More than 30 years ago, Haroon and Crissy Maniar opened a store in Trolley Square, selling imported women's dresses made with unique artistic processes, such as specialized handiwork.
In 1986, the couple opened a second Haroon's store in Crossroads Plaza. Throughout the years as fashion trends changed, the business evolved from selling exotic imports to vintage-style clothing that is loosely cut and flowing.
When downtown redevelopment began in recent years, the Crossroads and ZCMI Center malls were razed for the current construction of City Creek Center, and new owners bought Trolley Square and began renovations.
"You could never have told me that in two years I'd lose two stores one that I had for 30 years and one that I had for 18," Crissy Maniar said.
Haroon's resettled in Foothill Village on Salt Lake City's east bench. But like other retailers who left downtown, the Maniars want to return to the city's center.
"At this point, I'd like to see what's going on," Haroon Maniar said. "Then we can decide what's the more suitable place (to open a downtown store)."
For retailers, this is an uncertain time in Salt Lake City as they wait for completion of the City Creek Center and renovations at Trolley Square. Dozens of retailers left downtown because of construction. They want to return, but with so much construction, they have hesitated. Retailers describe being in a holding pattern waiting for news from other retailers, waiting for construction to subside and waiting for the prices of rent to be announced.
"Tenants are still expanding, but some have said they're putting some expansion plans on hold until 2010, 2011," said Steve Bowler of Coldwell Banker Commercial, who represents shopping centers and retail tenants. "Because of a lot of that, I think the retailers are feeling some frustration."
The $1.5 billion City Creek Center will span three blocks of downtown between South Temple and First South and West Temple to 200 East. It will offer a mix of office buildings, shopping and condos and apartments. Most of the demolition work on the three City Creek blocks is finished. A handful of office and historic buildings will remain intact.
Trolley Square is undergoing renovations to its main building. The historic Wells Fargo branch will be moved to the west portion of the property. A Whole Foods grocery store will be constructed on the northeast end of the property, and Trolley's west parking lot is coming down. Three buildings will rise in that space, with parking underground.The retail portion of City Creek Center will not be finished until 2012. Renovations at Trolley Square are being finished in phases, with the first phase completed last Christmas and the final phase expected to be completed in January 2010.
Bowler, who has 16 years of retail experience in Salt Lake City, says retailers want a presence downtown. It's a status symbol, a sign that a business has "made it." A downtown presence also brings big bucks.
"You do have the arts, the convention center and a lot of the tourism that Temple Square brings in that helps create (sales) for retail," Bowler said.
Janice Heilner, owner of Dressed in White, an LDS temple-clothing seller, agrees. Her now-closed Crossroads store benefited from downtown foot traffic. People wandered in after concerts, Christmas lighting ceremonies and broadcasts on Temple Square.
Since July, the 12-year-old company hasn't had a store near an LDS temple, affecting its bottom line.
"Business has really dropped off, because that was our No. 1 store down there," she said. "Without it, it's been a struggle in the stores away from Temple Square."
Dressed in White moved from Crossroads to ZCMI to the basement of the Utah Woolen Mills Clothiers, where "we just didn't have enough (business) to make it worth our while," Heilner said.
She looked elsewhere downtown, but high rents priced her out.
"For example, The Gateway, we couldn't afford to go there," she said. "A place far out from the main (Rio Grande) street is $45 a square foot, and that was several years ago. That was too pricey for us."
Heilner would like to open a store as soon as City Creek is finished. She asked the LDS Church's real-estate arm that owned Crossroads, Zions Securities Corp., if rents would be affordable for small locally owned stores like hers.
"He said it was out of his hands, a real-estate company is doing the leasing, and there is no guarantee" that rents will compare to Crossroads rents, Heilner said. Taubman Centers Inc., based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is handling retail leasing for City Creek.Bruce Heckman, Taubman's project manager for City Creek, said retail lease prices have not yet been set, and Taubman does not plan to make tenant announcements "until six months before opening." Taubman is speaking with former tenants of Crossroads and the ZCMI Center about moving into City Creek, he said, but price reductions for them are unlikely.
Haroon's was forced from Crossroads because of demolition. The Maniars could have kept their Trolley store but said they left because they couldn't negotiate a favorable lease. The cost was too high, and they would have had to temporarily move into another part of the mall as Trolley was renovated.
"We couldn't get a good answer from the landlord on what the new mall plans are," Crissy Maniar said. "We tried to find out a whole bunch of answers from them, but we couldn't find an answer. We wanted to know who was going to be there."
In addition to Whole Foods, Trolley will have a West Elm furniture and home accessories store. No other new tenants have been announced, said Dawn Katter, a spokeswoman for Transwestern, the Houston-based company that manages leases for the mall.
Katter said some tenants have decided to stay in Trolley Square, such as The Spectacle eye-wear shop, which temporarily moved to a different location while its store space is remodeled. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory left the mall in January for a renovation in its space and will get a new space in Trolley in June. Rodizio Grill recently signed a new 10-year lease.
"Our customers are still shopping," she said. "I don't see that the construction has really hurt the traffic at Trolley Square."
Bowler of Coldwell Banker Commercial says Trolley has been more forthcoming about its plans than City Creek, which has been "very close to the vest in letting the real-estate community know exactly what they're doing."
City Creek Reserve Inc., a development arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hasn't announced new tenants other than the mall's department store anchors. The City Creek Center will have a two-story 124,000-square-foot Nordstrom on West Temple and a three-story, 150,000-square-foot Macy's on Main Street.
Retailers want to know whether competing stores have signed leases. "For instance, Bed, Bath and Beyond does not want a Linens-N-Things in the same shopping center as them," Bowler said.
Stores also tend to group together in the same economic range. A Ross Dress for Less or Dress Barn would more likely group near a T.J. Maxx than a Nieman Marcus, he said.
Based on Taubman's history of shopping-mall management, Bowler believes Taubman will find good retailers for City Creek."It will be a building process to re-educate people and bring them back down to the malls," he said. "Anytime you shut something down for five years, shopping patterns do change."
Some retailers have relocated to the suburbs, hoping to someday return downtown. Others are closed permanently.
The downtown location of Curry in a Hurry, an Indian and Asian restaurant, closed in May 2007 before the building in which it was located was razed for the 222 S. Main office building.
Co-owner Saifar Nisar said he looked for eight months including two months before closing until he found a spot in Bountiful on 500 South.
"We had a hard time finding a place anywhere, let alone Bountiful," he said. "First of all, there's not much in downtown to pick from, and if there is anything, it's really expensive."
Nisar wanted to be near the Salt Palace Convention Center but found little restaurant space with City Creek Center construction. He gave up and began looking in the suburbs.
Business in Bountiful "is getting better every day," he said. "It's not as busy as it is in Salt Lake."
When construction ends, Nisar will turn his eyes again toward downtown: "My intention is that, but it will really depend on if I can get a good monthly lease rate."
A number of years ago, Len and Kris Hoffman purchased Bellezza, an upscale salon in Crossroads that had struggled financially, and turned the place around. It made a profit in its last two years, said Sue Russell, chief operating officer of Hoffman and Company.
As Crossroads closed, the Hoffmans looked for a new location.
"Because our margins were so tight, we had a hard time finding something that would make a good fit," Russell wrote in an e-mail. "It was hard to find a place that had the facilities that would accommodate a hair salon."
The Hoffmans found a space at 307 S. Main Street and two business partners to go in with them. The three partners applied for city grants and loans. However, one of the three partners had less-than-stellar credit. The deal was killed when a loan was rejected, she said.
"We sold everything in the store for whatever we could get, then we locked up and walked away," Russell wrote.
David Giroux, of the Downtown Merchants Association, said some businesses have chosen to locate downtown. He cites the Keys on Main piano bar, Danish electronics store Bang and Olufsen, and the Acme Burger Co. as businesses that recently chose downtown locations."Businesses always will open and close, especially smaller businesses, especially when they're not larger corporations," he said. "Sometimes they don't have a good business model, sometimes their product is not in demand. That happens everywhere, not just downtown."
For more than a year, Salt Lake City has lacked a high-end department store downtown.
Macy's closed its store at the ZCMI Center on Feb. 3, 2007. Nordstrom closed its Crossroads Plaza store Jan. 20, 2007. Days later, demolition began. And Salt Lakers altered their shopping patterns when looking for high-quality clothing and cosmetics.
Sugar House resident Karen Bsumek, 62, shops online, buying her favorite makeup and perfume at sephora.com. She used to buy the items at Nordstrom and Macy's downtown.
When she absolutely has to see an item up close or try it on for size, Bsumek leaves the city for Murray or Cottonwood Heights. She lives about halfway between Fashion Place and Cottonwood Mall.
Mac Jones, 29, also boots up his computer when shopping. "I have to look online for stores to see where they have gone," he said.
Tom Monfrooy, 65, discovered that Costco on 300 West suits his clothing needs.
"I used to go (to department stores) once in a while," he said. "It would be nice if there was one downtown."
Salt Lake residents will have to wait until 2012, when the two anchor department stores and 800,000 to 900,000 square feet of other retail space opens at the City Creek Center.
A 150,000-square-foot Dillard's had been initially planned as a third anchor store for the City Creek Center. But the LDS Church modified its plans, leaving no room for the department store, based in Little Rock, Ark.
"Right now, the most exciting thing we have going on in Salt Lake City is the renovation of the store in Fashion Place," Dillard's spokeswoman Julie Bull said.
Dillard's has not announced any plans for new department stores in Salt Lake County, Bull said.
Other national retail chains, meanwhile, are taking a wait-and-see approach when choosing whether to locate downtown, like the local businesses. Darrell Tate, a retail and land specialist with Utah real-estate group Commerce CRG, represents some "mall-only" tenants national retailers with business plans that prohibit moves to places like Bountiful or Foothill Village. They must wait for the completion of the downtown malls before deciding on their options."There's certainly a freezing effect," Tate said.