Grapevine Is Ripe for 2 Factory Outlets : Interstate 5: Two proposed centers being planned could transform the truck-stop hamlet of Gorman.


Two developers are hoping that bargain-hunters will soon be singing "I Bought It on the Grapevine."

A pair of giant factory outlet centers totaling 720,000 square feet are being planned for the Golden State Freeway near Gorman, a truck-stop hamlet just below the Los Angeles-Kern county line, 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

They would continue a trend begun in the late 1980s, when manufacturers began opening wholesale outlets in the western United States.

The factory outlet, an Eastern Seaboard institution dating back to the days when New England manufacturers sold their wares from factory doors, is a relative newcomer to the West Coast, industry experts say.

The two outlets would change the character of Gorman, whose school district--the smallest in Los Angeles County--enrolled only 64 students this year. Gorman is one of the few population centers on the Grapevine, as the stretch of Tejon Pass winding through the Tehachapis on the Los Angeles-Kern county border is called.

Ginsburg Craig Associates of Newport Beach has secured permits in Kern County to build the Grapevine Factory Stores, a 220,000-square-foot outlet near Lebec, a roadside town a few miles north of Gorman.

Company officials hope to break ground this summer and open the outlet in the spring of 1992.

Factory outlets, which often sell brand-name goods at lower-than-retail prices, are located away from urban centers to avoid competition with department stores carrying the same products.

Barry Ginsburg, a general partner of the Lebec project, declined Wednesday to name the outlet's 50 tenants but said they would offer a wide range of department store merchandise.

The company's outlet that opened near Palm Springs last June offers products that include Gorham silver, Eddie Bauer sportswear and Evan Picone clothes.

Factory outlets allow manufacturers to clear out their inventories by offering seconds, end-of-season clothing or surplus merchandise.

Sometimes they offer in-season merchandise as well.

Savings at discount outlets can range from 30% to 70%, Ginsburg said.

"The consumer has demonstrated a willingness to drive an hour and a half or longer for extraordinary services," Ginsburg said.

Another developer specializing in factory outlets, McArthur/Glen Group of Washington, is proposing 500,000 square feet of commercial, office and hotel space in Quail Lake, a few miles east of Gorman.

The developer's local representative, Psomas & Associates, recently requested permits from Los Angeles County planners.

Joel B. Miller, a Psomas vice president, said the companies interested in the outlet include Liz Claiborne, Jordache, Van Heusen and Maidenform.

The outlet, which could employ 900 workers, also is projected to open in 1992.

Asked if the outlets were in a race to open first, Miller said: "I'm not sure we're in a race. I'm not even sure we're in competition."

Ginsburg said, "I have no opinion on that," when asked if the Gorman area could sustain two large factory outlets.

Newhall Land & Farming Co. plans to open the Santa Clarita Valley's first regional shopping mall 40 miles to the south in Valencia next year as well, but company spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said she doubted the outlets would draw customers from the mall, or vice versa.

"Those are very different approaches to merchandising," Lauffer said. "I don't see any conflict between those facilities and the Valencia Town Center."

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