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'Open House' Store to Make Debut

March 03, 1985

Shopping for a home in the Coachella Valley? Soon you won't have to drive from one desert project to another to learn what is available.

What may be the first "open house store" is due to open on April 7 in Palm Desert Town Center on California 111 at Monterey Avenue.

Called "Open House at the Desert," it will take one-stop shopping one step further, said Ernest W. Hahn, developer of the regional shopping center where the store will be located.

John A. Fransen, president of the Fransen Co. (owner/developer of the store), said, "Thousands of new home units are available in the Coachella Valley, and sorting through all of the information can be confusing for home buyers."

Through his store, Fransen is creating a single destination where home shoppers can learn about some of the desert's key projects through mounted graphics, scale models, video presentations and telephone hot lines to development sites.

Developers already committed to space include:

--Silver Spur Associates, doing business as Ironwood Country Club, a 700-acre project in Palm Desert.

--Sunrise Co., developer of such country-club communities as Palm Valley and the Lakes.

--Watt Industries, developer of the Desert Princess Country Club & Resort, Desert Breezes and the Palm Springs Deauville.

--Covington Homes, developer of the Oasis Country Club in Palm Desert.

--Trojan Properties, developer of the Springs and Morningside country clubs.

--M. B. Johnson Properties, developer of Laguna de La Paz in La Quinta on Lake La Paz.

Arrangements are being finalized, Fransen said, with five additional organizations to take space in the 3,300-square-foot store, designed by Greg Spiess Architecture & Urban Design of Venice to feature an open-plan interior design with modular furniture and sculptural signage. Last year, the Spiess organization designed the Olympic Ticket and Information stores, located in eight Southern California shopping centers.

Fransen has plans to open other stores in San Diego, Orange and Ventura counties and the San Francisco Bay area, but he selected the Palm Desert site for his first venture because of the center's drawing power and popularity. It attracted an estimated 8 million shoppers during 1984.

Previously director of public relations and special projects for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and vice president of marketing for Ernest W. Hahn Inc., Fransen got the idea for his store while watching what he terms "the open-house phenomenon in California"--the opening of sales offices and models for new-home developments.

Only on Weekends

Besides requiring hours of time and miles in travel to attend even a few open houses in one locality, the so-called "phenomenon" also characteristically only occurs on weekends.

Through his "open-house" stores, Fransen hopes to break this tradition "and match home buyers with residential opportunities on a seven-day-a-week basis."

Fransen, 33, is committed to this idea. The initial investment in plans, construction, marketing materials and lease for his first store will exceed one-third of $1 million, but he's convinced that the store will succeed.

"We see builders sitting on remote, scraped hillsides in their new model homes waiting for people to follow signs and flags and visit their properties," he said. "Rather than counting on people to find these individual developments, it seems logical to bring the developments to the people."

After all, he says, malls are "the largest single people-places in their communities."

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