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SOUTHEAST AREA’S TOP 10 SHOPPING CENTERS : Cerritos Center Lures Shoppers With Location

Profiles on individual malls were written by Times staff writers Bettina Boxall and Michele Fuetsch, Photos are by Rick Corrales and Karen Tapia, Times staff photographers

It does not have architectural amenities that distinguish newer malls, such as a food court or a glass ceiling to let in light. It is cave-like and its one-story, S-shaped design turns a walk from one end to the other into a hike.

Outside, the parking lot is crowded and on heavy shopping days the surrounding streets are jammed with cars streaming off the adjacent 605 Freeway for the mall and the surrounding commercial area.

Still, they keep coming to Los Cerritos Center--roughly 5 million people this year--making it one of the most profitable malls in the Southland. In terms of taxable retail sales, Los Cerritos ranks seventh among the 70 largest malls in Southern California. It generated $2.8 million in sales tax revenue last year for the city of Cerritos, 21% of the city’s total sales tax revenue.

Much of the crowd at Los Cerritos Center is drawn there by its location just off the San Gabriel River Freeway, and the sheer size of the mall--159 stores, including five anchors. Only Lakewood Shopping Center, with six anchor stores, has more than Los Cerritos in the Southeast area. But the Cerritos center can boast of the only upscale Nordstrom and Robinson’s outlets in the Southeast area.

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“What the center does offer here is the wide range of department stores from Mervyn’s to Nordstrom,” said Kelly Keahey, who manages the mall for its owner, the Hahn Co. “We offer every type of department store to meet our market,” Keahey said.

Shoppers are also drawn to the mall by the surrounding three blocks of commercial development. When Cerritos became a city nearly 25 years ago, officials set aside much of its vacant dairy land for commercial uses they knew would generate hefty sales tax revenue. Then, making extensive use of state redevelopment laws that allowed them to give tax breaks to developers, the city covered much of its vacant land with retail businesses.

Although it is not part of the mall, there is an extensive restaurant row a street away. Fedco and Toys R Us are among the big stores that border the mall on two other sides, and the city’s auto mall, one of the largest in the nation, is just an overpass away on the other side of the 605 Freeway.

Inside Los Cerritos Center, shoppers can see a movie, buy Lotto tickets, browse at the Hatfield Diamond Corner and get up to $5,000 in credit, munch French fries at a Burger King, listen to music at the Organ Exchange, and rent a wheelchair for a weary grandparent. During the Christmas season, shoppers also could leave their kids at a child-care booth for $2 an hour.

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Most of the stores cater to middle-income buyers, although some upper-scale specialty stores can be found.

With so many people packed into its windowless corridors, Los Cerritos does not miss a chance to turn a profit. There are street-level billboard signs for rent and dozens of peddler carts displaying everything from candy to baseball cards.

Los Cerritos Center was built 20 years ago, which accounts for much of its seemingly outdated architecture. The mall owners might consider renovations, such as a food court, Keahey said.

LOS CERRITOS CENTER, CERRITOS * Year opened: 1971

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* Retail square footage: 1.3 million

* Anchor stores: Broadway, Mervyn’s, Nordstrom, Robinson’s, Sears

* Number of stores: 159

* 1989 sales tax paid to city: Estimated $2.8 million

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* % of city’s total sales tax revenue--21%

* Most memorable feature: Cave-like interior with one-story, S-shaped design making a long hike from one end to the other.


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