Mona Shield Payne / Special to In Business Las Vegas
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | 12:08 p.m.
Map of Forum Shops
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas
One of the first retailers in the Forum Shops at Caesars when it opened in 1992 has closed and is looking for another locale to open.
West of Santa Fe, which carries American Indian and southwest jewelry, belts, pottery and other gift items, shuttered its doors Sunday after the Forum Shops did not renew its lease for 5,600 square feet on three levels.
Because West of Santa Fe and the Forum Shops couldn’t agree on a proposal by the mall that the store move to another location, the store decided to close for now and wait for another space to open. It may even go to a different venue all together along the Strip, said Al Vendegna, owner and store president.
The departure of West of Santa Fe, even if it’s temporary, is among many changes taking place at the Forum Shops this year. In May, The Forum Shops announced H&M, the Swedish retailer, will open in the former FAO Schwarz location.
The Forum Shops is adding a P.J. Clark’s restaurant in the fall; a Max Brenner chocolate restaurant; Christian Audigier luxury street wear apparel; and True Religion Brand Jeans. Cartier, St. John and Burberry are expanding their stores.
Vendegna said his lease at the Forum Shops expired a year ago, but he was given an extension that has run out. The Forum Shops offered another spot with 1,200 square feet, but Vendegna said he declined because he wanted an area with higher foot traffic.
“The mall is continuously merchandising, and they are very good at what they do. They decided they would rather have a certain type of store in this location,” Vendegna said. “They want someone with a big designer name. I am just a single owner with one store.”
That area includes such jewelers as David Yurman, Bvlgari and Tiffany & Co, he said.
“I am understanding what they are doing, but I am very disappointed (I am closing),” Vendegna said. “I created the most unique store on the Las Vegas Strip. It feels like my home. I don’t blame the Forum Shops. I did have 18 great years at that location.”
Maureen Crampton, the director of mall marketing and business development, said the Forum Shops offered West of Santa Fe another location but declined, and hopes to find it another space.
Crampton said she doesn’t know all of the details behind the changes, but the mall prefers to cluster luxury brands and similar stores to create more chemistry among them.
Crampton said a lease for the vacated space is being negotiated for a luxury brand already in the Forum Shops. It is a similar use to existing specialty shops in that area, she said.
Vendegna said he’s closing on a high note. Profits were down during the recession but he was still profitable. May was strong with sales 40 percent higher than May 2009, he said.
Vendegna, a former dealer on the Strip, opened his store in February 1981 at Fashion Show Mall. It was called West of Dallas, a name that stuck until he moved to the Forum Shops. His interest in Indian jewelry dates back to 1964 when he said he spent his life savings of $1,500 at the time and jewelry and started selling it to hotels on the Strip.
Vendegna said he is moving items in his store to storage in Las Vegas and to his headquarters in Albuquerque until he is able to open another store in Las Vegas in six months to a year. He said he’s also planning on opening a store in Albuquerque.
“If the Forum Shops doesn’t find me a spot, I will find one,” Vendegna said. “I have developed a name nationwide. Hopefully, they will find a place for me at the Forum Shops.”
He said customers will be informed about the store’s future plans on its website, westofsantafe.com.