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t - - 1 I 1 i I 24 THE PALM BEACH POST DECEMBER 1, 1997 CHANGE IS (J COMING TO Avenue - i A '''CM ) -rU Ni ft -A A o'ilWfl SHERMAN ZENTStaff Photographer Shoppers exit Via Mizner at the west end of Worth Avenue, past the window display of Jeannie's. opportunity and think their idea for a shop will appeal to the Palm Beacher. Some work, but most die. And unfortunately, the Burt Handelsmans and the Murray Good-, mans don't make it that easy." n Ed Kassatly said, "The loss of the independent stores is the biggest change in my opinion." Handelsman said retailers on Worth Avenue would have a better chance of succeeding if they would operate for a modern shopper, staying open later and opening on Sundays. "That's one of the sore spots I'm having with some of the merchants," he said. "We can have all the charm in the world, but the American shopper's habits have changed. Sunday's a very popular day. The stores on Worth Avenue are going to have to be open on Sunday. Otherwise, you're asking a customer to spend his money in a mall." Hank Porcher, a retail specialist with Paul Hanna Management, said Worth Avenue's independent retailers face the same pressures as their counterparts nationwide. "The single operators of the world are few and far between," he said. "When the prices are that high for the real estate, then you've got to get the higher rents." But newcomers continue to try. This season, Josee Wheeler opened what she believes is the Avenue's first shop dedicated to golf, La Boutique de Golf. Lucy Sprunger opened Thimbelina, a needlepoint shop on Via Mizner. They'll try what continues to work for the most successful shops service. Only in an independent store can the proprietor tailor his merchandise for specific customers, said John Maus of Maus and Hoffman men's clothier. He remembers finding the right royal blue jacket to match one customer's riding silks. Several storekeepers select and mail gifts without the customer ever seeing what he or she bought. Donald Bruce's shop is known for hostess gifts, and he's sent gifts on behalf of Palm Beach families for generations. Sylvia Posner, who owns Franceska Paris women's clothier, sees the independent shops as more exclusive, in a sense. "These are people who can shop at Chanel anywhere in the world, but they have to come to Palm Beach to shop at Franceska's." Staff researchers Michelle Quigky and Barbara Gellis Shapiro contributed to this story. WORTH From 21 doesn't mean ownership is static. For example, the Escada apparel store has signed a 15-year lease on the building now occupied by clothier Daniel Foxx. The deal is expected to bring owner, Palm Center Associates, $11 million over the next 15 years, said Neil Merin of Merin IIi)1er Codman, which brokered the lease. And that building at 222 Worth Ave. is going on the market for $6.5 million, he said. Also on the market is the property housing the popular Palm Beach watering hole Ta-boo. The owners, who also are marketing the Worth Arcade shops, are asking $16.5 million for the combined 20,800 square feet, Merin said. As owners change, so does the mix of retailers. But a further transformation will be prompted not by investors but by Palm Beach's own changing demographics, said retail consultantanalyst Herbert Leeds. . "The whole pattern of shopping has undergone very dynamic changes," Leeds said. "And the development of the Palm Beach Gardens (mall) has been critical to what's shaping Worth Avenue. In Palm Beach Gardens, you have names that 15 years ago would have been hungry for space on Worth Avenue Saks, Bloomingdales. "And the Palm Beach population has shifted. In the course of the next most recent years, there will be a virtual explosion of people in the teen and pre-adult years. The market must shift to accommodate younger customers." Would a chain music store cause the ruffles on the Avenue that the entry of Leslie Wexner's Express, Structure and Victoria's Secret chains did in the 1980s? Town officials denied a petition for a 7,000-square foot Limited 5,000 square feet larger than Palm Beach's codes. Officials said the store didn't prove it would be "town-serving"; that is, having most of its customers coming from the island. Landlord Handelsman said town officials discriminated because the chains carry moderately priced clothing. Handelsman subdivided the space, and Wexner opened smaller stores, living in apparent harmony with neighboring Chanel and Giorgio Armani. Perhaps much of the credit or blame for the Avenue's changes belongs to Goodman, who in the late 1970s built the largest addition the street had seen for two decades, and in the 20 years hence. tions willing to pay-anything and make substantial improvements to the property as well, Bob Kassatly said. At the same time Handelsman was in negotiations for the 250 block and Via Gucci, the Kassatlys managed to buy the 1,000 square feet their lingerie shop occupies for $1.1 million. Their neighbor across Via De Lela pays one of the highest rents per square foot on the island for his tiny shop. Bob Aymond of Beach Orchids said he pays $200 for each of his 44 square feet alongside Via De Lela's entry. His premium rent brings top visibility. No advertising would work as well, brokers said. And Aymond, entering his fourth season on the Avenue, has done what many smaller shops won't do survive. Despite the island's pervasive wealth, Worth Avenue is among the toughest retail markets, proving that all that glitters does not translate to gold. "The mortality rate among retailers is incredible," O'Sullivan said. "A lot of people come to the area, see this as a land of Goodman, a shopping center developer who began by constructing churches and schools, built the Esplanade shopping plaza. It became home to Sak's Fifth Avenue department store in 1979. And again, Goodman is modifying the Avenue. He proposes to create a home for Sak's biggest competitor, Neiman Marcus, on property he owns or has under contract across the street from Sak's. The 1970s and '80s ushered an increasing presence of the world's most famous haute couture to the Avenue. Rental rates spiraled up as European designers began to discover the street, and the long-time landlords, such as the late Rose Sachs, sold off property. Today, rental rates range from $65 to $135 a square foot plus expenses, said Robert Klecinsky, a Merin Hunter Codman broker who specializes in Palm Beach retail sites. Amid those incredible rental increases, Bob and Ed Kassatly decided they needed to own a space if the oldest shop on Palm Beach were to survive. They faced competition from corpora Ire Your Credit Card Bills Driving You Nuts? J fnmpmnrtmc Dnti't IVnm !p Cnti Hpltif Even if you've been turned down before, we can help. 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