Lake Ave. Retailers Glad To Have Macy’s Back

Pasadena Star News, Posted: 12/02/08 08:05:44 PM PST

PASADENA – The revitalization of Macy’s on Lake Avenue has nearby businesses breathing a little easier these days.

The revamped Macy’s re-opened on Nov. 22, after seven months and more than $15 million worth of restoration and retrofitting.

But the closing didn’t come without concern on Lake Avenue, where several businesses rely on the foot traffic that Macy’s attracts to the area.

Many thought the vintage store, with its 61-year-old building, was closing for good. And others nearby were concerned that the closure, even if temporary, would affect business.

It was enough to have business leaders in the area getting the word out – even knocking on doors – to let merchants know that the closing was only temporary.

Gary Hindoyan, owner of Burger Continental, a restaurant in the 500 block of South Lake, is glad to see the revamped Macy’s open.

“We saw a drop (in business) of about 10 percent,” he said.

But now that it’s re-opened, he’s seen a gradual uptick.

“Now that it’s open again, we hope that more people will come to Pasadena and South Lake,” he said.

The walk-in customer traffic is good for businesses such as Borders bookstore and Cold Stone Creamery.

They draw from shoppers who might have purchased something at Macy’s, but slide over to Lake Avenue for a book or a snack, said Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce.

Merchants who rely on that impulse traffic, particularly in a down economy, are breathing a sigh of relief after the opening, he said.

“That relieved several people,” he said. “Macy’s being the anchor tenant and a tremendous draw for customers on the street … there was anxiety and concern among retailers and restaurants that in the interim that there would be some big changes. I think they saw some of that. They saw less foot traffic.”

That was not a surprise to Del Hernandez, vice president and store manger of Macy’s Pasadena.

“Clearly, when you take a major retailer out of the heart of a business district, there’s going to be an impact,” Hernandez said.
But the re-opening, he said, has drawn not only past customers but new ones, who are getting out onto Lake Avenue to patronize businesses there.

It works the other way too, Little said.

“I don’t think it’s Macy’s’ responsibility to ensure everybody is successful, but it’s one of those synergy things,” Little said, adding that if Macys’ was by itself on Lake Avenue, it likely wouldn’t be as successful.

Aside from Macy’s, business leaders on the avenue hope that a three-phase, $1.1-million landscaping, irrigation and lighting project will help bring even more traffic once it’s completed.

That project, which is nearing completion of its first phase, compounded local concern because “people would not visit because of the construction,” Hindoyan said.

But the strength of the South Lake Avenue Business District – which encompasses more than 700 businesses bordered by Colorado Boulevard to the north, California Avenue to the south, and Mentor and Hudson avenues to the east and west – is its diversity of businesses, said Gina Tleel, executive director of the South Lake Avenue Business District.

There are businesses that don’t rely on impulse walk-in traffic for their business, she said.

Still, despite being in a recession, the Macy’s revamp is a positive signal for the district and its future, Tleel said.

“They invested time and over $15 million on renovation,” she said. “That sends a positive message that they are here … and here to stay.”

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