A major retail center in Elk Grove has three national chains opening in the next few months, two of them bound to glam up the closets of savvy shoppers, and another one wedging into the specialty grocery segment.
DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse is slated to open at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Laguna Crossroads center at the corner of Laguna Boulevard and Bruceville Road.
Clothing retailer Stein Mart and specialty grocer the Fresh Market will open their doors in September in the same center.
The combination of the chains sweeping westward and moving into large vacant spaces on a high-traffic corner is perking up the overall retail mood in the battle-worn Sacramento region.
DSW already has its "coming soon" banner in place on the highly visible former Borders bookstore, and is finishing up interior improvements to the 22,600-square-foot space.
Store workers will start to stock its inventory of more than 25,000 pairs of shoes this week, said Daniel DeCaria, a spokesman for DSW, based in Columbus, Ohio.
"It's our fourth Sacramento-area store," DeCaria said. DSW has stores in Roseville, Folsom and Sacramento. "We've been having a lot of growth nationwide and into California. Our presence in the West is not as strong as in the East, but it's growing."
DeCaria said stores opened in Modesto and Fresno last fall, and the Elk Grove location further cements its Central Valley presence.
The shoe company is known for its affordable prices for brand name footwear, and its large selection, DeCaria said. It has 367 stores in 41 states. The chain plans to open another 25 or 30 stores in the next year, he said.
Elk Grove will be the chain's 39th store in California. The new store hired more than 20 full-time employees, and the staff could balloon to 40 at key seasonal shopping times, DeCaria said.
Stein Mart officials confirmed the discount apparel company signed a lease agreement for part of the vacant former Save-Mart supermarket. Linda Tasseff, a company spokesman at the Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters, said Stein Mart will move into just over 32,000 square feet, splitting the space with the Fresh Market.
The two retailers plan a concurrent opening on Sept. 19, Tasseff said. The Elk Grove Stein Mart will hire 42 workers.
Stein Mart has two other stores in the Sacramento region: in Folsom and Rocklin. She said the chain is heavily concentrated in Texas, Florida and the Carolinas, but is eager to extend its footprint into California, where it already has 19 stores.
"We add stores when we can find good locations and good demographics," Tasseff said. "Sacramento likes us, so we want to expand on that."
Tasseff said Stein Mart's target shoppers are adult women looking for discounted brand-name apparel, but who crave a notch above Ross or TJ Maxx.
"They have a slightly higher income and education level," she said.
Tasseff said Stein Mart typically shuns stand-alone malls for neighborhood centers, usually in nicer residential areas with upscale grocery stores. The Fresh Market fits the kind of magnet the store likes, she said.
"Our customers don't like the craziness of the mall," she said. "Let the 18- to 28-year-olds go to the mall. We prefer being near an upscale grocer. People go to grocery stores every week, so if you want repeat business, they're a good draw."
The Fresh Market will move into 18,000 to 23,000 square feet next to Stein Mart, said Drewry Sackett, community relations manager for the store based in Greensboro, N.C. Its Elk Grove store will employ about 90 workers.
The store, which touts a "European-style" outdoor market feel, recently made its first foray into California by opening a Roseville location. Along with the Elk Grove store, the company is set to open its third California site at the former Borders bookstore on Fair Oaks Boulevard this fall.
The Fresh Market is elbowing its way into an already brisk specialty grocery store sector in Laguna west of Highway 99, with Nugget Market, Sprouts and Trader Joe's, along with Target expanding into food sales and Raley's/BelAir stores firmly entrenched in the area.
But store officials maintain the Fresh Market is still different from the existing grocery options, adding that Northern California and the Sacramento area are key to the store's overall expansion into California and other Western states.
"We have a distinctive concept," Sackett said. "With smaller, more intimate stores, classical music and soft lighting, with the aromas of freshly baked bread and coffee, our stores simply provide a unique shopping experience that customers can't find anywhere else."
Craig Burress, executive vice president for the CBRE Inc. commercial real estate agency in Roseville, said Laguna Crossroads is enormous, which helped mask the vacancies in two of its larger spaces.
He said that while Elk Grove never suffered the high vacancies of other parts of the Sacramento area, the landing of three national chains, points to recovery in the region's retail sector.
"These are prime sites," Burress said of the two vacant storefronts. "The pulse in Laguna and Elk Grove is very strong."
Call The Bee's Anne Gonzales, (916) 321-1049. Follow her in Twitter @AnneGonzo .
This story was changed April 1 to correct the location of the Laguna Crossroads shopping center.