NEW TENANTS COMPLETES THE MIX AT ATLANTA’S HIP NEW RETAIL CENTER
Byline: Rebecca Kleinman
Hand-picking tenants as carefully as cabinet members, developers of Atlanta’s hot Westside area remain true to their original vision — the right mix of upscale restaurants, art galleries and home and clothing stores. With three stores opened late last year, and a local branch of New York’s trendy Commune restaurant soon to open, their work is almost finished.
Despite Westside’s destination-spot status, retailers feel lucky to have made the cut in such a small (i.e., quality over quantity) development. Its latest additions — Bungalow, a home furnishings and accessories store, along with clothing boutiques Scout and G. Gilbert — report the utmost satisfaction with their new digs.
Bungalow has the highest visibility. The 3,000-square-foot store faces the parking lot on the corner of the popular Bacchanalia restaurant and Star Provisions food halls. After more than a decade in home accessories and furnishings, owners Courtney and Randy Tilinski wanted their own store, but dreaded the thought of going into a mall or strip mall.
Patience paid off. Bungalow’s lofty airiness, high ceilings and huge windows, along with its light quality and neutral backdrop are an excellent setting. Bungalow carries home items from custom upholstered furniture and Archipelago linens to silk lamp shades. Decorating books, candles and soaps from rare lines, like L’Occitane, attract weekend browsers.
Though business has increased steadily each month, Courtney Tilinski predicts spring sales will pick up. “The open-air forum and frequent weekend flea markets make it a great place to be outside in nice weather,” she said.
Encouraging shoppers to stroll shouldn’t be a problem. According to Tilinski, tenants are spreading the word about each other. “Since no one’s doing the same thing, there’s no fierce competition,” she said.
Shalini Vora, co-owner of Scout, feels the sense of camaraderie. Like her, these entrepreneurs wanted to do something different for Atlanta.
Vora and partner Elaine Gardner are entering uncharted territory. Scout will be the city’s first boutique to carry cutting-edge, new designer lines like Wink, Paul & Joe, Mayle Mint and Laura Urbinati. Accessory and beauty lines include Jutta Neumann, Hide, Exovo, Bliss and L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris. They also stock unisex items and men’s wear, which account for 50 percent of inventory. Whether Atlantans are ready isn’t a concern.
“Our timing couldn’t have been better. There are so many changes now. It’s time,” said Vora. How they ended up in the right place at the right time was a fluke. The original business plan consisted of an e-commerce Web site. That was before they met developer Michael Phillips.
The meeting resulted in a 1500-square-foot space overlooking railroad tracks and courtyard, kept fairly raw with design elements like polyurethane-covered cement floors, white laminated movable platforms and galvanized steel rolling racks.
Next door, G. Gilbert also stayed with the raw look for its slightly larger boutique. Wrought-iron fixtures, sage-colored walls and exposed brick warm it up; the variety of colorful, luxurious clothes give it coziness. Describing her store as edgy without being trendy, owner Ginna Gilbert carries Yansi Fugel, MAG, Moschino, D&G and Ron Leal, along with accessories from Pierre Urbach, Anthony Nak, Elaine Turner and Chateau and three Italian shoe lines. “My target is the hip woman over 30 who wants to look fabulous but not like her children,” she said.
As the previous owner of a store by the same name in Columbus, Ga., for 10 years, Gilbert knows her market. Sales have exceeded her business plan each month. Though she plans to shop New York’s Coterie for international lines, Gilbert will continue shopping Atlanta for bridge wear. All the free press in the local papers and magazines that Westside has had hasn’t hurt either. “This place has such a tremendous draw. It clicked with me,” she said.