Crayola drawing a bead on Maryland

First retail store set to open in June at Arundel Mills

February 12, 2002|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

A "river of color" will form a pathway through the store, leading shoppers through a field of 4-foot-tall colored pencils and past an oversized crayon. Children can color with chalk, paint or sculpt or choose from crafts kits that are delivered through a color-drenched 35-foot-tall chute.

Crayola Works, the Crayola brand's first-ever retail venture, is coming to Maryland in early June. The 20,000-square-foot flagship store will open at Arundel Mills mall, Crayola's manufacturer, Binney & Smith Inc., said yesterday.

The newest anchor for the entertainment-oriented Mills Corp.-owned mall near Baltimore-Washington International Airport hopes to strengthen the Crayola brand by letting shoppers and their children try out crayons, markers, paints and modeling clay in 6,000 square feet of sales space and in a 12,000-square- foot crafts studio with a glitter-covered floor and a ceiling that changes color with the season.

"We really feel that this will be a unique destination," said Nancy DeBellis, director of retail for Binney & Smith. "Adults have an emotional bond with the Crayola brand because of strong childhood memories."

The Easton, Pa.-based maker of Crayola plans to gauge consumer reaction to Crayola Works, and possibly roll out additional stores in coming years.

Crayola's experiment should help Arundel Mills broaden its customer base, attracting younger children and their parents, said David M. Fick, a managing director at Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in Baltimore.

"Crayola is one of the most visible and successful brands in history," Fick said. "When you think Crayola, you get that smell and think of the flesh-colored crayon that you had when you were a kid. You'll have automatic, immediate trust of the venue and people will flock there.

"It's another example of Mills being able to penetrate unconventional real estate opportunities and bring them to what is already an over-the-top mall experience."

Crayola products - crayons, colored pencils, markers and paints - are now sold worldwide in supermarkets, mass merchants, drugstores, toy stores and specialty gift stores. Binney & Smith, which makes all Crayola products at a plant in Easton, Pa., has annual sales of more than $500 million, said Stacy Gabrielle, a company spokeswoman.

The idea for the company's first store grew out of its success with The Crayola Factory, a center near the Easton plant where visitors can see how crayons are made. The company chose Arundel Mills for its test site because, "We feel it's a strong market that has a lot of families with children in the age we target [2 to 12]," DeBellis said. More than 1.4 million children live within 40 miles of the store, she said.

Besides the store space, Crayola Works will include a studio where children can choose seasonal or holiday-themed activities. The studio will offer nine activities daily that will range in price and age appropriateness as well as art classes, workshops and rooms for birthday parties. The store will employ about 75 workers, including staff in the crafts studio to help guide children in crafts projects.

"We're seeing this as a way to expose our customers to a much broader range of products and services available through the Crayola brand," said DeBellis, who said that besides crayons, Crayola makes colorless markers, for instance, that show up on special paper but not on skin or clothes. "People think of us as making crayons, and this will broaden that scope."

Crayola Works will become the 14th anchor store at Arundel Mills, which will be about 93 percent occupied.

"It adds another element for the entire family," said Gene Condon, a vice president and general manager for Arundel Mills.

Fick agreed that while the mall has drawn heavily from the teen-age group, a Crayola Works will help bring in the younger consumer.

"It pushes the dollars down another level, and takes another cut into mom and dad's wallet," Fick said.

Children's Place was the last anchor to open at Arundel Mills, in April 2001. Once Crayola Works moves in, the mall will have two anchor spaces left. The developer is in final talks to bring in Medieval Times, a medieval-themed restaurant, later this year and also expects to open an ESPN-licensed X-Games skate park by the end of the year or in early 2003.

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