Bethany Clough

River Park closures, moves and maybe a renter for the World Sports Cafe space

Shoppers walk into the Wet Seal location at River Park shopping center.
Shoppers walk into the Wet Seal location at River Park shopping center.

Changes are brewing at River Park, with some high-profile closures and moves happening that are – hopefully, eventually – paving the way for some new stores or restaurants.

Wet Seal

First, clothing store Wet Seal is closing.

The store that so many young women patronized during their teen years is closing its River Park store and all its other locations.

The going-out-of-business sale has already started, with most items marked down 20-40 percent earlier this week. The sale will likely take a while, with plenty of jeans, dresses and leggings left.

Like many mall-based teen clothing stores, the company has struggled as shoppers’ tastes change and new competitors steal customers away.

You may recall that Ann Taylor at River Park closed recently, but the more affordable Ann Taylor LOFT is still open. The closure was part of a broader plan, says River Park spokeswoman Tracy Kashian. “It’s us and them working together, saying we want to bring in new tenants, this is the space they want,” she says.

There’s a sort of musical chairs happening throughout River Park to free up space for expansions and new businesses.

Locally owned store Shabby Abby, which carries clothes for kids and their moms, including coordinating outfits, has moved to a spot near Macy’s west entrance. Ann Taylor and Shabby Abby, which were next door to each other, leave behind a big space for a new store, notes Kashian.

River Park is working on some “big tenants” who could go into that space, but nothing has been finalized yet, she says.

World Sports Cafe

It’s been three years since the World Sports Cafe closed at River Park and still no new business has moved in. River Park management appeared to be holding out for something specific – they never said what – but that could be changing.

We pulled away from it being a restaurant and we’re going back to it being a restaurant.

Tracy Kashian, River Park

See, River Park gutted the kitchen and appeared to be looking for a retailer to move in there, but it never happened. Now it’s “more than likely” that a restaurant will be the perfect fit for the space, Kashian says. The space is better suited for a local restauranteur than a chain, she says.

This may be the year we find out who moves in.

Claire’s, Bath & Body Works

Also getting a new home is Claire’s, the seller of jewelry and cell phone cases with glittery liquid in them that moves when you move the phone. The store is now in the main part of the center near IMAX where Kwirkworld used to be. The move creates two new spaces for future retailers on either side of Claire’s.

Bath & Body Works will take over the space that Claire’s left behind, adding more of its White Barn brand. White Barn will have its own entrance and connect with Bath & Body Works, likely opening in May.

White Barn now sells candles in most Bath & Body Works in scents like “endless weekend” and “fresh cut lilacs.” The expansion will allow it to carry more home items, such as room sprays and Wallflowers, a line of plug-in fragrance warmers in shapes like tulips or owls. Shoppers can pick from dozens of scents to put in them, ranging from mahogany teak wood to warm vanilla sugar.

More changes

Expect to see even more changes happening at River Park. Local boutique Robin & Co., now at 1419 M St. downtown, is moving to one of the small, new spaces created by enclosing part of the parking garage.

New furniture and other general sprucing up is underway. Chevy’s Fresh Mex, which closed in December, is still empty, but a Dick’s Sporting Goods is on the way this spring.

“Our goal is not to stay the same,” says Kashian. “We want to keep it fresh and keep what Fresno wants.”

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough