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A facelift for Phoenix outlets

PHOENIX - With tenant occupancy at 80 percent and talks — continuing with Trader Joe's officials, things are looking up at The Shops — at Exit 24 shopping complex in Phoenix.

When Alan DeBoer of Ashland and his two business partners, — Dave Mills and Duane Wallace, officially purchased the center for $5.9 — million in May, obvious changes needed to be made, DeBoer said at the — time.

Several businesses, including London Fog, Prestige Fragrance — and Bugle Boy, had already left and there was a need to remodel the facilities. — The mall was half empty.

The former outlet center had been on the market for more — than a year. The 21-store, 75,000-square-foot center, formerly called — the Pacific Northwest Marketplace, is located off of Interstate 5 at Exit — 24.

Things have changed substantially since May, according — to Derek DeBoer, director of operations for the shopping center.

"When people found out there were new owners it seemed — to spark an interest," he said. "We're filling up and getting interested — businesses, both locally and nationally."

Trader Joe's

DeBoer said one of the most frequent question he gets — is if a Trader Joe's will be at the shopping complex. DeBoer said he is — in "active conversations" with representatives of the popular Irvine, — Calif., based gourmet food chain.

He said one of his top goals is to get Trader Joe's or — a similar national chain at the mall.

"It's looking positive," he said. "We're on the radar — with Trader Joe's. ... There seems to be a high demand for it and I always — have people asking about it. It would help attract more people into the — center."

Attracting a national restaurant chain into the complex — is also a possibility, De Boer said.

He believes a national chain could help attract more people — from the freeway.

New Businesses

Since the property was purchased in May, six new stores — opened or are about to. There are now four empty spaces.

The new stores include David Michael's Barstools and Dinettes; — Toys for the Home, a spa shop; Beauty Biz; and Bug in a Rug. No Bare Pages — Scrapbook Company and Oh Baby are about to open soon.

Derek DeBoer said one of the first things he did was to — start work sprucing up the mall by doing things such as repainting the — buildings, improving the sidewalks, parking lot and the landscaping and — performing re-roofing work.

"To me, before, it wasn't attractive as a customer," he — said. "Our standards for our properties are pretty high. We made it look — like a new place. It's the first impression on people when they come here."

D.J. Bransom, owner of Bug In a Rug, moved his business — to the center from Medford in July. He said he has been impressed with — the increase of stores and the improvements done.

"The place has gotten a real nice facelift," Bransom said. — "Business has been going better than we thought it would and sales have — been real good. It helps to have more businesses moving in. The pendulum — is definitely moving the other way here and it's nice to be a part of — that."

Ryan and Zoe Lehmann, the husband and wife owners of Zoey's — Cafe, have been impressed with the direction of the mall since the change — in ownership.

The couple, who opened their business in February 2003, — said they like the hands-on approach of the DeBoers.

They said they frequently see Derek DeBoer or other mall — officials, and said they constantly update them on what's happening at — the shopping center.

With the previous owners, Ryan Lehmann said it felt like — "they were kept in the dark," on what was happening at the shopping complex.

He said things are quite different now.

"They're always keeping us informed and seem very interested — in how our business is going," Ryan Lehmann said. "It's nice to have that — type of support with your landlord."

DeBoer said he's pleased to be getting more local businesses — into the shopping center.

"I think that's exciting," he said. "I think it's important — to support your local economy."

Alan DeBoer, also mayor of Ashland, and his partners own — four auto dealerships, Cedar Mall in Medford and the Historic Ashland — Armory, among other properties.

The mall, originally called the Pear Tree Factory Stores, — opened in October 1993, by founding partners Bob and Jean Finley and Bert — and Peggy Ziessau.

In January of 1999, it was sold for $5.2 million to Pacific — Northwest Factory Malls Management Corp., affiliated with the Grants Pass-based — Foundation of Human Understanding, which sold the property to Alan DeBoer — and his investors.