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Building bricks

Sep-10-10, 02:39 PM
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By its renewal, the Brick Walk in Fairfield has proved that Fairfield can draw retail tenants. The shopping center with a varied retail lineup just filled its last vacancy. Now, its owners say their goal is to bridge the town’s shopping gap between the Brick Walk and Fairfield Center.

Fairfield-based third generation family owned Kleban Properties purchased the property seven years ago and began to renovate and expand the Brick Walk property over the last five years. Father and son Albert and Ken Kleban bought the property from associated partners and finished the most recent addition and construction with the two buildings called the Brick Walk Promenade last year.

“The whole goal of the Brick Walk over the past five years as we have continued to grow the development has been to make it a lifestyle,” Ken Kleban said. “It has become a place where people can come, park their cars, and spend a good part of the day, enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, shop, go to their banks and really enjoy it in a classic center. We have seven restaurants in total. We have a jewelry store, a bakery, an ice cream store and a fish market. The whole idea was to create a great mix so people would want to spend a bigger component of their day here.”

The property was formerly a basic outdoor mini-mall. The company’s re-imagined Brick Walk Promenade opened last September at 1189-1215 Post Road. The multi-building property is a mixed-use development that includes fully rented luxury apartments, offices and retail spaces, has nearly 700 free parking space, and has heated and lighted outdoor walkways to allow the retail presence to be more inviting in the winter months.

“Fairfield has been one of the area’s most active markets for retail space, despite the economic downturn,” said Jessica Curtis, retail broker with CB Richard Ellis’ Retail Services Group in Stamford, which monitors all of Fairfield County. Kleban is not represented by CB Richard Ellis.

Last tenant comes in to Brick Walk
Wilton-based retail entrepreneur Lauren Mulligan Robak is the last tenant on board at the Brick Walk with her second boutique clothing store. Her new store, Minette & Rook, is now open, three years after she opened her first store, Une Minette, in Wilton.

“I am incredibly excited to open Minette & Rook,” Robak said. “Not only is the opening a personal triumph for me, but it’s a homecoming as well, I was raised in Fairfield, and opening a second boutique in my hometown is a dream come true. The Brick Walk has a great mix and we fit right in here. It’s a community that sets a status for yourself.”

Described by Robak as edgy, the Minette & Rook store sells clothing for men and women. Robak, a veteran of the retail industry, buys one of each item to ensure her customers are buying something that is unique.

Jos. A Bank was the first tenant in the shopping center and Island Outfitters, a Rhode Island-based company was the second. Other Brick Walk tenants include Vintage Garden, Magnolia, Pizzeria Molto Wine Bar, Towne Cleaners and a concept Trek Bicycle Shop.

Brick Walk helps give boost to retail
Curtis said the retail activity in the county’s namesake town has received a boost over the last year from the Brick Walk and the incoming Whole Foods supermarket near Staples Plaza. She said monthly lease rates for Fairfield’s retail space ranges from $30 to $40 a square foot near Staples Plaza and along the Black Rock Turnpike, and as much as $60 a square foot for downtown.

“We’re not the cheapest rent,” Kleban said. “In fact we’re probably toward the top end, but you’re getting what you pay for. We want our businesses to do well and anything we can do to make that happen for them we will. When we come in we try to say to our tenants, what can we do?”

Kleban said the Kleban Properties’ family rule is to patronize your tenants before anyone else. Kleban Properties also owns the Fairfield Center building, further south along Post Road, which houses Victoria’s Secret and Borders.

“That has always historically been the center of Fairfield,” said Kleban, who grew up in town. “We really wanted to help expand that center toward Beach Road, and I think that’s what we’ve done.”

Kleban hopes to draw with outdoor events
Kleban said the Brick Walk offers a retail experience that pairs well with the single thoroughfare style of Fairfield Center. In keeping with the extended shopping journey style, Kleban Properties pays to have an outdoor farmers market once a week from spring through fall, as well as music events on the property.

“We’ve really included a push toward outdoor performances with outdoor events,” Kleban said. He said using the Brick Walk as a cultural event location has proved very successful for the permanent retailers as well as a way to generate awareness for the entire space.

“Lauren’s store really comes as the last piece of the puzzle,” he said. “Her store is the one thing we needed. It’s the piece for the edgy, younger component to the shopping center. It rounds out the spectrum.”


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