Another local biz bites the dust

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Further reinforcing many residents’ fear of losing the small town atmosphere created in part by locally owned “mom and pop” businesses, Zuma Video & Music, one of the longest serving businesses in Point Dume Plaza, will close its doors at the end of this month.

Many other longtime local businesses have met the same fate during the past several years, and many existing ones are struggling to stay afloat amid rising rents and an economic recession.

Point Dume Plaza, located at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Heathercliff Road, has remained largely vacant since the closing of The Dume Room, Point Dume Chinese Restaurant and a copy store, among other longtime tenants, some of which had been there for at least 20 years.

While an increase in rent and monthly maintenance fees played a significant role in the departure of 26-year Zuma Video & Music, storeowner Mike Keith said the nail in the coffin was caused by decreased foot traffic that resulted from the empty plaza (and that the video store had to relocate upstairs).

“The center has been dying for a while, businesses are leaving one after another,” Keith said Monday in a phone interview. “Every store that goes is a chain reaction for the rest of us, until it gets replaced.”

As of yet, the only confirmed replacement tenant is Subway, which at an undetermined date will occupy the space that housed The Dume Room. Some worry the sandwich chain will threaten the livelihood of its neighboring tenant, Point Pizza, one of the city’s longest serving mom-and-pop eateries.

Calls made Monday and Tuesday to Point Dume Plaza owner Zan Marquis were not returned.

Keith said there are currently no plans to reopen Zuma Video & Music.

“Relocating is a pretty difficult task in Malibu,” he said. “It’s pretty expensive everywhere, and the other side of Malibu [the eastern end]-forget about it. That costs four or five times what we pay here.”

As is typical in most commercial leases, tenants are on triple net leases, which means when the center is sold the county reappraises it at the new sale price. That additional cost from the higher property taxes plus any maintenance costs are passed through to the tenants.

Soaring rents and maintenance fees have also caused an exodus of longtime local businesses from many shopping centers in eastern Malibu, where property owners are charging as much as $15 per square foot.

The monthly cost of rent (including maintenance fees and taxes) for Malibu Business & Shipping Center, located in Malibu Colony Plaza, jumped from approximately $14,000 in 2002 (when the business was called Mailboxes, Etc. under different ownership), to about $22,000 last month, according to Nereida Heath, MB&SC manager and CEO.

“There are shopping centers across the county that have reduced the rent as much as 40 percent for small business owners so we can stay in business until the recession is over, but not this one,” Heath said Monday in a phone interview. “I have 10-cent copies and little mailboxes, we’re not Louis Vuitton, you know.”

Unable to afford the heightened rent, Heath said she is aiming to relocate MB&SC to a vacant portion of a city-owned building located at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Webb Way, which would reduce its monthly rent to about $12,000 per month. Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman on Tuesday said negotiations to do so are underway.

Super Care Drugs, another longtime local business that could not afford to renew its lease at Malibu Village (formerly known as Cross Creek Plaza) will soon occupy the other portion of the city-owned building.

In the past year, 11-year retail tenant Philippe Derey, Malibu Florist, and Barrel wine bar have vacated Malibu Colony Plaza due to increased rent. None of the spaces, including the one that housed Granita restaurant about six years ago, are currently occupied.

In addition to Super Care Drugs, longtime tenants that left Malibu Village during the past two years due to rising rent include the Mexican restaurant Casa Escobar, Malibu Pet Headquarters, Salon at Malibu Creek, Pritchett-Rapf Realty, Malibu Ballet Studio (which relocated to the now city-owned Malibu Performing Arts Center) and Malibu Beach Club.

Jay Luchs, a broker for Malibu Village, on Monday said lease agreements are pending with four potential tenants, including three retail stores and one restaurant.

Luchs added that the shopping center is currently undergoing a $4 million renovation to revamp its exterior and landscaping. He estimated the renovation could be complete by July.