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Staffs Guard Customers, Keep Centers Spruced Up

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It takes plenty of behind-the-scenes effort, millions of dollars and hundreds of people to create those agreeable mall atmospheres that make South Bay shoppers want to buy, buy and buy.

At the Carson Mall, four landscape workers spend five days each week watering the center’s 3,000 plants, checking them for bugs and trying to repair the damage careless shoppers cause when they plunk their packages down in the greenery.

Even with all that attention, however, the chrysanthemums that put you in a good mood this month most likely won’t be the same ones you gaze at next month. The mall’s artificial light requires that workers rotate plants constantly.

The gleaming brass and shining floors of the Galleria at South Bay also require special attention. With all those sticky fingers grabbing at rails and tired feet tramping between stores, it takes a crew of six people all night, every night, to clean up after customers. In addition, a private contractor earns $12,000 each year just to keep the mall’s 600-foot-long glass ceiling sparkling.

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When unusual transformations are to take place, extra hands are brought in to create new treats for shoppers’ eyes.

At Christmastime, workers shut down the Galleria’s geyser-like central fountain--which shoots water 80 feet into the air--to make way for an elaborate Santa stage, visible from all three floors of the mall.

The workers who hang the cheery cherubs and bright ribbons of Christmas make up only a portion of the 50 people the mall employs to maintain its ambience. The Galleria also keeps six administrative staff members and 12 security guards busy and helps the city to pay for the 24 Redondo Beach police officers assigned to mall beats.

At Hawthorne Plaza, the 25-member security staff keeps an eye on the place day in and day out. Several officers use an observation tower that overlooks the mall parking area.

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“One operator in the tower has been to court at least six times this year” to testify as a witness, said Bill Todd, the plaza’s director of security. “He’s so observant, he’s spotted people just as they start to case (the cars) and actually caught people while they’re still in the car taking things.”

Soon the plaza will install a closed-circuit television camera system to keep an even better eye on the mall’s comings and goings.

“The mall is a place to shop,” Todd said. “We want to create an atmosphere where people can concentrate on doing that.”

At the Shops at Palos Verdes, visitors can also concentrate on watching patrons of a very unusual business tenant. Holiday shoppers on all three of the mall’s levels can gaze down on a 160-foot-long ice skating rink that adjoins a courtyard area at the mall’s northern end.

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For the first eight years the rink was in operation, shoppers could hear the skating music and feel wafts of cold air from off the ice as they moved from store to store. A few months ago, however, huge windows were installed to separate browsers from skaters.

The windows “keep the ice in and the candy wrappers out,” said rink manager Roxanne Watson. “It’s a little nicer this way. . . . Spectators aren’t tempted to see whether pennies actually do stick to the ice.”

They don’t.


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