Malibu’s retail landscape continually changing

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Missoni is set to move into Malibu Cross Creek Plaza; Country Mart is welcoming three new stores, including Morgan Le Fay.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

The ongoing saga of Malibu’s changing business landscape continues, as the co-owner of Cross Creek Plaza affirmed last week that Italian luxury retailer Missoni will be setting up shop at the plaza.

Though Missoni will occupy the Cross Creek Plaza space that formerly housed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop, next to the movie theater, the plaza spaces left vacant by six former tenants have not yet been filled, plaza co-owner Pouya Abdi said Thursday last week in a telephone interview.

Malibu Country Mart will also see its share of change during the next few months. Owner Michael Koss last week confirmed the influx of three new tenants, the departure of two existing tenants and the continuing operation of clothing store James Perse, despite its recently added a location to the neighboring Malibu Lumber Yard mall.

Koss said home furnishing store, “Cocoon,” will replace Automotive Legends, located next to Bernie Safire Hairstyling salon, and women’s clothing store “Vince” will replace Andrianna Shamaris, which has relocated to the Malibu Lumber Yard mall. Morgan Le Fay, a women’s clothing store, will move into the smaller of the two spaces that house Malibu Colony Company. However, the Colony Company will continue business at the Country Mart.

“We are very much alive, we just consolidated and are moving into one store,” Tina Nicholls, Malibu Colony Company co-owner, said Friday in a telephone interview. “It was too much for us having two stores. We’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”

Nicholls added, “The recession has hit everybody, but we are lucky we have very loyal customers here in Malibu.”

The County Mart’s James Perse will undergo a month-long closure at an undetermined date while it transitions into “James Perse Yosemite,” described last week by Perse’s publicist Liz Keen as a “community-driven concept store with an emphasis on active living.”

“Automotive Legends’ lease ended and they said they didn’t want to renew,” Koss said of why the store is gone. “It was his [owner Ross Malinger’s] choice.”

Calls to Automotive Legends were not returned.

Nobu Malibu’s general manager confirmed in a March telephone interview with The Malibu Times that the Japanese restaurant currently housed in Malibu Country Mart will relocate to the former Windsail property, located near the Malibu Pier, with hopes of opening for business by summer 2010.

Koss, however, said he doesn’t think Nobu will open at the new location in less than a couple of years, and has not yet selected any potential tenants to fill the future vacancy.

Higher taxes, maintenance costs caused Cross Creek moves

Numerous residents have expressed disappointment at the recent departures of local businesses, but many local shopping center owners, including Dan Bercu and Malibu Lumber Yard owners Richard Sperber and Richard Weintraub, say they are working to keep those businesses in Malibu. Weintraub and Sperber’s lease deal with the city includes renting 10 percent of the 30,000 square foot Malibu Lumber Yard to local business at a reduced rent rate.

Abdi last week said, “We are trying to get more local retailers the city will be happy with, and we are talking to more established retailers and more local, mom and pop retailers.

“One of the things we are going to do is make some of the spaces smaller to make them more affordable,” he continued, adding that negotiations are also taking place with a gelato store.

The January exodus of former, local businesses from the Cross Creek Plaza includes Mexican restaurant Casa Escobar, Pet Headquarters, the Salon at Malibu Creek and Pritchett-Rapf Realty. Malibu Ballet by the Sea relocated to the Malibu Performing Arts Center building, and Malibu Beach Club moved to Calabasas last year, while Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop never reopened after a building fire a couple of years ago.

Some of the former Cross Creek Plaza tenants said that though business was good, it was not enough to meet the increase in the common area maintenance costs and higher property taxes that were incurred when Abdi and co-owner Michael Shabani purchased the plaza in late 2007 from former owner Steve Soboroff for a reported $60 million.

Koss, however, said Malibu Country Mart tenants’ rent prices are not increasing and that the businesses “generally seem to be prospering.”

“They’re [rent prices] higher than [they were in] 1985 when I bought the center,” he said. “But rents are now generally lower. They’re [the tenants’ leases] all individual situations. What they pay has to do with when they signed their lease.”

Shopping centers undergo renovations

“We are working on plans of updating the center,” Abdi said of Cross Creek Plaza, adding that they have not yet been submitted to the city for review. “I’m hoping that the process through the city will be fast so the businesses are not hurt by the renovation over the summer.”

The renovation, described by Abdi as “not much work that will make a big difference,” includes creating a “rustic” look by painting the center white and planting grass, roses and bushes.

Also undergoing renovation is the Malibu Country Mart, part of which is located across the street from Cross Creek Plaza on the west side of Cross Creek Road.

“We’re six weeks away from finishing the remodel of the courtyard and the two-story building,” Koss said. “We’ve ordered custom tiles and furniture.”

The renovated Malibu Country Mart will kick off a “special opening” on the night of May 7, Koss said, in which stores will offer sales and music each Thursday throughout the summer.