The Village of Cross Keys in North Baltimore has attracted three stores - including two national women's apparel chains - to plug vacancies at the shopping center owned by Rouse Co.
Rouse's recruitment of the national chains Chico's and J. Jill is part of a strategy it embarked on after some local businesses moved or failed last year, including the Bibelot book chain. The third new tenant will be a locally owned art gallery.
In addition to Chico's and J. Jill, the Cross Keys center has two other national retailers, a Talbots women's clothing store, and a Williams-Sonoma upscale kitchen ware store.
The remaining 21 shops are locally owned and operated, said Michelle Schiffer, Rouse's vice president and general manager at Cross Keys.
"All of this is part of a re-merchandising plan that started with the leaving of Bibelot [in June last year] and Octavia [a women's apparel store]," said Schiffer.
"Up until that point, we were made up of mainly local, one-of-a-kind boutiques. In order to meet the needs of the surrounding market, we decided we could combine the ... boutiques with additional national retailers."
Chico's is part of Chico's FAS Inc. of Fort Myers, Fla., a 350-store upscale apparel chain for women ages 30 to 60. The Cross Keys store opened last week.
J. Jill Group Inc., based in Quincy, Mass., began as a catalog company but started opening stores about three years ago, selling casual apparel, accessories and footwear for women 35 and older. It has about 68 stores and has plans for as many as 500. The Cross Keys store is to open Oct. 24, adjacent to Chico's.
The third new tenant, Grand Style Gallery Inc., plans to sell regional and national American art, including paintings, drawings and sculptures. It is to open in a temporary space next week before moving into a 2,500-square-foot store by the end of the year.
The three new tenants will take over a combined 9,100 square feet, about 11 percent of the center's 81,000 square feet of retail space. The 16,000-square-foot former Bibelot bookstore is the only significant space left vacant.
Rouse is looking to carve up the large space for a restaurant and one or two other retailers, said Wayne A. Christmann, senior asset manager for the Rouse Co.
A restaurant would "add to our ability to hold on to the customer a little bit longer ... to satisfy the lunch traffic but also offer a nice dinner situation or carryout," he said.
The shops are part of a community developed by Rouse in 1965. It includes homes, commercial offices, a hotel, shops and restaurants.