Easton has become a site for brands to develop, branch out

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Easton Town Center might not be a place where brands are born, but it has become a place where brands prove they can go big.

Names such as Homage and Mitchell's Ocean Club have used Easton locations as proof of concept. Condado Tacos, whose first location opened in 2014 in the Short North, opened its third location at Easton.

Brands from outside Ohio also have come to Easton to prove that they can thrive there and throughout the state. Among them: 7 For All Mankind, American Girl, Bink Davies, Burberry, fab'rik, Fado Irish Pub, Filson, Indochino, Legoland Discovery Center, Louis Vuitton, Marine Layer, SEE Eyewear, The Shade Store, Shinola, Smith & Wollensky and Tory Burch.

Of course, L Brands, whose headquarters is down the street from Easton and whose founder, Leslie H. Wexner, was the vision behind Easton, has used Easton as a test site for its Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works brands.

"Opening at Easton provided the awesome opportunity to bring Homage to more people and help test our retail concept on a larger and more traditional retail stage," said Elliott May, Homage's vice president of business development and licensing. "It was a great leap for us from our beloved, but unarguably small Short North, Brickel Alley location."

Homage opened its original store in 2010 in the Short North and its second location at Easton in 2012.

Lee Peterson, executive vice president at WD Partners, a Dublin retail-consulting company, said that opening a store or restaurant at Easton means more potential customers than other locations in Columbus or its metro area.

"You open at Easton, you just tripled the eyeballs on your storefront from say, the Short North or, the way it stands, any other mall here in Columbus," he said.

Yaromir Steiner, founder and CEO of Easton co-developer Steiner + Associates, always makes a point to have local stores in his developments, Peterson said.

"He really gets the tenant mix theory most of all: the more varied, the better.  Look at Polaris: row after row of specialty apparel. Very 1990s. Then look at Easton: movies, restaurants, local players, coffee shops, car dealers. ... and, all outdoors.  Just a much better environment."

Easton customers tend to be slightly more upscale than other shoppers and the mix of shoppers varies during the week, he said. Wealthy shoppers usually visit Easton during the week; tourists and younger shoppers mostly go during the day on weekends, and those on weekend evenings are more diverse, he said.

When Columbus restaurateur Cameron Mitchell opened Mitchell's Ocean Club, a high-end seafood restaurant and steakhouse, in 1999 at Easton, there was no intention of duplicating the concept.

"What Easton provided was a platform to showcase our food, beverage and genuine hospitality," said Mitch Miller, vice president of Ocean Prime. "Since Easton was a unique lifestyle center it drew many developers from around the country and that provided us with great exposure. We knew Easton was going to be a marquee development, in not only Columbus but the entire region, and we wanted to be part of it."

The restaurant ended up being the flagship for a concept that's been renamed Ocean Prime with more than a dozen locations from Beverly Hills, California, to Washington, D.C.

"Little did we know what a success story Mitchell’s Ocean Club would become," Miller said. "While the new version of Ocean Club is quite different from the original, it’s a 20-year-old property that currently is having its best year ever."