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Uses of Southland Work Spaces

Dessert Parlors Get a Smooth, Updated Look

January 07, 1998|MELINDA FULMER

The ballyhooed make-over of Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores underlines the critical role that small elements such as new colors and signs play in people's decision to spend.

Taking a tip from such retailers as Starbucks Coffee, with its customer-friendly interior, the Glendale-based ice cream seller has toned down its harsh institutional look in favor of a bolder, modern style with more comfortable booth and bar seating.

At its new Monterey Park prototype, bright fluorescent lights were replaced with halogen track lighting. Also out are the signature pink and white splatter-painted walls and plain white tables. Counters and chairs are made from light maple-colored wood, floors are a subtle gray and black tile, and black restaurant-style booths line the wall. The environment encourages hanging out, not dashing for the door.

The larger store also enables retailers to establish separate counters and separate cash registers for each type of ice cream specialty. Taking visual precedence is the "Cool Blends" counter, which makes smoothies and coffee-flavored ice cream drinks--concoctions that cost roughly double that of single dip cones.

Reminiscent of a juice bar, the counter juts toward the door, encouraging customers to consider these higher-priced drinks before moving on to the row of ice cream tubs.

"It's the first thing I looked at," said Kelly, 16, of East Los Angeles. "It made me want to buy a smoothie."

And there is no more fumbling in a case for pints to take home--these are now stored in a freezer that looks like a vending machine, with all labels facing out.

But some elements of the redesign are less popular, especially with longtime customers. Instead of one person taking a customer's order and then scooping out the ice cream, the request is entered into a computer and the customer is handed a number. The idea is to get patrons their cones by the time they arrive at the pick-up area at the end of the counter. Managers say the method keeps people from crowding the counters.

"It's supposed to take three minutes or less," said Amanda Delpozo, the store's night manager.

About 100 Baskin-Robbins stores are slated to have a similar look by the end of the year.


Real Estate Trends

Office Vacancy Rates (Includes sublet space)

Oct.-Dec. 1996

Los Angeles County: 17.0%

Orange County: 14.1%


Jan.-March 1997

Los Angeles County: 17.1

Orange County: 12.9


April-June 1997

Los Angeles County: 16.8

Orange County: 12.5


July-Sept. 1997

Los Angeles County: 16.5

Orange County: 11.9


Oct.-Dec. 1997

Los Angeles County: 16.3

Orange County: 10.8

Note: Vacancy rate is the total vacant square footage divided by total rentable square footage in all existing buildings. Sublet space is space rented by primary tenants that is vacant and available for sublease.

Source: CoStar

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