Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Hi all! Here is the latest article on Sweet XO's project! Can't wait for everyone to see it in person!

New Agoura Hills Shop Aiming for the Sweet Spot

RETAIL: Developer Scott Ehrlich offering an eclectic mix for customers of newest project. By Angela Melero Monday, March 19, 2012
Store: SweetXO opens its doors April in a former Blockbuster Video store aiming to be a neighborhood hot spot.

Store: SweetXO opens its doors April in a former Blockbuster Video store aiming to be a neighborhood hot spot.

SweetXO, a new shop opening next month in Agoura Hills, will combine a yogurt bar, candy store, cupcake stand and gift shop under one roof.

The project’s developer, Scott Ehrlich of Woodland Hills-based InSite Development, is putting a modern twist on a neighborhood five-and-dime store in a bid to lure consumers of all ages to the store with an eclectic mix of sweet treats, apparel, accessories and gift items.

“We wanted to create a place where customers could hang out, shop and have fun,” Ehrlich said.

SweetXO, located at 5825 Kanan Road, will host its grand-opening event April 1. But the developer’s vision for the SweetXO brand extends far beyond Agoura Hills.

“Every step we take is with the intentions to go across the country,” Ehrlich said.

He and his team at InSite Development have a track record for tackling major projects. The company has helped to transform Lancaster’s downtown area into a city gathering place with high-end retail, entertainment, residential and office segments. And several of the businesses on Lancaster Boulevard will be supplying products for SweetXO.

Many small specialty retail stores — even those that have been Valley mainstays for decades — are struggling amid the challenging economy. Competition from big box retailers, coupled with more frugal consumer spending patterns, has put pressure on sales and forced many specialty stores out of business.

But Ehrlich is optimistic about SweetXO, and he has invested about $500,000 in launching the store on the market. “I think this will be a huge success right out the door,” he said.

Rae’s Cup+Cake Bakeshop will supply the cupcakes. And the store will feature a frozen yogurt station with 18 flavors and more than 500 toppings. The bulk candy sold in the store will serve as toppings for the yogurt bar, Ehrlich said.

Zipz Shoes, a tennis shoe line that offers exchangeable tops will sell some footwear. Nothing But Bling Boutique, a shop specializing in selling custom bedazzled apparel, also will be a local supplier for SweetXO. The shop will also include items such as Jonathan Adler stationary, Trina Turk pillows and colorful sleepwear from Mudpie — selected by veteran retail merchandiser Michelle Craig, who assisted with Ehrlich’s downtown Lancaster project.

Ehrlich said he and business partner Rick Gutierrez are using grassroots neighborhood marketing techniques to spread the word on their new project — partnering with local schools, charities and local establishments. SweetXO also is looking to hire about 20 employees, who will be cross-trained to sell food and merchandise.

SweetXO’s wide array of product offerings helps to differentiate it from the other specialty shops on the market, said Craig, whose clients have included retailers such as Anthropologie and Fred Segal.

Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, said there are three things retailers must take into consideration when launching a new retail concept. First, it must be viable and be in demand. It must also be the right match for its location and have a strong visual display that communicates the brand, she said.

Instead of opting for a spot near a high-end retailer or at local mall, Ehrlich said he selected the location at 5825 Kanan Road, the site of a former Blockbuster store, because it’s a high-traffic area close to a supermarket and Starbucks. The goal is to be a neighborhood hot spot, he said.

As SweetXO prepares for its grand-opening, Ehrlich is already planning another location. He’s scouting locations in Manhattan Beach and expects to open a second store by the end of the year.

As the concept grows, Ehrlich said he would prefer to keep the SweetXO brand a corporate-owned operation, though he’s building in some flexibility to allow for possible franchising.

Despite the challenging retail environment in recent years, Norins said there’s good news for retail entrepreneurs stepping onto the scene.

“There’s a lot more new location opportunities than there used to be,” she said.

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