Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — Herb Fink wants to stay on top and out of the shadow of department stores.
In a move to maintain his status as a premier independent retailer, the owner of Theodore has opened a new boutique in Calabasas, Calif.
“We are choosing locations that are not in major shopping areas,” said Fink. “We need to get away from department stores because we feel that they are destructive to the business.”
In light of the increasing competition, Fink, who owns two Theodore stores — separate men’s and women’s shops — on Rodeo Drive, opened the 2,000-square-foot store in Calabasas at The Commons at Calabasas, a new outdoor shopping center without department stores.
Observers say that by clustering specialty stores, the area will generate enough traffic — and the right kind of shoppers — to make up for the masses of shoppers that might be attracted to a mall anchored by a department store.
Developed by Ric Caruso, The Commons has taken retailing to the next level, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
“It has moved beyond pure retail to a community gathering place,” Kyser said. “It is a brand-new development in the ‘burbs.”
The average median household income in the area is about $100,000 to $110,000, Kyser noted.
Fink, who has tracked the shift on Rodeo Drive from independent specialty stores carrying multiple designers to designer-owned stores, chose Calabasas for those reasons.
“We are looking for areas that are not overexposed,” he said.
The Calabasas store, which is located about a half-hour northwest of Beverly Hills, marks Fink’s seventh. He also operates three stores in Malibu and one in Brentwood.
Sandwiched between upscale specialty stores NKL and Polachek’s Jewelers, Theodore is one of the first women’s stores to bring designer labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Ann Demeulemeester, Plein Sud and Ghost to this part of the San Fernando Valley.
In a modern, simple setting dominated by white and silver fixtures, the boutique also offers a wide array of tops by Custo, A. Gold E. and Michael Stars.
Fink projects first-year sales of $2.5 million.