It's OK for a Mall to Be Small

Karen Newell Young writes regularly for Orange County Life

It used to be hard to find small, well-planned retail centers amid the profusion of strip malls and shopping centers clogging commercial districts. But as the number of shopping centers mounted, the competition sizzled, especially in mall-happy Orange County.

Now it is becoming more common to find attractive centers with interesting shops. As retail consultant Peter Glen of New York says, "The stores are selling things that nobody needs, so they had better do something interesting if they want to stay in business."

The Enderle Center in Tustin is trying to do something interesting on a small scale. A well-designed cluster of 44 shops and six restaurants, Enderle is an L-shaped open-air mall across 17th Street from the bustling French Quarter shopping center. It is managed by EMS Development, a partnership headed by Maurice A. Enderle.

Designed in a neat, Mediterranean style with red tile roofs and brick walkways, the 11-year-old center has two beauty salons, a nail parlor, nearly a dozen gift and home furnishing stores, a couple of clothing stores, a photography studio, two jewelry stores and a few plant and flower shops. There is also a tanning salon, a chocolate shop, a travel agency, a gourmet coffee store, a kitchen designer, a dry cleaner, and a Mail Box USA for shipping and packaging services. It has public restrooms, benches and a handsome clock tower posted out front.

Enderle Center (designed by one of the partners, architect Jim E. Shimozono) was built in 1976 on land owned by Tustin's Enderle family since the turn of the century. Formerly orchards and farmland, the property now houses two office buildings and the shopping complex. The center's master plan calls for another office building, but no more shops.

The shops and restaurants are on the pricey side. Few bargains are available, and many of the shops specialize in unusual merchandise with big price tags. Two Doors Down, with its English garden motif, carries stunning custom-designed silk flower arrangements ($100 and up; about $250 for an average dining room arrangement), handmade willow furniture from Oregon ($112 for a small table), terra cotta angels ($18.25), and assorted antiques and statuary. The Duck Pond has fancy children's clothes at fancy prices ($60 PJs and $20 T-shirts). For the child who likes to smell good, the Duck Pond carries Gregory's fragrance for children at $21 a bottle.

For those searching for Victorian-style accessories and home furnishings, Justin Porterfield is worth a stop, if only to catch a whiff of the wonderful potpourri in stock. The store also sells Dianna Isola flowers, along with coasters, framed prints and decorating books. Another good bet for gifts or home furnishings is RSVP, which carries handmade linen embroidered bed covers (96 by 110 inches, $922) and Paperwhite pillow shams for $72.

One of the best spots at Enderle is a shop tucked in the back, aptly called Discoveries. Owner Tena Broderhausen buys handcrafted jewelry from various artists to sell in the store. She says the "wearable art" she sells is her obsession as well. "What we're doing is showcasing something that's been done as long as there have been people," says Broderhausen, whose primary interest is tribal art and jewelry.

Other bright notes among the shops: hanging dried chili pepper arrangements from New Mexico ($24.95) at Holly-Wood & Vines; a beautiful beaded evening bag ($175) and a white felt hat with spangles ($95) at La Galleria; copper trays and pans at Harvest Mercantile Co., and original art at Chemers Gallery.

The restaurants also are not cheap, although most are reasonable: at Ho Ho Restaurant is $5, a beef with broccoli lunch is $4.50; at Zov's Bistro, a smoked salmon salad is $5.95, angel hair pasta with tomatoes and basil at lunchtime is $7.50. Also at Enderle are El Torito Restaurant, Taco Bell, O'Keefe's Restaurant and the Cookbook Restaurant, which is about to be expanded and renovated, with its name changed to La Mirage.

Business is booming throughout the center, according to Charles Thompson, property manager. He attributes the brisk activity to the location, at the busy intersection of 17th and Yorba streets, and the center's merchants association, which he says keeps the complex running well.

Enderle has a few sunny spots to enjoy a soda or to just sit a spell. The Coffee Grinder has outdoor cafe tables and sells a few pastries, along with coffee, tea and soft drinks. Outside Zov's Bistro is a small courtyard where one might rest between purchases.

Other than dining and shopping, there is not much to do here, so you might want to leave those not born to shop and other killjoys behind.

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