After the news of Maru, one of my favorite restaurants closing, I took great interest not only in the rumors about Westfield’s refusal to negotiate a lower monthly lease, but I also wondered if Westfield Valencia would actually respond to a query from little old me. They did.
I received an e-mail response, suggesting a telephone interview, from Jenna Vandenberg, Marketing Director, Westfield Valencia Town Center. Below is our Q and A:
EB: Can I get an official – and publishable – statement from Westfield as to what you would like to say regarding the closure of Maru?
JA: We received hundreds of emails in regards to Maru closing, and the specific allegations made by Jason Park. The fact is that the lease was up for renewal and he chose not to renew. His monthly lease amount was not raised.
EB: A Larsen’s manager, as told to me by another member of the press, stated that the restaurant is paying nothing for a full year and is getting free valet parking spaces? And the reason given was because Westfield Valencia badly wanted the large high-end restaurant in that space.
JA: Not true. The exact lease information is between Fleming Larsen and Westfield. I am not able to comment on specific leases. In the meantime, reports on the restaurant state that they have been “well-received by the community although some have mentioned a few bumps initially from a service perspective. The community feedback is now positive on service and food. Maybe you could help Larsen’s with public perception Eve, what has been your experience?
EB: Well…from my one experience, I only had time to order wine by the glass – a usual no-no as you never know how long a bottle has been opened. I trusted that the restaurant, like any high-end restaurant, would check the bottle prior to serving. My glass showed a ton of sediment as soon as I tipped it. I drank very little of it once I realized it. Our server, stopping by once to deliver our food, didn’t notice or comment. I felt largely ignored. From others I have heard similar stories about being ignored in the bar, and the food in the restaurant being just average. I’d love to meet with Fleming Larsen, or a representative, but first I would give them some time to settle in. I have no problem consulting for bars and restaurants that want to see better productivity.
Now, back to you Jenna. People often state that more attention, by way of events and new stores opening, is being paid to the Patios as opposed to Town Center Drive or the inside the mall. What is Westfield’s opinion of that?
JA: Actually the focus is on the mall as a whole. We don’t play favorites to Patio tenants. For 2013 our strategic vision is to work with the tenants of Town Center Drive and the “Children’s Wing” of the patios – where we most recently opened the nostalgic Five and Dime Candy Store. We also are expanding the play area for kids with a “play space” providing more places for family and community to spend time at with their kids in early 2013.
Another focal points is to activate Town Center Drive with community events.
To set the record straight: The section of Town Center Drive that is anchored by Tilted Kilt on one side, through to the Rocket Fizz candy store past Valencia Wine Company, is not owned by Westfield.
EB: Do you have another tenant lined up to fill the Maru space?
JA: We have nothing to officially announce for Maru’s space just yet, but we will know in the next couple of weeks.
EB: Is anything else closing?
JA: No news on any more closures. In fact we are currently discussing outreach opportunities for any shops in need. We meet with our retailers (we have 218 in all) and offer help with their marketing. I may sit down with a struggling retailer that may be having an identity crisis from a brand perspective or is experiencing low sales. We will assess the business situation and help them by strategically partnering with them for the next step.
EB: Will there be a Wal-Mart Superstore by the Sears end of the Patios?
EB: Great. So…what can we get?
JA: We do care about everyone’s opinions up here. Hopefully people will let us know what they would like to see.
EB: Your Facebook page shows comments by others from 10 months and then not again until 3 weeks ago? Are you removing negative posts?
JA: We are not pulling down negative comments, however, as we are pushing content we don’t allow posts on Facebook page. There has been some feedback – and some has been negative. I think that there were two total in regards to Maru.
EB: Does Westfield have a relationship with our non-profits?
JA: We have our Westfield Works Wonders Enriching Children’s Live Through Education program. It allows us to funnel our money and resources to one school annually.
EB: What else would you like to tell readers about Westfield?
JA: Westfield is not just a leasing company or a development company. At Westfield Valencia, we have four distinct districts of the mall, and we want all visitors to be aware of all the shops have to offer – across the board. We understand that navigationally it’s a challenge that we plan to tackle in 2013.
EB: And you, I understand that you’re also interested in wine?
JA: I studied at American Sommelier, and got my level 2 certification like you did from Wine and Spirits Education Trust. I lived over a wine shop in New York and I loved going in and learning the story behind every bottle. So admirable that the wine industry is run by farmers and families, creating constantly evolving varietals. I’ve especially come to love and appreciate Oregon Pinot Noirs and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
EB: We’ll just have to stay tuned…