Despite a churn of businesses along Las Olas Boulevard, longtime retailers are expanding their presence along Fort Lauderdale‘s premier commercial corridor.
Driven largely by the explosion of high rise condo and multifamily rental developments in and around downtown, retailers such as flower shops, jewelers and clothiers are moving into bigger spaces or expanding their existing stores.
This, despite a high-velocity turnover of retailers and restaurants along the boulevard, which for years has sought to cement its status as the business and social epicenter of Broward County.
Among the businesses expanding or on the move:
— Maus & Hoffman, a men’s clothing shop founded more than a half century ago. After 36 years at 800 Las Olas, the business moved slightly west to be next to the Riverside Hotel. Company vice president Tom Maus Jr. said the business outgrew the location.
“We spent a lot of time trying to find the next spot for the next chapter of Maus & Hoffman,” he said. ‘We now feel like we’re a member of the Riverside Hotel, which is a well-run operation.”
It helps to have an entrance adjacent to the heavily trafficked Riverside lobby in the back. And he’s looking forward to an uptick in customers generated by the high rise residences to the west such as the high-end Icon Las Olas rental tower and 100 Las Olas, which is just now showing space to would-be condo buyers.
The developers’ “live-downtown-and-work-downtown” pitch to buyers and renters “is the story behind Las Olas and the success of it and our success,” Maus said.
“The demographics for this store in this market are younger and more hip, if you will, and that feeds into all of the development downtown and Las Olas,” he said. “That’s been very good for us.”
— Tommy Bahama, the national seller of island themed leisure wear, is scheduled to move west from 1002 East Las Olas to a new office and retail building at 740 East Las Olas erected by The Las Olas Co., the district’s largest property owner. According to a sign in the doorway, the Seattle-based clothing chain is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020. It will also introduce the company’s Marlin Bar, which offers cocktails and light fare for shoppers.
A spokeswoman in Seattle did not return a call for comment. But Barron Leasing Co. owner Charlie Ladd, who is working with Tommy Bahama, confirmed Thursday that the move is being made. He also said he is interviewing three candidates to fill the space on Las Olas currently occupied by Tommy Bahama.
“It made sense to go with a significant expansion,” Ladd said. “Tommy Bahama is probably the most successful high-profile retailer on Las Olas.”
— Ann’s Florist Las Olas has morphed into Ann’s Florist & Coffee Bar, with a wine bar in the back. Owner Kenneth Shaw said new apartments and condos downtown are generating more foot traffic. So has the arrival of the Louie Bossie’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria diagonally across the street at 1032 Las Olas.
Founded in 1992, Ann’s Florist at 1001 East Las Olas opened its cafe 3½ years ago and set up the wine bar a year ago.
“We definitely know people who [live in the high rises] come here,” Shaw said. “That definitely has been great for us. We did the cafe to bring in people. It’s done what we’ve wanted — bring up a lot of foot traffic.”
Shaw also does a good business off site, supplying flowers for events at hotels such as the newly opened Dal Mar on U.S. 1 north of Las Olas.
The movement among the older retailers comes amid the arrival of new businesses that have not appeared on Las Olas before.
The most notable example is Capital One Cafe, which is close to opening at 801 East Las Olas. Capital One, which operates similar locations in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, hopes to attract retail banking customers who are amenable to doing business over laptops and coffee. A company spokeswoman said the cafe will open this summer.
Others opening their doors within the last year include Red Door Asian Bistro; The Balcony, a New Orleans-inspired tapas eatery; Ideal Image, a hair removal specialist; Casa Sensei, an Asian fusion restaurant; Del Frisco’s Grille; and ETARU, a Japanese restaurant in the Icon Las Olas rental tower.
A Piazza Italia opened in February at 904 E. Las Olas, after a reboot of the long-time Mango’s as a South-beach style club with Italian cuisine failed to take hold.
Not everyone is satisfied with the pace of leasing along the corridor, which has a number of vacancies in the 700 and 800 blocks. Most of the space is controlled by The Las Olas Co.
A new two-story commercial building built by the company in the 700 block on the south side of Las Olas is mostly empty, although the Tommy Bahama store is scheduled to take up residence in its 740 space. Ideal Image occupies the 762 space around the corner. On the second floor, which is designated as office space, more than 13,000 square feet is awaiting tenants.
In an interview Thursday, David Antebi, managing director of Unique Treasures, a collectibles shop that supplanted a Chico’s women’s clothing store at 833 E. Las Olas, said vacancies in the 800 block across from his business are not helping consumer traffic.
“The stores should not be vacant for years,” said Antebi, a former New York snowbird who set up shop in August 2016. “Fortunately for us, we have a good following.”
Last year, The Las Olas Co. president Michael Weymouth said he and other landlords are being selective about the tenants they choose. His company and two other property owners retained a Miami Beach marketing firm to attract tenants with national or regional profiles. Many of the new arrivals came as a result of those efforts.
Weymouth did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
People in the neighborhood
Nonetheless, residential landlords say they have the tenants who will stroll down the boulevard in search of places to eat and/or shop. And business owners report they are walking through their doors in increasing numbers.
John Moorman of the venerable Carroll’s Jewelers said he’s seeing increased traffic. The family-run business has been been buying, selling and repairing jewelry on the boulevard since 1960. His son, Luke, is president of the Las Olas Association. His grandfather, who knew Ivy Stranahan, widow of Fort Lauderdale founder Frank Stranahan, promoted the boulevard by helping to start the association, the art festival and the Christmas celebrations that bear the street’s name.
“They’re learning to come here,” Moorman said of Las Olas residents. “We’re getting a whole lot of tourists.”
Patrick Campbell, a vice president with Related Group, which built the 49-story Icon Las Olas tower, said his company’s property is “above 95 percent leased.”
He said he likes the commercial prospects along Las Olas. At one point, he said, Related was “chasing” Capital One as a potential tenant for the Icon tower but was beaten to the punch.
“When we first built the Icon we said Fort Lauderdale is evolving into a 24-hour city,” Campbell said. “Everything is working to support a true downtown that we like to see.”