As Santa sizes up his list of good and bad folks, gift hunting in Marin is even more serious than normal, which is saying something in a county where shopping is sometimes a contact sport.
Perhaps the most curious place these days is the Village at Corte Madera. The 461,000-square-foot monument to conspicuous consumption is framed by two anchors—Macy’s at one end and Nordstrom’s at the other. In between, there are 65 stores doing their level best to exhaust your credit card. Owned by Macerich Inc., the Village at Corte Madera is the eighth largest grossing center in the country. But only one of the trophy properties in the company’s 51-mall portfolio. Macerich describes it as “Upscale shopping” in “one of the wealthiest counties in the country.”
With sales of $1,747 a square foot at The Village, Macerich may be underselling it, especially when you consider that anything north of $500 a square foot is considered positive in the United States. To be sure, high-ticket retailers like Apple, Tesla, and Tempur-Pedic jack up that square foot figure.
But the retail sector has been under fire in recent months. Sears, Mattress Firm and Toys “R” Us have all filed for bankruptcy protection and nationally, retail properties have a 9.1 percent vacancy rate as the struggle between online outlets and brick and mortar stores continues. And the Village has not been untouched. One of two vacancies in the mall is the old Brookstone space, since the retailer filed for bankruptcy in August and shuttered its stores.
That is hardly the only change at the luxury center, however. To begin there is the new two-story showroom under construction for the company formerly known as Restoration Hardware, now simply called RH. With 26 different sofa collections with as many as six lengths and 180 fabrics to choose from, it can’t just be called a store, nor can it be contained in the mall. Therefore it’s a gallery and it’s out in the parking lot. When it’s finished it will be three stories, with the top level being a destination restaurant with views of the bay and Mt. Tamalpais. Those perusing couches that will set them back five figures will have wine and coffee bars to mull their design choices over.
When the store is complete, the two Resto stores currently in the Village (regular RH and Baby and Child RH) will be filled by as many as five other stores according to Stan Hoffman, who rides herd on the luxury mall. At the time of this writing, Hoffman had just returned from Santa Monica, Macerich’s home turf, where discussions about those spaces were had.
A word about Hoffman. He is old school in the best kind of way, having led the mall across Highway 101, The Town Center, for years—a savvy veteran of the retail trade in Marin. As he talked about the changes at his property, he waxed poetically about how the center had welcomed new stores that would serve the community because the old ones were no longer what the community wanted. In the past six months the mall added Madison Reed, Bonobos, LoveSac, Alys Grace, Aesop, Tempur Pedic, and Joe and The Juice.
Madison Reed is part of the new retail trend, a dominant online retailer that is now seeking to do some brick and mortar damage. In this case its hair color and staffed by certified licensed colorists because hair color is apparently trickier than it appears to this simple untrained grower of hair. Bonobos is the same idea, a digital retailer that now has “guideshops” where men can be fitted for clothing that is then shipped from someplace else.
I was relieved to learn that LoveSac sells furniture. It’s modular and can be arranged in many combinations with slipcovers that are custom. The name threw me a little. The shops also stock bean bag chairs that according to a press release from The Village are “the closest you’ll get to sitting on an actual cloud.”
Aesop joins Saje, Kiehls, Madison Reed, Aveda, and L’Occitane en Provence in the health care and beauty sector at The Village. That might seem like a fierce concentration of lotion emporiums but to be fair there are a number of technology stores like Apple, Microsoft, B8TA, Tesla and Peleton ready to show you some digital love.
Hoffman assures me that at the heart of the mall it’s still a fashion center. But it’s a fashion center where you can pick up an iPad, test drive a Tesla, chow some pizza and still have time to see what Robert Redford is peddling over at Sundance.
And now, Santa has new stores to explore should his elves run into production woes.
[Note new bio below.]
Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz. His day job takes him to San Francisco as an associate editor for The Deal, a Wall Street-based digital business outlet. He wishes you the happiest of holidays.
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