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New and improved Crate&Barrel is part of mall’s redesign

The first piece in Westfield UTC Shopping Center’s long-term, $900 million revitalization is now in place: an expanded Crate&Barrel in a brand new, two-story building anchoring one corner of the shopping center.

UTC’s Crate&Barrel has most everything people need for their homes, both inside and out.

“We carry housewares and furniture,” said Jackie Tamura, Crate&Barrel’s area manager for San Diego and Orange counties, “anything for your home that you can eat on, dishes, lapware, any decorative items, sofas, chairs, lighting, prints. People can come here and buy a sofa, a dining room table and six chairs, and they can go downstairs and buy the table linens, the flatware, everything else to go with their sofas, pillows, rugs.”

The new Crate&Barrel at 4589 La Jolla Village Drive, which reopened Nov. 2, is equipped to do custom ordering as well as local delivery. “If you want to order a special fabric on a certain sofa,” said Tamura, “we can order that for you. We deliver in a 50-mile radius, and it only costs $69. We’ll deliver three rooms.”

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Crate&Barrel previously carried only housewares and was located inside the mall next to Pottery Barn.

The company realized there were greater business opportunities to be enjoyed by expanding outward within the UTC shopping center’s protective umbrella. “This is a regional destination shopping center,” pointed out Tamura. “They’re going to be revamping the whole mall and we’re the kick-off to that revamp. We got lucky enough to be right here on the corner, which is great, you can’t miss us.”

Crate & Barrel is the first store to be redeveloped in Westfield’s first major revitalization of UTC shopping center in more than two decades. The proposed restructuring features the addition of approximately 750,000 square feet of retail space for new and remodeled anchor stores, a state-of-the-art cinema, more than 150 new specialty shops and boutiques, new public outdoor plazas, upgraded parking, a variety of housing opportunities and a regional transit center with a future link to the trolley.

“We’re very pleased with the building itself, which was designed by Crate&Barrel,” said Jonathan Bradhurst, senior vice president, U.S. development for Westfield. “We’re very comfortable - and confident - in their approach. They are a company focused on contemporary design and style.”

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Upon completion of the review and approval process, Westfield hopes to start work on the remainder of its shopping center redevelopment in 2008.

Crate& Barrel has a long and interesting history. What started out in 1962 as a family business begun by husband-and-wife team Gordon and Carole Segal, along with one eager sales associate, has grown over the past 40 years to include 150 stores and more than 7,000 associates nationwide.

The company’s business philosophy, embracing its familial roots, is expressed in its adherence to the three P’s: people, product and presentation. People refers to lifelong friendships developed by the company with its employees and vendors, their families, customers and their relations. Product embodies the company’s commitment to innovative, high-quality design. Presentation is a customer’s reaction when walking through Crate&Barrel’s doors, a kind of an awe that sets in at the creative beauty and tight organization of the store’s merchandise, displayed with both attractiveness and practicality in mind.

Crate&Barrel offers merchandise at all points on the price spectrum. “We have a range,” said Tamura. “We sell a 95-cent glass all the way up to a $15 glass, a $90 chair all the way up to a $400 chair. We’ll stand behind any product we sell.”

The homeware company’s clientele is nearly as varied as its product selection. Typical customers start out in their mid-20s and are often first-time homebuyers. “They start shopping with us,” said Tamura, “and they go all the way to furnishing their second home.”

Wedding registry is a big part of the mix at Crate&Barrel, comprising as much as a third of the company’s business. It’s often a good place to start for the company to lure in lifelong clientele. Said Tamura: “Brides and grooms, it introduces them for the first time. Then they shop with us as they go through the changes of their life.”

Located on the ground floor of UTC’s Crate&Barrel are all of the company’s household goods for the kitchen, bath and other rooms. Upstairs is more of a showroom, with most items available for home delivery. “It’s kind of a marketplace on the second level,” said Tamura.

Tamura noted Crate&Barrel’s name is derived from its humble origins. “When we first opened, the owners didn’t have enough money to put up shelving and all the product came in crates and barrels,” she said, “so they turned those over and used that to display their merchandise. That’s why you see all our stacks and racks of glassware, because that’s really what they (owners) had to do. We still have barrels around full of fun things.”

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Crate&Barrel carries a mix of houseware items that is unique. “What we try to do is offer exclusive, one-of-a-kind products, not what you would buy at Target or Wall-mart,” noted Tamura, who added her company is similar to those other two firms in that it, too, employs a one-stop shopping concept. “We’re very proud of our customer service, our one-on-one relationships that we develop with customers. We’re also very well priced for the value.”

Crate&Barrel carries ready-to-assemble furniture to help save do-it-yourselfers a little cash, while maintaining high standards of quality.

Tamura said the expanded UTC Crate&Barrel has been warmly received early-on.

“On the first day when we opened, I helped these two women, and they took the whole day off to shop here all day,” she said. “It was great.”

The merchandise mix at Crate&Barrel changes every three or four months. The store opened with its winter holiday line, a rich array of box sets and gift items.

Bradhurst of UTC said the shopping center is currently involved in getting all the entitlements it needs to begin construction on the rest of the center’s expansion, which is likely to begin sometime next year, with total completion eyed for Christmas 2012.

“We’re in the process of reviewing comments on the draft environmental impact report received from the public,” he said. “We are spending a great deal of time addressing those comments and looking at how we can modify and refine our (mall) design accordingly. We’re going to have a scale model in about a month. Next month, we expect to unveil plans for our project in some detail at our UTC experience studio, where people can come along and hear about the project and learn more and give us feedback.”

Crate&Barrel is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.. to 9 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Hours will be extended for the Christmas holidays. For more information call (858) 558-4545 or visit www.crateandbarrel.com.

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