Avon Commons has the right mix

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Tracy (Orr) Abfall shops at Target in Avon Commons

International House of Pancakes coming to Avon Commons

Heinen's plans May 15, 2003, opening

PLAYmatters is open at Avon Commons

SHOPPING AROUND from The Morning Journal, 12-1-01

``Avon Commons is everyone's new favorite place to shop. It's brand new, conveniently located and has just the right mix of stores so you can get some serious shopping done, satisfy your kids and also have a little fun.

The Commons, which opened in March, is the open-air, separate-entrance type of shopping center and its main anchor stores right now are Kohl's and Target.

In case you're not familiar with Kohl's, a spokesman called it a ''hybrid'' kind of department store. It carries name-brand clothes and items for your home -- sort of like Penney's and Sears, but it has centralized cashiers -- which means check-out lines at the door like a discount store.

And the No. 1 reason to shop at Kohl's: carts, really cool carts actually. Look for them by the door, among the strollers, which they look a lot like. They have baby buggy wheels and push bar, but instead of a seat, they have two deep mesh bags held up by a metal frame. I threw off my heavy coat and gratefully unloaded my aching armful of clothes.

The big deal for your kids at Avon Commons is a big Old Navy. What a relief not to have to drive so far anymore! Plus the kids will like the Claire's and Payless Shoe Source.

Other stores at the Commons include Michaels for crafts, Linens-N-Things, a small Bath and Body Works and Marshall's, which is a sister store to T J Maxx ...

Developer Mitchell Schneider ... did a good job designing the shopping center ... A low curved brick wall keeps the signage subtle and lots of field stones lend a natural look.

The most important feature is the landscaping, which you can see Schneider didn't skimp on. The whole place is kind of hilly -- it hasn't been flattened into asphalt misery -- and curvy flower beds are raised and planted with tall decorative grasses to minimize the view of the vast parking areas.

Paved footpaths lead down from one shopping area through about six acres of green space, which Mitchell calls a festival market area and which will be home to the annual Avon Arts Festival.

There's even a white wooden gazebo surrounded by a lawn that angles up amphitheater-style for summer music events. Mitchell has city approval for a three-restaurant park ... [adjacent] to the east, but he isn't ready at this time to announce any more new openings.

One really fun place to shop at Avon Commons that's new to me is World Market, something like a large Pier One with food. Home decorating items from around the world are on display in a warehouse kind of setting. There are floor pillows, carved wooden wall hangings, baskets, dining tables and chairs, wine glasses and dinner dishes.

I saw a leathery-looking terra cotta footed bowl from Bali for $19.99 and bamboo and silk lantern lamps for $20 to $60. The imported foil-wrapped Christmas candy looked festive, and I browsed through rows of bottled wine while listening to piped-in Christmas carols from around the globe (available near the check-out counter.)

The newest store at Avon Commons (it opened this past week) is Men's Wearhouse -- you know owner George Zimmer's TV spot, ''You'll lo-ove the way you look.'' The store carries name-brand clothes -- Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Chaps -- at 20 to 30 percent off department store prices.

There's also a Dress Barn, which sounds like a discount house but actually features nice quality, traditional-styled clothing at decent prices. There are women's sizes on one side and regular sizes 4 to 16 on the other...

In case that's still not enough for you, add Alvin Jewelers, Famous Footwear, Radio Shack and a Motherhood Maternity shop. When you're ready for a break, you can rest your weary self in front of the fireplace at Caribou Coffee.

The only thing missing at the moment at Avon Commons is a place to eat. But that will change after the start of the new year with the opening of Panera Bread, a dine-in bakery also serving sandwiches, soup and salad. Get a loaf of specialty bread or muffins to take home for supper, or have your supper there. Panera will be open until 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on weekends.

To get to Avon Commons, exit I-90 at SR 83 heading south. At the first intersection (where the CVS Pharmacy is), turn left or east onto SR 254, which is Detroit Road in Avon. The shopping center is less than a quarter of a mile on the left.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-27-01, By ANDREA MIGHT, Morning Journal Writer

``Shoppers storm area stores for bargains

ELYRIA -- Hundreds of shoppers hit area stores yesterday looking for post-holiday sales and even getting ready for next Christmas.

Customers left the Target at Avon Commons with loads of holiday merchandise.

''People are leaving with shopping carts of stuff, sometimes two shopping carts,'' said Paul Thornton, the store's assistant manager. ''Everything went half off today.''

Orr
Tracy (Orr) Abfall pushes her son, Dalton, 2, of Avon, out of the Avon Commons Target store yesterday. (PAUL WALSH, Morning Journal Photo)

Target opened at 7 a.m. yesterday, one hour early, to accommodate bargain hunters as well as those returning or exchanging gifts. However, many of the customers were not returning items, but instead were adding to their pile of Christmas gifts and preparing for next year.

''We don't return or exchange, we just come to buy,'' said Debbie Gold, Parkersburg, W. Va., who was shopping with her sister, Lori Stenger of North Olmsted.

Thornton said Target had a successful holiday shopping season.

''I was looking at the numbers this morning and I said "where's the recession?''' he said.

The Elyria Wal-Mart got its fair share of shoppers before Dec. 25 and people continued to buy after Christmas, according to Chris Riedinger, the store's co-manager ...

Riedinger attributed Wal-Mart's success to the slumping economy. In fact, he said this year's shopping season was much better than last year's ...

Craig DeFilippo, Elyria, was shopping at the Men's Wearhouse at Avon Commons with his parents, Cindy and Len, for a suit, shoes and belt to prepare himself for job interviews that he hopes to start next quarter.

He is a senior marketing major at Ohio State University and although he said he would have shopped anyway, he said the after-Christmas sale helped a lot.

Debbie Orr [Moon Rd., Avon] was shopping at Target for outdoor Christmas lights and decorations with her daughter and grandson.

She left with two shopping carts full of outdoor lights, a light-up snowman lawn decoration and wrapping paper. She said everything will be put away and saved for next Christmas.

Orr said they shopped yesterday looking especially for sales.

''I don't have to pay top (prices) next year,'' she said.

Barb Palmer, of Huron, was at Target with her sister, Kim Myers, also of Huron and her mom, Nancy Trautman, of Sandusky. Palmer said they shopped yesterday to ''check out the Christmas stuff.''

Debbie Gold's cart also was loaded up with post-holiday sale items. She bought wrapping paper and holiday dishes. Gold said there are no Target stores near her hometown, so she makes sure to shop with her sister [Lori Stenger of North Olmsted] in Avon after the holidays ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 5-8-02, By Mike Ferrari

``International House of Pancakes set for Avon Commons

AVON -- For those local residents who faithfully shop at Avon Commons, and who have frequently asked questions about when restaurant businesses were going to be coming, the first answer has arrived.

The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) recently signed an agreement with First Interstate to begin the planning and development stages of the project.

According to First Interstate President Mitchell Schneider, the pair signed an agreement to be located adjacent to Panera Bread near the west entrance of the Commons.

Both First Interstate and IHOP representatives are expected to be in front of planning commission on May 15 to present formal architectural and site layout plans for the commission's consideration.

According to Schneider, he is expecting the approval from planning commission to go smoothly, and without any unknown delays, the restaurant could break ground this summer.

The target opening date, though vague was noted by Schneider as sometime before the end of the year.

The new facility will be an approximately 4,300 square-feet building and will not be open 24-hours a day ...

Schneider said he is pleased with the agreement to bring IHOP to the Commons, and noted that residents' concerns about obtaining restaurants have been heard.

"We are pleased that IHOP is coming to Avon Commons as another choice for residents and shoppers of Avon Commons," Schneider said. "We are looking forward to additional restaurants coming in the very near future also..." ''

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE PRESS, 10-16-02, By Mike Ferrari

``Heinen's submits plans to planning commission, optimistic about May 15 opening

AVON -- If everything goes as planned, Avon residents will not have to cross a city line to conduct their grocery shopping after May 15, 2003.

Heinen's Fine Foods grocery store has formally submitted plans to city planning commission and will be presenting the first set of plans tonight at a public meeting at Avon City Hall.

The group has already officially "broken ground" at the Avon Commons location and according to co-owner/operator Tom Heinen, if construction stays on schedule, the shell of the building will be complete prior to the winter months ...

This will only be the fifteenth Heinen's location in the Ohio area and according to Heinen, it is the first time the group agreed to be part of a "power center" development.

Heinen said because Avon Commons was being built as a destination retail location, coupled with the fact that grocery stores were limited in the Avon area, the decision to be part of Avon Commons was an easy one.

The franchise started in 1929 as a butcher shop and in 1933 they built their first grocery store in Shaker Heights where they offered more produce to complement their meat products.

The family owned business has been passed down to three different generations. Tom's grandfather Joe started the first openings of different Heinen's location in greater Cleveland and his father, Jack and uncles Joe and Paul continued the tradition after the first location was open in 1933. Tom and Jeff Heinen have totally controlled the franchise since 1994 when their father passed away.

Heinen said the reason for the success of the franchise is due to the careful selection of communities in which they expand. "Our real strength is with our people," Heinen said. "We have a great commitment to the community and try to provide a caring family environment in our stores. We don't necessarily believe that you have to be the biggest to be the best."

Heinen's has other nearby locations in Bay Village and Rocky River, both of which were built close to three decades ago. Heinen said his reasons for choosing Avon as a new location came down to the growth potential of the city.

"When you are dealing in a zero percent growth pocket you have to find the growth where you can," Heinen said. "This city is clearly one of the fastest growing areas in greater Cleveland. We want to build a relationship with the people of Avon."

The co-owner/operator also noted that he is excited about the potential his store has in the area and is pleased about the project finally becoming a reality.

"Anytime you invest in a new store, if you are not excited you are doing something wrong," Heinen said.

The store will offer a bakery, café, a health food area called "Planet Source," a prepared food area, deli and meat department.

Heinen said his franchises take pride in the prepared food and quality of their meat products they offer to their customers. He also noted that despite preconceived notions that Heinen's prices are higher than their competitors, he encourages potential shoppers to compare prices and is confident about customers being surprised at the comparison.

He said that Heinen's only deals with "hand-selected" butchers and farmers, which leads to a high-quality, consistent taste for all of their meats and perishables.

"I'm hopeful the community will embrace us so we can get off to a good start," Heinen said.''

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NEWS ARTICLE The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-6-02, By Dan Harkins

``At new store, it's playtime all the time

AVON -- Like most, Michael Ziegenhagen loved toys as a child. The only difference is that he never stopped.

toy
Employee Carol Egna sits on the floor of PLAYmatters, the new toy store opening in Avon Commons, with employee Linda Kotowaki in a Madeline costume. GENE KREBS/CHRONICLE

"The real truth is, I was a toy-deprived child," the 50-year-old said. "I was. My sister -- she was 12 years older than I -- she even confirms that. And I think as an adult the love for toys, the love of good toys, really came through because of it." ...

After growing up with a lackluster toy box in Milwaukee, he was off to Europe, where he was educated in France, started a family in Switzerland and grew to see that toys are serious business overseas.

Then Ziegenhagen came back to plant roots in the city where his wife hails from, Cleveland. After working in product development for a few Fortune 500 companies, it was time to start filling in that toy box on a grand scale.

In Europe, he said toys have an heirloom quality lacking in the offerings here at home ...

Ziegenhagen looks for toys from all over the world -- Asia, Europe, America -- that do more than entertain.

"Play is a child's work, and toys are the tools for learning," he said. "I'm constantly looking for things that prepare a child's mind for life -- that's what toys should do."

One example, he said, is the Brio wooden train set he imports from Sweden. He said children can build a different route every time.

"You put a child into a play experience, and they begin to fantasize and dream and pretend, he said. So as a little boy or girl is pushing that train down the track and you're hearing choo, choo, their imaginative powers are really inside that train."

The store in Avon Commons is a kaleidoscope of colors, from ceiling to floor. Like in his other stores, Ziegenhagen aims to create a neighborhood feel, complete with storytelling and puppet shows.

From 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday [11-9-02], human-size versions of child stars Madeline and Clifford the Big Red Dog will be on hand, enticing the child in all of us.''

Contact Dan Harkins at dharkins@chronicletelegram.com.

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