Beyond Retail

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Naming Natick

I thought I'd bring up that Natick (mall) has a new website. Nope, it's not it's just a renovated version of

It's hard to tell yet if General Growth really made the right move by dropping the Mall from Natick. There's no doubt that without the word 'mall', you can create a hipper, more interesting brand, but there's no question that the name is sort of vague. Newspapers can talk about the 'Natick expansion', but can they say that 'Santa is at Natick'? Or is he in Natick?

What about the Natick CVS/pharmacy? The one on West Central? No, the one in Natick.

Then again, what other names could General Growth have gone with?

  • Natick Mall 2: That's what the expansion half of the mall was called internally until the rebranding turned it into the "2007 Expansion". Extremely lame, and doesn't hint any originality... though it's sister mall in Tysons Corner, VA did start out as "The Galleria at Tysons II".

  • Natick Galleria: Plenty of upscale malls call themselves the "Galleria", in honor of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. But locally, there's already the CambridgeSide Galleria, along with some enduring memories of the late Worcester Galleria that would be better off forgotten.

  • Natick Center: Not bad, but this would have created utter confusion between the two centers.

  • The Mall at Natick: Going for something like this would not have been bad... if they weren't going for the same demographics at Simon's The Mall at Chestnut Hill.

  • The Shoppes at Natick: Blackstone Valley beat them to it.

  • Wonder Bread Mall: Somebody once said that malls are named after what was there before them... Roosevelt Field Mall (Garden City, NY), Fresh Pond Plaza (Cambridge), Mall at Rockingham Park (Salem, NH), and plenty of others if you think about it.

Natick Collection, Natick Court, Old Natick, Natick Corner Center... there were other options, but the best names were gone. And as General Growth attempts to attract the rest of New England to what was once only the flagship of the Golden Triangle, the fact that the center shares its name with the town that it's located in isn't going to matter a whole deal.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is the Craze about to end? And what's with Walgreen's and the Drive-Thru?

(Not to turn away from the Golden Triangle gossip and enter the realm of, but this story is just a mile or two away in Saxonville.)

Is Video Craze leaving the "North Framingham Plaza"? It appears so, as a 4,500 sq. ft. parcel with "good signage" is for lease from Framingham-based Gordon Real Estate. Outside of the Walgreens (which we all know is staying on), do any of the other tenants have anything close to 4,500 sq. ft.? I think not. Gordon Real Estate also lists a 425 sq. ft. parcel for lease; no idea what that is.

The Walgreens expansion at the North Framingham Plaza, which will force several local businesses out so that the pharmacy can put in a drive-thru, makes little sense to me. I have no issue with kicking the businesses, and I understand that Walgreens needs a drive-thru. The question to me is why are they staying there?

As you all probably know, the long-abandoned ServiStar lumber yard sits just a hundred feet or so from the existing Walgreen's. Think: Walgreens could build a brand-new, larger, full service pharmacy right at the corner of School and Concord streets, and there'd be plenty of room for a drive-thru pharmacy.

As long as Walgreens made the store look like someone's house, I can't imagine that the town would put up much of a fight: the site has been little more than Saxonville's largest parking lot for the past 15 years or so, and it's too small for anything other than a pharmacy. I believe there are wetlands on the fringes of the property, but the store would go nowhere near them. Traffic counts couldn't possibly increase; it would just be redirecting cars a few more feet down School Street. And with "The Villages at Danforth Farms" on track to be built eventually, the client base is only going to rise, and what Walgreens offers to them now in the low-profile North Framingham Plaza just doesn't impress.

It's Walgreens choice, and it looks like they're staying put. But that doesn't mean that the parking lot will remain forever: if Hannaford indeed razes the Nobscot Shopping Center to build a new store, CVS is going to have to move... and Saxonville has just the perfect spot.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Whatever happened to Luisa Luisa? And what's JasmineSola?

A small retail note: driving through Wellesley Center today, it appears that Luisa Luisa, the equivalent of Spags 19 to Building 19, has finally been rebranded as JasmineSola, a no-brainer that seemed to take years to finally happen. Anyone know when that happened?

To anyone who has no idea what was discussed in the first paragraph, JasmineSola is an upscale women's boutique selling essentially designer jeans and accompanying shirts, tops, and shoes. It's an odd retail success story out of Boston: founded in Cambridge in 1970 selling custom-made designs, the store quickly grew a following. In 2000, as 7 For All Mankind revolutionized the concept of designer jeans, JasmineSola was in the middle of it. And in 2005, JasmineSola was acquired by New York & Company, which is working to expand the explosive chain even further. In recent years, stores have opened within the region at the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham while moving into new markets by opening stores at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, NY and a forthcoming store at the Pier at Caesar's in Atlantic City, NJ. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if JasmineSola became a tenant in the Natick expansion....

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A 1994 list of Natick Mall tenants

I was recently looking for information about the old Natick Mall (being the 1994 one) on Lexis-Nexis when I came across this "A complete guide to the new Natick Mall's lineup of stores", which was published on October 9, 1994.

Looking at this list of stores, how many of them still exist?

Department stores

  • Filene's

  • Jordan Marsh (Jordan Marsh's final store built, became Macy's in 1996)

  • Lord & Taylor

  • Sears

Women's apparel

  • Ann Taylor

  • bebe

  • Cache

  • Cacique Lingerie

  • Chico's

  • Elisabeth

  • Express

  • First Issue

  • 5-7-9

  • Lane Bryant

  • Lerner New York

  • The Limited

  • Maternite by Mother's Work

  • Monsoon

  • Petite Sophisticate

  • Talbots

  • Talbots Intimates

  • Talbots Petites

  • Victoria's Secret

  • The Weathervane
Men's apparel
  • Britches Great Outdoors

  • Chess King

  • Enzo Fabiano

  • Gingiss Formalwear

  • J. Riggings

  • Jeans West

  • Pacific Sunwear

  • Structure

Men's and women's apparel

  • Abercrombie & Fitch

  • Aeropostale

  • Banana Republic

  • Brooks Brothers

  • Eddie Bauer

  • French Connection

  • Gap

  • Guess?

  • Hartfield & Co.

  • Next

  • The Original Levi's Store

  • Speedo

  • Wilson's The Leather Experts

Children's apparel

  • The Children's Place

  • GapKids

  • Gymboree

  • Limited Too

  • Talbots Kids
  • Au Bon Pain

  • California Pizza Kitchen

  • Friendly's

  • Great Stuff (talk about vague restaurant names)

  • Johnny Rockets

Fine jewelry

  • Belden Jewelers

  • Hannoush Jewelers

  • Just Watches

  • Karten's Jewelers

  • Kay Jewelers

  • Long's Jewelers

  • Ultra, The Gold and Diamond Store

  • Whitehall Co. Jewellers

Jewelry and accessories

  • Afterthoughts Boutique

  • Claire's Boutique

  • The Earring Tree

  • The Icing

  • Landau Collection

  • Monsoon Accessorize

  • The Sunglass Company

  • Sunglass Hut


  • Aldo

  • Bakers

  • Dolci's

  • Easy Spirit

  • Florsheim Shoe Shop

  • Footaction

  • Foot Locker

  • Great Feet! (evolved into Stride Rite)

  • Guess? Shoes

  • Lady Foot Locker

  • Naturalizer Shoes

  • 9 & Co.

  • Nine West

  • Overland Trading Co.

  • Thom McAn

Cards, gifts and books

  • Amy's Hallmark

  • Kotliar's Cards & Gifts

  • Lauriat's Books (stayed until the entire Boston-based chain collapsed)

  • Noah's

  • Papyrus

  • San Francisco Music Box Co.

  • Spencer Gifts

  • Things Remembered

  • Woodbine

  • Yankee Candle Co.


  • Brookstone

  • Cap Factory

  • Chesapeake Knife & Tool

  • Glamour Shots

  • Godiva Chocolatier

  • The London Harness Co.

  • The Museum Co.

  • Natural Wonders

  • The Right Start

  • Warner Bros. Studio Store (could anyone forget their hanging boat? Closed in 2001)


  • BayBank (then BankBoston, then FleetBoston, now BofA)

  • Car Cleaning Center (ironically, a car wash will be located in the underground garage in the 2007 Expansion)

  • Cohen's Fashion Optical

  • Framingham Savings Bank ATM

  • Thomas Cook Travel

Audio, video and electronics

  • Babbage's (evolved into GameSpot)

  • EBX

  • Radio Shack

  • Ritz Camera One-Hour Photo

  • Sam Goody (stayed about 10 years, then replaced by FYE)

  • Suncoast Motion Picture Co.

  • The Wall

Toys, hobbies and sports

  • Building Blocks

  • The Great Train Store

  • Hammett's Learning World

  • Herman's: We Are Sports

  • Kay Bee Toys

  • Learningsmith (owned in part by WGBH, eventually became the Discovery Channel Store)

  • NordicSport by Nordic Track

  • Olympia Express

  • Pennant Fever

Health and beauty

  • Bath & Body Works

  • The Body Shop

  • Catherine Michael's Hair Salon

  • Crabtree & Evelyn

  • CVS

  • Dellaria Salon

  • Garden Botanika

  • H2O Plus

  • Perfumania

Home furnishings and accessories

  • Alex & Ivy

  • The Bombay Co.

  • Crate & Barrel

  • Expressions Custom Furniture

  • Lechter's Housewares

  • Prints Plus

  • This End Up Furniture Co.

Food Court

  • Cajun Cafe & Grill

  • Flamers Charbroiled Hamburgers (this, along with Sbarro and Haagen-Dazs are the only original food court tenants still at the mall)

  • Great Wraps

  • Haagen-Dazs

  • J. Brenner's Chicken & Cheesesteaks

  • Manchu Wok

  • Morrison's Fresh Cooking

  • Nathan's

  • 1 Potato 2

  • Sarku Japan

  • Sbarro

  • Soupmasters

Specialty food

  • Auntie Anne's

  • The Chocolate Dipper

  • The Coffee Beanery

  • Gloria Jean's Gourmet Coffees

  • Nature Food Centres

  • Orange Julius-Just Juice

  • The Original Cookie Co.

  • Sweet Factory


  • Aladdin's Castle (losing this drug-filled "entertainment center" was no big loss)

What's striking from this list is how many stores no longer exist at the mall. Too many to name, and most of them have gone out of business. Then again, some of today's most popular and successful retailers, including Sephora, American Eagle Outfitters, and Abercrombie & Fitch's Hollister Co., were either nothing (in the case of Hollister) or small chains getting ready to explode (in the case of AE). It just shows the amount of turnover in the retail industry over the course of 12 years.

But might be a little less noticeable is the upscale direction that the mall has taken. Everytime that a Herman's or Foot Locker was replaced with Coach or Swarovski, the overall mall has moved just a bit more upscale. MetroWest is becoming more than a bedroom community; it's becoming an affluent one. Neiman Marcus would have laughed if they were sent a lease to become an anchor in the Natick Mall of 1994, but look at what's happening now. Looking at what the mall has become seems to help make a bit more sense about why a monstrosity is growing out of the Twinkie factory.