Sprawling Easton Town Center is about to add a shopping district that will cater to children and families.
Called Fenlon Square, the district will have an American Girl store as its linchpin and will feature more than a half-dozen stores that are new to Easton. Some stores already at Easton, such as Build-A-Bear Workshop, will move to the district.
“It’s a market niche that Easton has been trying to reach for some years now,” said Chris Boring, principal of Boulevard Strategies, a Columbus-based retail consulting firm. “A few years ago they opened what was billed as the ‘world’s largest McDonald’s,’ but it didn’t quite work out.“ They have the adult dining and entertainment uses covered, but compared to other regional malls, they haven’t focused as much on the family segment.”
Fenlon Square, named after the street that runs through the eastern side of Easton, is expected to open in June and is part of a bigger expansion push. In 2014, Easton Gateway will open on the east side of the development, featuring Costco and Whole Foods stores.
“Clearly, now that the stars have aligned and the economy is improving, it’s time to execute on these plans we’ve had,” said Adam Flatto, president of the Georgetown Co., which, along with Steiner & Associates and Limited Brands, is a developer and operator of Easton.
The developers did not reveal how much they are investing to create the new district.The announcement in September that American Girl would locate a store at Easton was a major catalyst in creating the district, Flatto said.
American Girl, which offers historical and contemporary dolls, along with doll outfits, accessories and girls’ clothing, has developed a fanatical following since starting as a catalog company in the mid-1980s.The store, which also will feature touches such as styling salons and custom T-shirt boutiques for the dolls, is expected to be a regional draw for Easton. Thousands of girls are expected when the store opens.
“When my girls were younger we’d drive to Chicago to go to American Girl,” said Lee Peterson, executive vice president of WD Partners, a Columbus-based consulting firm. “It’s great for Columbus because they’ll be able to draw from all over the state.”The new district is clustered on the eastern side of Easton, just south of Macy’s, with a new parking garage connected to the back of some buildings, which will allow parents to park their cars and easily access the family area. The 40,000-square-foot area includes some new construction and the conversion of some existing stores.
One store currently in the district, Color Your World, will leave Easton. Fenlon Square also will include the first Midwest location of C. Wonder. The preppy women’s clothing and accessories retailer has been described by some as a lower-priced version of Tory Burch fashions. Burch’s ex-husband Chris Burch is the founder of C. Wonder.
Other stores new to Easton in the district include: Children’s Place, a clothing store that had been in the shopping center from 2001 to 2012; Hot Mama, which sells designer clothing for moms; Le Chocoholique, the chocolate shop that started in the Short North; Fuzziwigs Candy Factory; Stride Rite Shoes; Flip Flop Shop sandal store; and Rusty Bucket restaurant.
Besides Build-A-Bear, other stores already at Easton that will move to the new district include: Avalon Nails nail salon; Cosi, the fast-casual restaurant; and Moochie & Co. pet supplies and accessories store.
“Many of our customers at Easton are mothers — you can see them with strollers all the time,” said Yaromir Steiner, CEO of Steiner & Associates. “But if you look at Easton today, how many places are there to buy children’s clothes and merchandise? Very few, actually. We felt we were under-retailed in that area.”
The family focus is “a smart move,” Boring said. “It’s good retail fundamentals, lining up tenants that serve a common market.”The centerpiece of the square is a fountain area that includes sculptures of dragonflies, frogs, turtles, fish, birds and flowers. The interactive fountain allows children to push buttons and activate the lights and water flow in a variety of ways.
“We spend a lot of time on public spaces,” Flatto said. “We find that creating really compelling public spaces is one of the keys to making Easton so successful.”Boring said that even though central Ohio is “definitely way over-retailed,” Easton, with its 22 million annual visitors, has carved out a niche. Even so, Flatto said the economic decline of recent years put many plans on hold until recently.
“I expect the next big wave of development to be primarily residential-oriented,” Flatto said. “ We have had plans for some time to introduce a significant residential component to Easton.”