and stalls that ramble around a courtyard. Along narrow walkways, doors open horse-stall style, offering views inside the smudged shoe repair stand, tiny post office and other shops.
But make no mistake, the Brentwood Country Mart is filet mignon masquerading as meatloaf. A posh Beverly Hills restaurant runs the humble-looking taco stand. Wealthy locals and a sprinkling of celebrities come here to hang out, maybe get a haircut or shop at 20-odd stores that sell merchandise such as mouth-blown Italian vases and hand-painted furniture.
Bring it on. If there's one thing we're short of in Marin, it's hand-painted furniture.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kohl's arrives in Marin

It's not every week we see a new department store in Marin, so the arrival of Kohl's at Northgate has to count as a major retail event. The owners of Northgate had some good fortune when Mervyns went into bankruptcy last year and closed all their stores. What could have been a problem turned out to be a bonus when Kohl's snapped up the Northgate anchor store, along with many others across California. And the timing was perfect, with Northgate embarking on a major renovation that is heading for completion at the end of this year.

Externally, the main change, aside from the new name and a lick of paint, is that the Kohl's box is now separated from the rest of the center. The internal mall that used to connect to the old Mervyn's has gone, replaced by what will eventually be an outdoor "Oak Plaza", with roadside restaurants and stores. You can see the tree in the photos below, plus the new units attached to Kohl's, which will include Panera Bread and Roadside BBQ.

Inside, the transformation is more dramatic. There are no structural changes to the Mervyn's box, and the floor plan is a simple racetrack layout, with a pair of escalators in the center to move between the two levels. But the internal furnishings and displays are all new and the presentation of the merchandise is very well done. It looks, feels and smells like a new store.

The store is not very large, so apparel takes up the majority of the space. The lower level is mostly clothing, with a jewelry/accessory section. A lot of the upper level is taken by kids clothing, together with shoes and a home/bath section.

Most department stores place checkouts throughout the store, but here the checkouts are all located together close to the main entrance, which is more like a Target or other discount store.
The customer service desk is on the upper level (pictured below).

Kohl's branding strategy includes the usual mix of own-brands, industry favorites and exclusive designers. A lot of the merchandise carries one of Kohl's own store brands; I saw names like Sonoma Life and Croft & Barrow. Nike, Fila, Levis and Lee jeans are heavily promoted. The exclusive brands include Dana Buchman and Simply Vera Wang. I also noted Tony Hawk skatewear, Elle clothing, Chaps and Lauren Conrad.

Overall, first impressions of Kohl's were very positive. The staff are clearly motivated, and there are plenty of them. The merchandise looks good and the prices look competitive. The whole experience is completely different to the sad state that Mervyn's had reached towards the end. It is also clearly superior to the Sears and Macy's stores at Northgate, and hopefully it will spur those stores, particularly Sears, to make improvements.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday news update

Walgreens is poised to take over the space vacated by Pier 1 Imports at Northgate One in Terra Linda. The move is likely to be less controversial than the proposed new Walgreens in Novato, which will be built on the Mission Lodge Hotel site at Diablo Avenue and Redwood Blvd.

A big disappointment to the well-dressed man around Mill Valley is the closure of Wilkes Bashford.

Social media is finally catching on with Marin's shopping malls. The Town Center at Corte Madera now has a Twitter page, as does The Village. Also on Twitter are Andy's Market and Northgate, which also has a Facebook page.

But the big news event of the week was the arrival of Kohl's department store, which opened at Northgate this Wednesday. A full report will be coming soon.