In seven months since taking over operation of the mall, Rouse Properties has attracted several new businesses and has plans for more in the near future, according to West Valley Mall Manager Mike Donaghy.
“We’ve got a number of deals we’re working on,” he said regarding the 3200 Naglee Road shopping center. “(The) goal is to bring in a larger assortment of newer stores that maybe haven’t been in Tracy before.”
When Rouse Properties took over mall management from General Growth Properties, there were several vacancies, particularly in the northern wing. But since then, several stores have opened, including in that once empty area.
Among the newest tenants to open inside the West Valley Mall are The Company dance studio; iCell, a cellular repair and accessory shop; and a beverage and snack store called Snack Shack.
Morgan Mulholand, co-owner of The Company, runs the dance studio with her mother, Patsy.
“I felt the mall would be a good spot,” Mulholand said. “We wanted to run a dance studio, and we were in a position to do something together.”
Since opening July 14 in the north wing of the mall near Macy’s, Mulholand said, the studio has begun classes for toddlers to adults in all forms of dance, including ballet, tap, break and jazz, in addition to yoga and jazzercise.
“I wanted a safe place for kids to go and learn,” she said, noting that a lot of her students spend entire days at the studio.
A salesman for iCell, a cellphone repair business in the Target wing of the mall, said the company opened its doors two weeks ago. He said business was slow at first, but there has been a steady increase of customers.
The co-owner of the Snack Shack, Sara Yusufi, said her week-old shop caters not only to mall shoppers but also to mall employees. Just inside the mall’s southern entrance, the eatery provides delivery service to mall businesses for workers who crave a beverage, candy bar or chips, she said. She also plans to carry an assortment of T-shirts to add a mini-mart flavor.
Previous choices not all bad
One step taken by General Growth before its departure might have helped start the influx of new businesses under Rouse: bringing Macy’s to the mall as an anchor store in October 2010, following the departure of Gottschalks.
City of Tracy officials said Macy’s decided to come to the mall after the city chipped in $2.75 million saved from developer fees to help the department store chain revamp the vacant space. General Growth Properties contributed $4.2 million.
“Macy’s made a positive effect on the mall and the community,” Donaghy said. “I hear a lot of people like to shop at Macy’s. … It keeps tax dollars and our customer base here.”
General Growth Properties was also responsible for replacing the departing Ross, which moved to the shopping center near Home Depot. Home Life Furniture and Accessories moved into the empty anchor spot, in the Target wing of the mall, in July 2011.
Donaghy said it might be premature to describe the recent activity at the West Valley Mall as a rebirth. But he said it’s a turn in the right direction.
“We’re real pleased with the progress made this year, and it’s only half over,” Donaghy said. “We’re going out and seeking businesses to come into the mall. We want variety — new stuff.”
More the merrier
In the past six months, the mall has welcomed several businesses that come with a built-in customer base, including a reptile shop called Shed Skin Reptile Experience that opened four months back; Fay’s Sports Memorabilia, which relocated from Tracy Outlets three weeks ago; and The Children’s Place, which opened July 7 to sell clothing and accessories for young boys and girls.
“We opened in March, and I didn’t anticipate the amount of people (coming in),” said Shed Skin’s Jeff Porto, a first-time business owner.
Specializing in exotic juvenile reptiles and accessories, Porto said many shoppers come in to look at his various animals, and he estimated that more than half return to make purchases.
“They’ve met my (mall) expectations,” Porto said. “I’ve seen the mall grow, doing things to increase clientele.”
A public relations representative for The Children’s Place, which specializes in children’s apparel from newborn to size 14, said the new store in the Macy’s wing of the mall offers everyday must-have garments to outfit a child from head to toe. Gizem Ozcelik said the store is a franchise added to a fleet of more than 900 stores throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
Shoppers like what they see
A stroll around the West Valley Mall on a Tuesday afternoon, July 24, showed an abundance of shoppers looking for back-to-school bargains and an air-conditioned place to spend a few hours.
“It’s a nice mall,” said Sandra Kelley, of Stockton, as she watched her three sons, ages 2, 3 and 13, run around the mall play area. “It has a lot (more) to offer than Stockton. It seems like a good mall. We’re here school-shopping for shoes.”
Tracy resident Ruby Henderson said she liked the mall because of its variety, as she ate a late lunch in the food court with her 16-year-old daughter, Mari Sol Gonzalez.
“It’s the only mall where you can go and find everything (you need) inside,” Henderson said, though Gonzalez said she’d like to see more teenager-related stores.
Future looks bright
One future business at the mall property that is causing a buzz around Tracy is Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, which is slated to go into the former Pier One store that shares a parking lot with Best Buy.
“It’s great that they are coming,” Donaghy said. “We’re excited about it. I think it will be a real natural with the two (local) hotels (Hampton and Fairfield inns). That will be a good fit.”
According to city officials, the restaurant has set an October opening date and submitted all the necessary architectural designs to the city, including plans for a 1,374-square-foot outdoor patio.
“Great looking building,” said Amy Mendes, a Tracy economic development analyst. “I think they will be a good addition to Tracy. No location in Manteca or surrounding cities, so it could potentially be a regional draw for us.”
Donaghy said another restaurant chain showed interest in the nearby former Chevy’s restaurant, but he was not at liberty to disclose the name.
“Deal’s not done yet, but we’re negotiating with several new tenants,” he said. “Considering it’s been several years since any new stores opened at the mall, we’ve had quite a bit of activity. Hoping see two to three more (businesses) opened before year’s end.”
Mendes said the biggest benefit for the community is that Rouse Properties has focused its attention on the mall site, which she said General Growth Properties seemed to ignore.
“People are clamoring for anything new to the town,” she said. “Mike’s done a good job working with leasing agents to get new businesses at the mall. One of the nice things, there is a lot more focus on this mall. … It was neglected.”