The owners of the Trancas Market Center are now working to fill a major void in the western Malibu center, after representatives last week confirmed that expected anchor tenant Erewhon Natural Foods Market would not be coming to the center. Erewhon, an organic grocery store based in Beverly Hills, was slated to fill the space formerly occupied by HOWS Market before it closed in 2011.
The CEO of the Erewhon indicated construction delays at the shopping center had gone on for too long.
“Unfortunately ... delays of the development of the shopping center have caused the issue,” Erewhon CEO Tony Antoci told The Malibu Times on Wednesday last week. “[The store] was supposed to open six months ago.”
As of Monday the exterior infrastructure and pilings were completed in the 16,000-square-foot space, but interior floorings and furnishings were yet to be installed.
With Erewhon out of the picture, the leasing agent for the center has vowed to have a grocery store in place by January 2014.
“It’s going to be better than Erewhon,” said leasing agent Tony Dorn.
While Dorn would not name a potential replacement, plenty of rumors have been floating around town. Many residents are crossing their fingers for Trader Joe’s or Sprouts, while others have heard that the Trancas Center owners will attempt to open their own grocery store. Center co-owner Paige Dubbert is the daughter of Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie. Dorn and Scott Rozier, who is overseeing the renovation and expansion of the shopping center, refused to comment on those rumors.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Rozier said an announcement on a new tenant would be made “in the next few weeks.”
West Malibu residents who have been driving to Pavilions in the Point Dume Village shopping center since HOWS closed in 2011 say they are anxious for a new store to come in.
“At this point, we would be happy with anybody who came in. We just want food at this end,” said Harriett Pollon, president of the La Chusa Highlands Homeowners Association.
News of Erewhon’s departure has also placed strain on other businesses in the Trancas center, who have been anxiously awaiting an anchor tenant to draw in foot traffic.
“We need that grocery store to open...otherwise, there’s no traffic,” said Sam Sung, owner of Trancas Tailors & Cleaners. “The whole small business suffers.”
Mike Hebert, who has owned the Postal Annex for 11 years, said he has lost 200 customers per day since reopening his store in a remodeled space without a grocery store nearby to draw in more customers.
“Every month we don’t have an anchor here...we’re losing money,” Hebert said.
Trader Joe’s says no
Pollon was among a small group of residents who contacted Trader Joe’s asking the company to consider opening a store at the Trancas Center. Trader Joe’s, she said, rejected the idea.
“They told us Malibu was too small of a population,” she said. “We got rejected fast.”
When contacted by The Malibu Times, representatives for Trader Joe’s would not disclose their criteria when considering new locations. They did say that a Malibu location was not on the horizon.
“At this time Malibu is not in our two-year plan of opening a location,” Alison Moshizuki, director of public relations for Trader Joe’s, said Monday in a telephone interview.
New restaurants, beauty stores set to sign leases
On Tuesday, Dorn told The Malibu Times he was close to signing leases with five new businesses at the center, including two restaurants, a beauty salon, a jewelry story and a women’s apparel boutique.
“These are all businesses owned by independent and local people,” Dorn said. “We’re trying to be very much the opposite of what’s happened in the Civic Center.”
Owners of Tra Di Noi restaurant are working to open a new Italian eatery by January, Dorn said. The new restaurant, Mangia, will serve lunch and dinner.
Another eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is also close to signing a lease.