San Jose’s Valley Fair mall tops 100 new merchants

SAN JOSE — Westfield Valley Fair mall has reached an encouraging milestone: The huge retail center in San Jose has gained 100 new merchants since a wide-ranging, billion-dollar revamp and expansion two years ago.

The upswing in merchants — amid an array of economic woes and uncertainties in Silicon Valley and the United States more broadly — suggests that Valley Fair has recuperated from coronavirus-linked maladies.

“This would be monumental at any time,” Sue Newsom, senior general manager of Westfield Valley Fair, said of the mall’s achievement of 100 new retailers over the last couple of years. “We have been able to find amazing retailers to join the property and have them open during and right after a pandemic.”

Just before the outbreak of the  deadly virus, Valley Fair put the finishing touches on a dramatic $1.1 billion expansion and revamp of the mall.

Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, interior, grand court. Westfield Valley Fair mall has reached an encouraging milestone: The huge retail center in San Jose has gained 100 new merchants since a wide-ranging billion-dollar revamp and expansion two years ago. (Westfield Valley Fair/Renee Cascia)

In early 2020, Valley Fair executives showed off the brand-new retail, restaurant and entertainment complex, whose features included a grand plaza that connected the mall’s interior with exterior spaces and gathering areas.

Soon after, the coronavirus erupted and government and local officials imposed wide-ranging business shutdowns to help combat the spread of the bug. And that included a halt to in-person visits to shops and restaurants.

But it appears Valley Fair has managed to navigate past the bulk of the economic pitfalls.

“We have cultivated a great mix of retailers. These include Eataly and Bowlero,” Newsom said. “The IKON movie theater is a big draw.”

Eataly is an Italian food hall and marketplace that’s slated to open in the next few months and would be the first in Northern California. Bowlero is a bowling, dining and nightlife venue that includes an arcade.

The two-story iChina anchors the western end of Valley Fair's Restaurant Collection, built around an open-air plaza at the Santa Clara center. (Photo by Renee Cascia for iChina/Westfield Valley Fair)
iChina restaurant at Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose. (Westfield Valley Fair/Renee Cascia)

The post-COVID Valley Fair is no longer a traditional mall featuring aisles of retailers and a food court, all primarily indoors.

Valley Fair now is an experience-driven center crafted for the new mall reality. And it’s more than the merchant mix. The layout of the mall also reflects what’s required for retail centers to prosper in a COVID-altered world. Live music is offered on weekends.

“This is an indoor mall where you do not feel you are indoors,” Newsom said. “By adding the plaza, we have brought the outdoors inside the mall.”

Sales at Westfield Valley Fair now exceed levels before the onset of the coronavirus, mall executives say.

“We are looking forward to continuing this momentum with a myriad of new and upcoming shopping, dining, and entertainment options,” Newsom said.

Plaza, dining and shopping areas, exterior, at San Jose's Westfield Valley Fair mall. (Westfield Valley Fair/Renee Cascia)
Plaza, dining and shopping areas, exterior, at San Jose’s Westfield Valley Fair mall. (Westfield Valley Fair/Renee Cascia)

Eataly may be a case in point. The food marketplace aims to create a unique experience that revolves around Italian cuisine, according to Raffaele Piarulli, head of Eataly in North America. Piarulli provided this perspective during an April interview with this news organization.

“We will have two massive restaurants, an entire market, fresh food counter, seafood counter, cheese selections, pasta selections,” Piarulli said. “You will have this feeling of being surrounded by a ton of food, both quantity and quality.”

The first floor of Eataly will offer customers grab-and-go fare that includes salads, gelatos and coffee.

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