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After two decades, some inaugural Easton businesses still thriving

In its 20-year history, Easton has built a reputation as an upscale destination that draws shoppers from hundreds of miles away.

The 38 stores and offices that have been at Easton from day one, however, are places that shoppers might find at most malls or strip centers.

The list includes Auntie Anne's, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Chico's, Eddie Bauer, Foot Locker, Gap, Lids and Pottery Barn.

Some of the survivors, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, make sense. They are brands that either are or were once owned by L Brands, one of Easton's developers. The retailer's corporate offices are close by.

Though Easton's survivors might be bread-and-butter mall chains, the fact that they have been at Easton for its entire existence is a reflection of Easton's draw, said Lee Peterson, executive vice president at WD Partners, a Dublin retail consulting company.

Shoppers who want to go to a particular store or restaurant also might try out another business as well, he said.

"You may want to go to Bath & Body Works and then go to Northstar (Cafe) afterward," he said.

These stores likely outperform their peers at other locations, he said.

"If there was one last store that they would have in Columbus, it would be at Easton because of the tenant mix," Peterson said.

Brian Joyce, owner of one of the original Easton stores, a Tinder Box franchise that sells cigars, tobacco, pipes and other smokers' accessories, said that after he graduated from college he and his sister wanted to start a business.

"We were looking around and someone said, 'Hey, there is a new place called Easton. They are going to break ground really soon,' " Joyce said.

They met with Easton officials and did research of possible locations across Ohio.

"It was really easy to see their plans here ... We knew it wouldn't be a typical mall," he said.

The business has benefited from its location near the Hilton hotel, he said.

"We're very lucky," he said. "We get a lot of walk-in traffic."

Experience Columbus has a visitors center nearby that has been around since Easton opened.

"They reached out to us. We really believe in a concept of a lifestyle center that would be a draw for Columbus and out-of-town visitors," said Kari Kauffman, vice president of tourism for Experience Columbus. "It's allowed us to share with people already at Easton and having a great experience (that there are) other things to do."

The visitors center at Easton has been the busiest of three in central Ohio, she said. Last year, the center at Easton helped 46,905 visitors.

The center's goal is to get visitors to check out more of Columbus when they're done dining and shopping at Easton, she said.

"Hopefully, they'll spend more money and more time," she said.