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Old and New in California

by Nate Hunter

A recent visit to Orange County, LA’s Westchester area, and San Francisco.

Already this year, I’ve made a few trips. I went to Southern California for a day where I checked out The Island hotel for a meeting our sister publication, Retail Facility Business, is hosting there in the fall. It’s a nice place, and part of what makes it so nice is that it is directly across the street from one of the most relaxing shopping environments in the country, Fashion Island. Developed, owned and operated by The Irvine Company, Fashion Island is anchored by Bloomingdale’s, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom and Macy’s. Whole Foods will open at Fashion Island later this year (based on the nearby Whole Foods in Tustin, it’s going to be amazing). Fashion Island the retail epicenter of Irvine’s residential empire, and it is a nice place to spend time. It is home to an incredible men’s retailer, Gary’s, that hasn’t lost the art of customer service. I dined at Gulfstream at Corona del Mar Plaza (also owned and operated by Irvine). This used to be a real hangout for the local real estate crowd. I didn’t see anyone I knew, but I ate really early (on East Coast time).

Before dropping off my rental car at LAX the next morning, I stopped at Coffee & Co., on LaTijera in LA’s Westchester neighborhood. A PR friend of mine introduced me to this place years ago. The coffee is great. If you like pancakes, you must try those. We will be back in LA the week of March 19 to host a net lease conference. We also hope to have a small retail management roundtable then, so we look forward to filing another trip report on California soon.

My next stop was San Francisco. I lived here briefly in the early 1990s (before the Internet), and I’m always amazed how many of the places I frequented are still there or look like they haven’t changed. I have friends that I stay with who live in the Richmond neighborhood. Two blocks on one side of their house is the Presidio; two blocks the other is the cultural phenomenon of Geary Boulevard.

On this trip, most of my efforts were concentrated on where I would watch the BCS National Championship Bowl (Roll Tide), but I managed to see a few retail spots. One was Laurel Village. This has to be one of the original “neighborhood centers.” It is on California Street in the Laurel Heights neighborhood. It sits in a strip and has a small parking lot behind it (this gets so busy that, during rush hour, it turns into paid parking). Laurel Village contains Cal-Mart, an old fashioned supermarket where the drygoods and produce remain separate entities than the bakery, butcher and fishmonger that sit at the front of the store. There’s also Rigolo Café. Didn’t make it there on this trip, but it has an excellent breakfast/brunch/lunch. The Starbucks at the west end of Laurel Village must be one of the most popular in the chain. It is never without a crowd.

I also, briefly, got to check out the new Terminal 2 at SFO International Airport. I was flying another airline that left from Terminal 1, so my ticket didn’t get me past security, where most of the retail is. Terminal 2, newly renovated, is being lauded for its use of local retailers and its LEED certification.

Randall Shearin is editor in chief of Shopping Center Business magazine.

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