The first Neiman Marcus luxury department store opened in Walnut Creek's Broadway Plaza on Friday morning, as hundreds of eager shoppers queued up around the building. The 85,870-square-foot store is the only Neiman Marcus set to open this year.
"We have a tradition to go to Neiman Marcus in the city for lunch, and now we don't have to trek so far," said Carol Abshire, a Danville resident who, along with her daughter, mother and two friends, was first in line. "Lunch at the rotunda is very special, so if we can go to the one in Walnut Creek, that's great."
In addition to the NM CafĂ©, which features an exclusive Walnut Creek salad and cookie bar, the bright and spacious store boasts approximately 160 pieces of artwork (largely by Bay Area artists) and fixtures that mimic Mount Diablo and other local aesthetics. Strings of translucent butterflies dangle from the second floor skylight and add extra sparkle to the multitude of designer fashions and accessories.
"It's amazing, beautiful. I just could not waitâ€¦I think it's a wonderful thing for Walnut Creek," said resident and Neiman Marcus regular Jennie Byrne. A friend of Byrne said the store took her breath away.
Neiman Marcus employs 200 people and is expected to bring in roughly $600,000 in tax revenue for the city.
"It's just a very elite, a very special store in that we really treat our clientele as best we can," said NM employee Cora Channing, a Pleasanton resident.
To that end, a fundraiser opening gala was held Thursday evening to benefit four local nonprofits: the Monument Crisis Center, the Taylor Family Foundation, the Diablo Regional Arts Association and the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay. Several hundred people attended the $200-a-head event, which featured four bands and the 49ers' Alex Smith.
But not everyone has been so gung-ho about the new retailer. A rival mall company supported a campaign that would have put Neiman Marcus in San Ramon while opposing Walnut Creek residents were worried about congestion, traffic and the possibility that the store would not make its projected tax revenues.
No negativity was present at Friday's opening, where pom-pom waving employees greeted guests with cheers and unbridled enthusiasm.
"It's small but beautiful. I will definitely check it out from time to time," said Wlanut Creek resident Hilary Toyryla. "It's a little upscale, so I think I'll be tough for some folks, but it's great for Walnut Creek."