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WHERE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY SHOPS : Among Its Lures for Families, Pure Disney

December 27, 1990|MIKE WARD

When 20-month-old Kristen Abrahamson hears that a trip to the mall is in the offing, she starts chanting, "Disney, Disney."

Her mother, Julie Abrahamson of Rancho Cucamonga, attributes her daughter's mantra to the pull of Mickey's Kitchen, located inside the Disney Store in the Montclair Plaza.

It's no accident that the mall became the site last April of the first and, so far, only Disney store with its own eatery.

The housing boom of the 1980s brought rapid demographic change to Rancho Cucamonga, Chino Hills and other nearby communities, luring to the area numerous young families who now shop at the mall. That child-friendly market--coupled with a location close enough to Disney headquarters in Burbank that company executives can visit from time to time--clinched the mall's selection for Mickey's Kitchen, Walt Disney Co. spokesman Chuck Champlin said.

Situated along the San Bernardino Freeway, the plaza is the only "super regional" mall between West Covina and San Bernardino and is a primary shopping center for Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga, as well as Montclair.

Paula Dempsey, mall marketing manager, said Montclair Plaza "is a symbol of the region's growth. This is no longer a small, out-of-the-way place."

The plaza opened in 1968 as a single-level enclosed mall with three department stores: May Co., The Broadway and JC Penney. A second level and a Sears store were added in 1985 and Nordstrom opened in 1986.

It also has numerous tiny stores with narrow specialties. One sells nothing but plaques with family histories and coats of arms. Another specializes in music boxes. Those tired of shopping can get a free spinal exam at a chiropractic clinic, or have their teeth cleaned at a family dental center.

The mall, owned by Homart Development Co., an affiliate of Sears, "has been increasingly successful" since its expansion five years ago, Dempsey said.

She said it is withstanding the current economic slump because "we are located in a trade area that has had substantial growth." Traffic counts were up 16% this November over last, she said. Although traffic and sales figures were not available for December, she said, "The mall is very busy and the attitude is very upbeat."

The youngest shoppers tend to be entranced by offerings such as the Disney store and restaurant. Parents like Kathy Middlemore of Claremont consider those features "OK but overpriced--like Disneyland." She said the May Co. lures her to the mall. Others cite Nordstrom.

And for some, location is everything. As Tim Troncale of La Verne put it: "This is the closest."

MONTCLAIR PLAZA MONTCLAIR * Year opened: 1968

* Retail square footage: 1.1 million

* Anchor stores: Sears, May Co., The Broadway, Nordstrom, JC Penney

* Number of stores: 200

* Estimated 1989-90 sales tax paid to city: $3.5 million

* % of city's sales tax revenue--40%

* Memorable feature: Mickey's Kitchen, the nation's first--and so far only--restaurant in a Disney store.

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