Village of Merrick Park, Dolphin Mall and others adding tenants that lure spending in altered economy
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
In these frugal times, the right mix of retailers and restaurants is key to a shopping mall's success, as consumers are choosing wisely where and how they spend their shopping dollars.
With that under consideration, top shopping destinations in Miami-Dade are carefully analyzing consumers' wants to bring the best-fitting stores and eateries to their centers to attract more shoppers, especially with the holiday season fast approaching.
The upscale Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables is listening to its visitors, who want to see more entertainment and dining options at this exclusive shopping complex.
"People want to see entertainment for adults, more restaurants and bars," said Maria Llorca, the mall's senior marketing manager.
Several new restaurants have opened or recently signed to lease in the open-air shopping mall at 358 San Lorenzo Ave.
The entrance of Cabo Flaps, a restaurant offering Mexican cuisine, and Crave, a Minneapolis-born restaurant chain that is opening its second Florida location at the shopping complex, were announced last month.
These two restaurants are to open on the first level, adding dining concepts that were missing from the village.
"We are really excited about that because you want a good number of restaurants, but you can't repeat the food (concept)," Ms. Llorca explained.
Another new culinary concept that opened this year at the mall is Sawa Restaurant & Lounge, which offers a sushi bar and Mediterranean cuisine.
The high-end lifestyle center is close to signing leases with a couple of other restaurants to please the palates of village shoppers, Ms. Llorca said.
Existing restaurants at the village include Villagio, Mariposa at Neiman Marcus and Yard House, which has become a popular spot for locals to watch sports while enjoying casual food and an extensive draft beer selection.
The exclusive shopping destination is also growing its children store category, Ms. Llorca said, which has been performing very well.
For example, the mall's Pottery Barn Kids store is "consistently the best performing one in the country," she said.
Two new children's stores, Gymboree Play & Music and Pili Carrera, are set to open by early next year, joining other kid apparel stores such as Janie & Jack, Babycottons and Bognar & Piccolini.
"We (the mall) are up in sales this year, which is really exciting because we see the economy slowly improving, and many of our stores are luxury stores and that is a sector people are particularly concerned about," Ms. Llorca said.
The mall's owner, General Growth Properties, which owns and manages more than 200 shopping malls in the US, is in the final phase of its company restructure as it emerges from bankruptcy.
Newcomers to the village include Koko & Palenki, an expanding women clothing, accessories and shoes store that has begun build-out of its retail space. Also, White House Black Market recently opened at the mall as well as Van Der Bauwede Genève, a Swiss jewelry and watches store that opened its doors two weeks ago.
To kick off the holiday season, Ms. Llorca said the Thursday before Thanksgiving the upscale mall is to have its annual tree lighting, expected to draw about 2,500 visitors.
In Miami, Miracle Marketplace at 3301 Coral Way is bringing several restaurants to complement the national retailers that have opened at the new shopping mall.
Hooters has leased about 4,000 square feet on the street level to open a restaurant with outdoor seating that faces Coral Way, said leasing agent Mia Stierheim, senior vice president of retail services at Colliers International.
The popular restaurant and bar chain, known for its chicken wings and attractive waitresses, is close to starting build-out construction. Also coming soon to the shopping center is a Sal's Italian Restaurant.
The 250,000-square-foot vertical retail complex, with about 30,000 square feet still available for leasing, has secured beachwear store Follow the Sun, she said, and is under negotiations to bring a nail salon and spa.
Miracle Marketplace, developed in a joined venture by principals of Talisman Cos. and Keystone Homes, has attracted to the center top retailers such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and shoe store DSW.
To add to this directory of existing stores and coming-soon restaurants, Ms. Stierheim said the mall would also like to bring an ice cream parlor and a full-service restaurant to occupy an available 7,000 square feet.
One of the mall's attractive features is a 1,000-space garage where parking is free to shoppers visiting the complex.
In West Dade, two shopping hubs, Dolphin Mall and Miami International Mall, continue to enhance their shopping experience with new eateries and retailers.
Doral's Miami International Mall is adding two new stores and getting ready for the opening of its expanded Victoria's Secret.
The Simon-owned mall is trying to stay competitive by giving shoppers more choices. For example, Spain-based Tous, a jeweler that specializes in accessories such as handbags and watches, is to open its largest location outside Spain at International.
The expanded Victoria's Secret, nearly twice the size of its existing lingerie store, is to feature a new pink concept, the VSX sporting wear collection and a beauty room with cosmetics and fragrances.
Adding to the mall's eateries is Yogurbella, with its assortment of frozen yogurts.
And Pascual MD MedSpa, which offers Botox cosmetics, Vitalift skin rejuvenation and laser hair removal, also opened this summer at the mall.
"We are excited to offer our shoppers even more choices when it comes to retail and dining…," Maria Prado, mall manager, said in a statement. "The addition of these popular retailers will only enhance the shopping experience that many already enjoy here."
Nearby, giant outlet Dolphin Mall continues to make its mark, not only as an outlet mall with an extensive store selection but also as an entertainment hub for families and adults.
The successful shopping mall, which has experienced double-digit growth each month for 36 months, is opening a Cool-de-sac Play Café, an innovative concept that enhances kids' playtime while giving parents a break. Children get to play at interactive stations while their parents enjoy a menu of organic cuisine.
The children's café joins existing entertainment options that include two movie theaters, bowling alley Lucky Strikes Lanes and Dave & Busters.
The popular shopping complex draws both locals and tourists, in part because of its wide store selection as more than 240 retailers, including 13 anchor stores, call Dolphin Mall home.
New retail additions for this year include the Gap Factory Store, True Religion Brand Jeans and The Outlet, a new 25,000-square-foot luxury outlet concept from Bloomingdale's, said Madelyn Bello-Calvar, director of marketing and sponsorship, earlier this month.
The mega mall is also expanding its restaurant directory, with Catch of the Day slated to open this year, she said, to represent the center's first seafood option.
Other restaurants that already opened this year are the festive Greek-style eatery Taverna Opa and P.F. Chang's China Bistro.