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The mall issue: Los Cerritos Center

November 20, 2011

Location: 239 Los Cerritos Center, Cerritos. Close to the 605 Freeway, at South Street and Gridley Road.

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.; 11 a.m.-7p.m. Sun.

What you'll find: Built in 1971, this is a mall that seems to be constantly reinventing itself, most recently remodeling to open a new wing this year. It's been adding an increasing number of high-end shops to its roster over the last few years too. "Serious shopping in Cerritos," the mall website says, and the spectrum stretches from Macy's and Sears (the original anchor store) to Coach and the most recent addition, Perry Ellis. In between are standards like Nine West, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works. Nordstrom has moved to a bright, big new space, and Apple has opened a large store that seems to be humming any day of the week.

Vibe: Recession? What recession? It's always hectic on weekends, peopled with large groups of teens; mother-daughter duos; groups of girlfriends checking out bargains; and multigenerational families of many ethnicities. Everyone seems to be hurrying, hauling shopping bags and heading for the next store — and having a good time doing it. Security officers scoot around on Segways a la "Paul Blart: Mall Cop."

Bragging rights: This is where Forever 21 opened its first department-store-sized facility, turning the old Mervyn's space into a two-story, fast-fashion bazaar.

Survival tips: The mall is surrounded by parking lots, but there's no parking garage. Parking — and driving without having to stop for a steady flow of pedestrians — can be frustrating at busy times. One of my favorite tricks is to park at the mall's northwest corner, by an empty store formerly occupied by Nordstrom (before the retailer moved to its snazzy new space). You walk farther to get to most of the stores, but parking is a breeze and, since this is the mall's back door, there are far fewer of those pesky pedestrians. Whatever you do, don't make eye contact with any of the aggressive salespeople running kiosks — unless you really want to buy a new phone or hair extensions.

Take a break: There are more than 25 eateries, but this is really a place that's all about shopping –— not fine dining. You can grab something quick to eat at the Palms Food Court or sit down to dine at Red Robin, California Pizza Kitchen, the Lazy Dog Cafe or Nordstrom Cafe Bistro. Or take a real break and catch a movie at the mall's multiplex. Go for a quick makeover at MAC or check out Signature Nails & Spa for pampering.

Holiday cheer: Santa is available for photos through Dec. 24.

Nearby: Had enough of modern mall shopping? Check out the Indian-owned shops on Pioneer Boulevard, a few blocks away in Artesia, for things like spices, saris or Indian food. Or drool over the cars at Cerritos Auto Square — at South Street and Studebaker, just on the other side of the 605 —- which claims to be the most successful regional auto mall in the world.

Impressions: Busy, bustling, this is a place for serious shopping, Unless you're a teen. Then it's where you go to hang with your friends.

—Susan Denley

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