Empty storefronts tell different stories

On Kenneth Road, the storefront underneath the "Audrey K" awning is empty. A few doors down, the words painted on the window glass read "Emma Bloomfield's," but nothing else remains of the boutique.

Across the street, the Village Market has been closed since February.

While merchants and owners say Kenneth Village is doing alright, they acknowledge the small shopping center off the beaten path, set among the tidy single-family homes near Brand Park, needs a shot in the arm.

"You can't bring customers from far away to here," said Arthur Charkoobian, owner of the local meat market and a merchant on Kenneth for 26 years. "It's all local."

Each vacancy tells a different story.

The Village Market changed hands a few years ago, according to Oscar Pallares, longtime owner of Kenneth Village Pharmacy and the entire south side of Kenneth between Sonora and Grandview avenues.

He leased the store to new owners, he said, but they quickly fell behind in their rent.

"They didn't know the business," he said.

He evicted them in February.

Now Charkoobian plans to expand his business by moving in to the Village Market site.

"He should do good," Pallares said.

Jay and Anne Greer own most of the properties on the other side of Kenneth Road. They say they have worked with clients and refrained from raising rents, but even so, different circumstances have driven out merchants.

Emma Bloomfield's was forced to close for about a month earlier this year when a plumbing problem in the space above the store forced a major remodel. The Greers say they placed the shop's inventory in storage, fixed the problem and restored the storefront. But the tenant decided not to return.

Audrey K., a woman's apparel shop, relocated to Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank. Owner Audrey Robles said she built up a loyal clientele in her four years at Kenneth Village and liked its independent feel. But the center didn't attract foot traffic or the shoppers she was trying to cultivate, she said.

"Some of those people hadn't changed window displays in months," Robles said. "It got sleepy and just slowed down."

Jay Greer, whose family has owned much of Kenneth Village for 75 years, said he has strong ideas for boosting the village's fortunes.

"We are seeking a comprehensive cross-section of tenants that will benefit the residential area, bringing quality goods where they don't have to drive to Pasadena or the Galleria," he said. "It's time for everybody to be doing something that benefits the area."

Greer said he hopes to bring in an apparel store, and has long sought a bicycle shop to take advantage of the endless stream of cyclists who pedal past on their way to challenging routes in the hills.

Rene Karapedian, owner of Pet Rush and president of the Kenneth Village Merchants Assn., said dining is the key to success in Kenneth Village.

"The thing that is going to make a difference in the village is the food business, especially upscale, quality food," Karapedian said.

The strip has one restaurant, George's Cucina Italiana, and the Village Bakery, which Pallares said just signed a new 10-year lease.

Years ago, he sought a Mexican restaurant to occupy one of his bigger buildings, but did not have enough parking to meet the city's requirements. That building is now home to Curves, the women's gym.

Karapedian said his success has come from tailoring the business toward services, not just retail, and listening closely to nearby residents. All the pets he sells are now rescues, he said, and he earned good will when he sent the fur from his grooming business to the Gulf of Mexico, where it was used in oil nets to slow damage from the BP spill.

"Here, we are required to get in touch with the people in the surrounding homes. They are the ones who support this village," Karapedian said.

On Saturday, Oct. 30, the Kenneth Village Merchants Assn. hosts its 19th annual Fall Festival, with games and activities for children, a petting zoo, performers and Halloween-themed events. The free event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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