Danville Express

Newsfront - April 6, 2007

Blackhawk Plaza getting major revamping

Draeger's was first piece of 'cool' new puzzle

by Natalie O'Neill

Foodies awaiting the opening of Draeger's upscale market and delicatessen in Blackhawk Plaza will have more to look forward to than just produce and pastries when the store opens Oct. 15.

The opening of the Peninsula-based specialty foods store has been postponed from spring to fall, but along with its unveiling will come a large-scale remodeling and tenant change for the plaza.

"Without a great anchor store like Draeger's, the other pieces in the puzzle wouldn't have come together," said Fred Bruning, president of Center Cal, the retail developers in charge of the project.

The plaza already has at least five new hip-but-sophisticated retail stores signed on, including Anthropologie clothing and home decor and several others that Bruning said he would reveal publicly at a later date.

"We're adding the 'cool' factor," he said.

The purpose of establishing new tenants is to cater to a younger, wider demographic. Gottschalk's department store, which is being replaced by Draeger's, brought in clientele with an average age of 62 years.

Other changes include plans to get rid of the "monochromatic brown" buildings and convert them to colorful pastels that will face outward toward the movie theater instead of inward toward the courtyard.

The movie theater will also be renovated with plush leather seats. And the courtyard will have the option of being enclosed to prevent chilly gusts of wind and to better house musical acts.

The revamping will be completed in time for Christmas shopping, he said.

"I think people will visit the plaza and say, 'They've finally got it right,'" Bruning said.

A beach-like play area with sand near the fountain will be added for kids, allowing parent shoppers to relax in the outdoor seating with coffee or a glass of wine.

Draeger's will offer outdoor cafe-style seating along with a wide selection of self-serve food customers can take outside and eat, owner Richard Draeger said.

"We'll have a tremendous assortment of freshly made delicatessens, bakery products, and hot and cold food bars," he said.

After extensive research on the best interior and exterior designs for the store to accommodate professional cooking classes, cafe-style seating and a 5,000-bottle wine selection, the company is now waiting for the go-ahead from the county.

"Plans take an awful long time to put together," Draeger said, noting proposals were submitted to the county for approval last week.

The target opening date was originally for this spring and postponement can be chalked up to "typical construction delays," Draeger said. Demolition on the interior of the store has already begun.

"We're also including a big cooking school which will be a lot of fun - with various celebrity chefs," Draeger said, noting that Food Network hunk Tyler Florence will teach there.

Up until about six months ago, Danville residents could attend cooking classes at Andronico's market on Railroad Avenue. But when ownership changed to Lunardi's Market, classes were canceled, so Draeger's may draw Danville residents to Blackhawk for classes.

This along with the extensive food selection should bring more traffic through the plaza, Bruning said, pointing out the average Draeger's customer visits the store about two-and-a-half times a week.

Imported wines from around the world will be offered as well as wines and produce from the Bay Area. A full time sommelier will be on staff to help customers with choosing their wine.

"(Danville residents) have more of an appreciation for the quality of the region of the Napa Valley," he said.

Draeger's chose the Blackhawk Plaza location because it mirrors the demographic of the Peninsula with many educated, well traveled consumers of quality foods, Draeger said.

Products are locally grown and environmentally conscious, which he expects shoppers in the Danville area to appreciate.

"The area is second to none when it comes to the quality of agricultural products ... people are really going to enjoy it," he said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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