By Claire Harlin
In the past three months, the Beachwalk retail center located, at 437 S. Highway 101, has seen a cascade of store closings, some anticipated and others totally unexpected.
“It’s been quite shocking,” said Maya Hausmann, property manager at Beachwalk, which has lost Blanca restaurant, an AT&T store, The Leisher Group and Cold Stone Creamery, one after the other.
The close of highly-acclaimed Blanca was particularly surprising, Hausman said, but the sudden changes have been “the perfect storm.” The Muller Company, which owns Beachwalk, is not only using the opportunity to rebrand the shopping center as a healthy destination, but it has been bombarded with interest in the space that was formerly Blanca, Hausman said.
“When that space became available it was like a wildfire spreading,” she said, adding that the upscale restaurant closed under economic pressure.
“The kind of menu and kind of clientele they attracted was really affected by the economy,” she said. “They had a following and will be missed by the community.”
She declined to give details about what types of restaurants have shown interest in the space, but she said management wants to provide an eatery that will complement and not compete with Crush Restaurant & Wine Lounge, which just opened in Beachwalk this summer.
“Whatever goes there, it’s probably not going to be high end,” said Hausman.
Although she said craft beers and gourmet burgers are a hit on the market right now, The Muller Company is taking Beachwalk, which was built in 1977, in a healthier direction altogether.
Hausman said in the company’s latest annual tenant survey, business owners expressed that they would like to see the addition of a natural foods market, a frozen yogurt shop and a chiropractor — which has since been added.
Rutley Chiropractic & Weight Loss just signed a lease for Suite 220, and Trident Realty also opened within the last few months there.
Hausman said a frozen yogurt shop would be the perfect replacement for Cold Stone Creamery.
“Even though we are in tough economic times, there are businesses that are doing very well,” said Hausman, adding that innovative and growing health-related businesses like spas and reflexology would be welcomed at Beachwalk.
Linda Johnson, who has worked at Safarlou boutique in the plaza for three years and shopped there since the 1990s, said she used to dine often at Pacific Coast Grill, which left Beachwalk in May, and she has a plethora of ideas for businesses she’d like to see come to the center — frozen yogurt being her top choice.
“I’ve talk to residents who say if we had a yogurt shop they’d be in there every day,” Johnson said.
She said a gift store like Hallmark that sells cards would be fitting in the center, and a reasonably-priced women’s shoe store or children’s apparel store would also be a great addition. She’d also like to see more plaza-wide events, such as a local artists’ market during the holidays.
In response to economic challenges, any business has to stay creative to stay open, Johnson added.
And when it comes to cost of living, neither Solana Beach or Beachwalk are mildly priced.
“We are in the upper crust,” said Hausman. “That has much to do with the location. We’re right by the beach and we’re a unique product in that we offer both retail and office space. There are not many properties quite like this.”
Carolyn Cohen, president of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce board, said the recent City approval of Highway 101 will add more value to the property by making the area more walkable and slowing traffic. The revitalization project plans include adding features such as artistically adorned sitting areas, angled parking spaces and outside dining areas.
Cohen said the Chamber of Commerce is also rebranding itself and working with the City to make the “heart of Solana Beach develop into something incredible.” Citywide events are one of the many ideas they are exploring, she said.
Cohen said Beachwalk should focus on attracting not only locals, but tourists and those who live outside Solana Beach. The opening of Crush wine bar, she said, was an “incredible transformation.”
“I’m in there twice a week,” Cohen said. “They do a great job. If that’s the beginning of the vision for the center they are right on track.”