By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Over the years, Jay Kerner has visited Lake Arrowhead and Lake Arrowhead Village on multiple occasions for a variety of reasons.
The president and CEO of U.S. Realty Partners – the new owners of the Village – said he always found the area to be beautiful.
“We had been pursuing Lake Arrowhead Village for two years,” Kerner said, “even when it wasn’t on the market.” At one time, he noted, the Village was up for sale. “We thought it was interesting but the timing wasn’t right for us.”
Kerner happened to be in the area sometime after that with his youngest daughter, who was participating in a soccer tournament. “We decided to have breakfast at Belgian Waffle Works during a long break.” It was then he and his company started to actively pursue the purchase of the Village. “The prior ownership took a while to get on board,” Kerner said.
They came to an agreement and closed escrow in December 2019.
The Village, Kerner said, “is basically the downtown of Lake Arrowhead. It’s a beautiful locale – the dominant spot.”
He likes the mix of current tenants – some of whom he has met – and welcomes the opportunity to fill the vacancies “and bring in tenants we hope will be exciting for the community and cater to tourists as well. There needs to be a good balance between the two.”
Balance is a word Kerner uses a lot when talking about the Village. “It’s a tricky balance,” he noted. “The key is sales and what volume folks can do to pay their employees, in light of increasing wages.
“It’s important to have shops that are frequented. We’re studying what we can bring in to drive business to the Village. A lot has to do with tenant mix,” Kerner added.
“We don’t want people to come to just one store. We want to have people come for multiple reasons – have lunch, then stop in at retailers within the property. That is the perfect world of shopping centers.”
Kerner knows what he is talking about as U.S. Realty Partners currently owns 15 shopping centers in California, Washington and Hawaii.
The trick, he acknowledged, is how to get the retailer you want to the location. “You have to get them excited about it,” Kerner said. “Part of our marketing will be how to attract those businesses and have the community support them.”
The mix of tenants has to be interesting and unique. “You don’t want it to be duplicative,” he said.
Kerner has heard the argument about Lake Arrowhead not meeting the demographic requirements for certain retailers. “Sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort to get purveyors,” he said. “Initially, they say no but you show them that other tenants are doing well.
“It’s a dance as far as putting those pieces together, a bit like a puzzle.”
Another balancing act is bringing in shops that offer unique and cool experiences, Kerner said, while also offering the retail shops and services that people need.
U.S. Realty Partners is in the process of getting deferred maintenance lined up to be completed. “We’ll start with the low-hanging fruit,” Kerner said. “Things that can be done efficiently and quickly and don’t require special permits. Things we can do today to show folks we’re making a difference.”
Kerner has heard there is a segment of the mountain population that finds no reason to visit Lake Arrowhead Village. “We would like to find a way to attract them for their benefit and ours,” he said.
They plan to continue the summer concert series and are looking at what else they might add. Perhaps, Kerner said, they will bring in some other musical folks who would appeal to a slightly different crowd. Perhaps there are things they can do in different parts of the day to bring in people who are not currently coming to the Village.
U.S. Realty Partners chose JLL Management to oversee the day-to-day operation of the Village. General Manager Erin Willey is meeting with the current tenants on a rotating basis, Kerner said. He and his company give direction as to goals and objectives but Willey and her team make sure the Village is operating well, that it’s clean, that the tenants’ needs are taken care of.
“The marketing program is a subset of that,” Kerner said, adding that it is in the very capable hands of Vickie Goodglick, who was asked to join the new team.
U.S. Realty Partners is still working on the leasing arm of the project. “We’re careful about who we choose to do the leasing for us,” he said. “We want to make sure they are on the same page with us as far as vision. We need to have the right team and the right amount of effort.
“At the end of the day, everything comes back to us – how we want it run, our goals.
“We are very excited about this,” Kerner noted. “We love Lake Arrowhead and the community and want to be involved. We want the people who work on our team to be involved. We want to be a good member of the community.”
He asks for everyone’s patience as they “get up to speed. We are putting together a comprehensive plan that we can execute efficiently,” Kerner said.
Meanwhile, he welcomes suggestions as to shops folks would like to see in the Village and activities they would like to participate in. Send those suggestions to us at The Alpine Mountaineer ([email protected]) and we’ll pass them along.