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Dreams Aren't Discounted as Old Store Is Reincarnated


Asked to share her impressions of the new Pasadena Target, shopper Sara Hamel replied without hesitation: "It's the best thing that could happen to a dead Robinson's."

"It's beautiful . . . so much bigger than other Targets I've been in," said Hamel, a retiree who frequented the Colorado Boulevard building when it was a Robinson's department store.

Before accepting the realities of recession, some city and business leaders had hoped the 36-year-old building, set in Pasadena's Playhouse District, would be occupied with another department store that would draw the well-heeled. But those visionaries also saw fancy hotels and restaurants moving into the area, which continues to be plagued by vacancies even as the city's Old Town flourishes.

Today, business and city leaders are hailing the debut of discounter Target, which has employed about 250 people and promises to pump roughly $200,000 a year into local businesses for supplies and services. Some predict the store also will become the city's largest sales tax producer.

"You're talking to one happy camper," said Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President-elect Michael Hawkins, pointing out that some of the more then 10,000 customers who attended Target's grand opening Sunday stopped by his Green Street Restaurant, two blocks away.

"Business hasn't been this good in a long time, and I think others will benefit from the traffic Target will bring to this area," he said.

Target aside, the Playhouse District appears to be waking up: The 100-year-old Vroman's bookstore plans to expand from about 20,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet. Vroman's president and majority owner, Joel Sheldon, is reportedly working on a deal to bring a 1,000-seat theater to property on the same block.

Meanwhile, Theater Corp. of America, operator of the Pasadena Playhouse, is teaming up with the owners of Pasadena's Roxxi restaurant to open another eatery inside the Playhouse, to be called Critixx.

Target Pasadena opened its doors with a tidal wave of public relations hype. As a promotional stunt, Target delivered 10,000 roses to nearby households Friday. Hundreds of shoppers began lining up shortly after dawn, with lines wrapping around the block.

Because the new Pasadena store has a two-story shopping area and "upscale" features such as baked goods and gourmet coffee, Hawkins said many in town are feigning a French accent and calling the store "Tar-ZHAY"--a pronunciation reminiscent of the "Jacques de la Carton" moniker some gave Jack-In-The-Box after that chain revised its menu.

"Yeah, some of us might have been a little reluctant when we heard 'Here comes Target,' " Hawkins recalled. "But Target offers value, and everybody is looking for that. When you talk to the people who shop at Target, they cut through all lines of incomes, attitudes and race."

And that's exactly the kind of retailer downtown Pasadena needs, says Bill Reynolds, Pasadena's director of housing and development.

"When we trace back through Pasadena's history, we find downtown has been most successful when it has a variety of price points in merchandise, from very affordable to very expensive," he said. "We expect that store to generate about $400,000 a year in sales tax and we see it bringing tremendous amounts of traffic to support nearby specialty shops."

Target spent big bucks sprucing up its building, slapping on more than 7,000 gallons of paint, sealer and stucco and pouring roughly $15 million into interior renovation. Much of that was spent on construction of eight jumbo elevators. Two are used to transport merchandise only and six can each carry 16 shoppers and four shopping carts. The shiny, metallic boxes have mirrored ceilings and clear glass walls on one side, with doors opening in the front and rear. The store also has an escalator.

Shoppers interviewed Monday seemed generally impressed with the new store, but a few had gripes.

"They're very impressive elevators but I didn't come here for elevators," said Cheri Koush, 29, of Pasadena. "This story is impressive and it is big but I am not leaving happy. I couldn't find the kind of stuff I wanted to buy . . . and the aisles were too small--I was always saying, 'Excuse me, excuse me please.' "

Despite her disappointment, she still managed to spend $100 on cereal, crystal, glasses and other household goods.

Pasadena resident Marcelo Buchelli, a security officer, said, "The parking lot is too crammed and there was no one to manage all the traffic."

But he gave the store's interior a positive review: "It's colorful and delightful--the bathrooms are clean."

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