published on February 24, 2016 - 12:44 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Coach handbag customers will now have to travel to Modesto to purchase the pricey purses in person.

That’s because two high-profile tenants at Fresno’s upscale Fig Garden Village — White House Black Market and Coach — both closed their doors for good at the end of January.

White House Black Market also operates a store in Fresno’s River Park, but the Fig Garden Coach store was that company’s only Fresno location.

The manager of Coach’s Modesto store said the Fresno closure occurred “because the company is downsizing.”

Coach actually announced in June 2014 the company planned to close 70 of its 350 North American stores, citing increasing pressure from aggressive upstart competitors like Michael Kors and Kate Spade.

The phone at the Fig Garden White House Black Market store was disconnected but an employee at the company’s River Park location confirmed that it’s Fig Garden outlet was closed permanently.

“We don’t know why,” she said. “They just closed it. But I’ve heard that the new owners raised the rents there and some other stores are going to be moving out too.”

New York-based Rouse Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, bought the shopping center in June 2015 for $106.1 million.

The 17-acre property at Palm and Shaw avenues in northwest Fresno was owned and operated for 11 years by Donahue Schriber, a private real estate investment trust company headquartered in Costa Mesa.

Rouse issued a statement late Thursday night regarding the closures:

“We anticipated the closings of Coach and White House Black Market during our due diligence and are in advanced negotiations with two high-quality retailers to take over these prime spaces. This provides us with an opportunity to further enhance Fig Garden Village’s leading merchandise mix and take advantage of the strong retail demand in the market. Tenant demand for this asset has been robust as proven by the recent opening of Lululemon. We look forward to sharing exciting news on these new tenants announcement in the near future.”

After purchasing Fig Garden, Rouse Chief Operating Officer Brian Harper called the shopping center “a special gem” and said the deal made sense for his company because “we think the Central Valley is undervalued compared to the rest of California.”

Harper predicted Rouse would “be able to unlock a lot of value” after taking over at Fig Garden and also told the Business Journal last year: “We are meticulous and very hands-on in the way we manage and market a property. I think the community is going to like us as a company. We listen. Our tenant’s and customer’s opinions matter.”

Some of the major tenants at the “lifestyle” shopping center include Whole Foods, Lululemon, Williams-Sonoma, J. Crew, Pottery Barn, Patrick James, La Boulangerie French Bakery & Cafe and Elbow Room Bar & Grill.

Erik Beermann, manager at Patrick James, said this week that he is “pretty happy” with the new shopping center owners.

“Nothing has really changed from my standpoint,” Beermann said. “The new owners have made some improvements and are maintaining the property really well.”

Beermann said that the lease at Patrick James runs “three or four more years,” adding that he had not heard anything about rent increases. “But I’m really busy here at the store,” he said. “I don’t have time to talk to the other tenants.”

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