By  on October 22, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Metropark, the southern California–based specialty chain that has quickly expanded into a nationwide streetwear destination, has tapped Renee Bell to be its new CEO. 

Bell, 45, has served as vice-president and GMM of the company since 2005. She replaces Robert Allison, who has held the top spot on an interim basis since April. Allison remains on the board of directors, as does cofounder and chairman Orv Madden, who was CEO prior to Allison. 

Madden founded the Hot Topic specialty store chain in 1998 and retired from that business in 2000. After four years he launched Metropark as a mall-based specialty chain selling high-end branded apparel, trendy music and edgy art to Generation Y. 

A career merchant with 20 years of experience, Bell was GMM of Bebe, a women’s chain, for a year before joining Metropark, and served as vice-president of merchandising at Rampage from 1997 to 2003. 

“I think there was a plan for some time to get me into this position,” Bell told DNR last week. Orv [Madden] feels strongly that a merchant should run the company, because the image we’re selling is our merchandising. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to drive something from the inception of this company.” 

Known for a premium apparel mix that includes Affliction, Christian Audigier and Monarchy, Metropark has grown into a chain of 38 doors operating in 15 states in the past three years. This year the company has opened stores in Buffalo, N.Y., Natick, Mass., Denver and Chicago, among other locations.

“Our plan is to open 25 stores next year, and to continue with 25 to 30 stores per year and see where the market takes us,” Bell said. 

As CEO, Bell plans to continue the store’s emphasis on “pieces that stand on their own. That’s been a key part of our merchandising strategy. You won’t come in and see a pile of basics here,” she said.

Bell added that she aims to keep “80 percent consistency” in product mix among company stores, with some regional differences in denim and streetwear brands.

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