Biz Beat

Vintage Faire adding a Village

A belated happy New Year to all of you. Sorry for this column's two-week hiatus, but everyone needs a little vacation. Besides, when it comes to business, the beat doesn't stop for anyone -- it just goes on and on.

Just look at Vintage Faire Mall. Its owner, Macerich Co., announced that it finally would begin construction on a 65,000-square-foot addition called The Village -- not to be confused with the original Village on McHenry Avenue. Macerich promises it will feature 10 new stores and two restaurants on the "upscale" end of the market.

But the mall folks are being pretty tight-lipped about just what those businesses will be. And when terms such as upscale start getting tossed around, that leads to plenty of speculation: Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Nordstrom, Saks, Dillards and such. But upscale also means different things to different shoppers.

For years, Modesto-area shoppers have wanted an Old Navy to come to town. One finally opened in Manteca's new Stadium Center just off Highway 120. While that's close enough for some shoppers, many still would like to see one at the mall. While that could happen, it doesn't seem likely with an outlet now located just up the road.

As for Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and similar retailers, at this point it's anybody's guess whether they will buy into the mall's new addition. Macerich is a major player when it comes to shopping center development nationwide, and that gives it lots of clout with retailers. The company may be able to attract reluctant stores to Modesto by packaging occupancy here with deals in more desirable locations. Years ago, Macerich was able to bring The Gap to Vintage Faire using this tactic. The Gap found a fertile market at the mall and has expanded its presence over the years.

Whether other retailers can replicate that success or are willing to try in today's economy is unclear. But Macerich must feel there's interest out there from businesses looking to expand their markets. How many Crate & Barrel stores can the East Bay support? Still, with today's economic forecasts looking so gloomy, some retailers may not be as willing to chance moving into the valley as they once were, making Macerich's pitch that much tougher.

When these businesses consider moving to an area, they look carefully at the numbers, particularly income and education levels. They check for sales of their merchandise through their catalogs and Web sites to consumers living in a potential market. They also track sales at their outlets near a target market to determine if shoppers are traveling from, say, Modesto to their Walnut Creek store. If all those numbers add up, then moving to a new area makes sense.

The valley has suffered from a lack of retail over the years because some of these numbers, particularly income and education levels, weren't attractive to some businesses. But the arrival of so many big-box stores and other national chains could signal to other retailers that the region is able to support their stores. If those same numbers-crunchers are weighing loan defaults, foreclosure rates and other related figures, though, they may balk. Still, Macerich likely wouldn't move ahead with construction if it didn't have commitments from tenants for some, if not most, of the space in The Village.

So who are the likely tenants? Well, I don't expect to see a Nordstrom department store out there, but I wouldn't rule out one of its Nordstrom Rack outlets. I also don't see Williams & Sonoma at the mall, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Crate & Barrel there. Old Navy seems unlikely, with a store in Manteca and the parent company -- Gap -- dealing with more pressing issues. And I wouldn't be shocked by the arrival of a computer store, such as Dell, or a microbrewery-

restaurant chain -- say, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Of course, this is all just speculation on my part. Where the economy heads in the coming weeks and months may have much more to do with determining which businesses come to the mall than anything else. Let's hope economic forecasts don't turn out to be as bad as expected. But no matter what happens this year, keeping track of the business beat remains a priority:

What it is: Happiness Nails & Spa at 1465 W. Yosemite Ave. in Manteca. It's in the Market Plaza shopping center. Phone, 823-5193.

What it does: Happiness Nails & Spa offers manicures, spa pedicures, acrylic nails, gel nails, glitter nails, pink-and-white nails and refills.

Who runs it: Minh Nguyen is the owner. Happiness Nails & Spa has been open four weeks. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

What makes it special: Happiness Nails & Spa focuses on customer service and cleanliness.

What it is: Zero's Subs at 1219 N. Carpenter Road, Suite 1, in Modesto. It's near Woodland Avenue. Phone, 527-1600. Web site,

What it does: Zero's Subs offers a variety of food, including sandwiches, pizza, hot wings, carnitas, low-carb wraps, French fries and salads. It offers traditional sandwiches (turkey, ham, roast beef, tuna, etc.) as well as specialty sandwiches, including Philly cheese steak (meat, cheese and onions with au jus sauce) and the Italian grinder (three types of meat and special seasoning). Pizza can be ordered with toppings such as salami, pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, onions and sausage. All subs are oven-toasted. Kids meals are available.

Who runs it: Eddie and Lucy Hakimi, a husband-wife team, previously owned a sandwich shop. Zero's Subs is part of a franchise that opened in 1967. The Modesto outlet opened Jan. 9. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

What makes it special: Zero's Subs has big-screen televisions in the dining area and an arcade room.