Sandy Sigal, executive director of NewMark Merrill, owner of Janss Marketplace, said he doesn’t regret his decision to welcome Hooters to Thousand Oaks’ legacy mall eight years ago.
At the time, 2011, NewMark had owned the shopping center for 10 years, and Sigal said it had begun to get a “stodgy” reputation.
“For good or bad, I was a big proponent of putting Hooters in there,” Sigal told theAcorn in a phone interview this week. “I thought, ‘Let’s shake it up.’”
And the Atlanta-based chain did just that. For its first two years in business, Hooters “killed it” at the one-time Sizzler location, Sigal said. But after a change in ownership, things changed. Come 2018, the restaurant was on its way out.
“The market today responds very quickly to that stuff,” Sigal said. “You don’t operate right, the customer responds.”
Now the retail veteran is looking to shake things up again, this time by tearing down the 35-year-old restaurant building and replacing it with a brand-new multi-tenant building.
He needs permission from the city to do so.
“At a certain point you say, ‘OK, I can fill the space,’ and we had restaurant users who would have taken it, and I’m always going to be putting lipstick on a pig here . . . or should we bite the bullet and invest and make it a little nicer?” Sigal said of the restaurant space that also housed Fuddruckers and Pat & Oscar’s. “Plus, we do have restaurants inside the center itself, and we thought better to support those guys.”
Although he’s not saying who yet, Sigal said he’s in talks with three very well-known tenants for the future building, which would have a drive-thru.
“They will be national and regional chains, and they will tie in to the community,” he said.
Sigal said NewMark has invested over $25 million into Janss Marketplace since it acquired the property in 2001. He said the bulk of its lost tenants, including Toys R Us, Mervyn’s and Linens ’n Things, over the past decade, have been due to corporate decisions beyond the mall’s control.
Despite all the negative talk about brick-and-mortar retail in recent years, Sigal said, foot traffic at Janss was actually up last year over 2017. He singled out Gold’s Gym, Dojo Boom and the revamped Regal movie theater as examples of businesses thriving at the 58-year-old mall.
“Gold’s Gym is doing super, super good,” Sigal said. “They’re one of the top in their chain.”
With a new tenant soon to be announced to fill three-quarters of the vacant Toys R Us space, the mall is now 92% leased, he said.
Sigal gives credit to the people of Thousand Oaks for continuing to support the mall during times of transition.
“The centers that appeal to the community, have community tiein, the community still supports,” he said. “They still have their favorite places. They feel a connection. They put up with a lot just because they feel good coming here.”