Friday, March 31, 2006

Nut Tree Growing Tenants

Nut Tree Growing Tenants
Businesses Line up for Occupancy at Revamped Site of Former Vacaville Landmark.
By Tom Hall and Amanda Janis/Staff Writers

A more detailed picture of Vacaville's revamped Nut Tree is coming into focus as a scores of businesses line up for tenancy.

Old Navy, Amici's East Coast Pizzeria and Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill independently have confirmed leasing agreements for the site, joining a number of others that have either signed on or are in negotiations.

Peter Cooperstein, president of San Mateo-based Amici's, confirmed via e-mail that the small chain has signed an agreement to open a 3,500-square-foot, 70-seat location, scheduled to open in late 2006.

Christy Geiling, San Diego-based Rubio's marketing director, confirmed that the chain has reached an agreement with commercial developer Westrust, and likely will open in late 2006.

A representative for clothing retailer Old Navy said plans are in place for a 19,000-square-foot store at the Nut Tree, with a tentative opening date of June 29. It's not known whether the new shop would affect Vacaville's existing Old Navy across Interstate 80.

Fairfield-based Jelly Belly Candy Co. also will open shop at the Nut Tree, said Tommi Holt, a representative for the company.

Holt said a letter of intent for a 1,400-square-foot space has been signed by the parties. Jelly Belly's shop at the Vacaville Premium Outlets will remain open, she added.

Five anchor tenants - national retailers Borders, Best Buy, Sport Chalet, HomeGoods and PetSmart - were announced at a groundbreaking in August.

Westrust officials refused to comment on additional lessees Thursday saying they would announce tenants as agreements are finalized.

But rampant speculation coupled with announcements from government officials have caused numerous names to pop up as potential tenants.

At Wednesday morning's "State of the City" address to the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, City Manager David Van Kirk reeled off a list of unofficial tenants, some of whom since have confirmed negotiations with Westrust.

John Pickerel, owner of the Buckhorn Steak and Roadhouse in Winters, said Thursday the Buckhorn Restaurant Group is in negotiations to open a quick-service Buckhorn Grill at the Nut Tree.

"Nothing is signed," he said, though he noted, "they very much want us."

The group owns seven Buckhorn Grills around Northern California, which serve gourmet sandwiches, chicken and entree salads.

"That's the concept that we're growing," Pickerel said.

Other businesses Van Kirk listed include Beverages and More, Mariani Dried Fruits, Shari's Berries, Stonehouse California Olive Oil Company, Marin French Cheese Co. and Fenton's Creamery.

A representative for Fenton's - a Bay Area-based ice cream maker - confirmed Wednesday that negotiations with Westrust were ongoing.

A manager with Marin French Cheese Co., however, said he was unaware of plans to open at the Nut Tree.

Officials with Beverages and More, Mariani, Stonehouse and Shari's Berries could not be reached for comment.

Van Kirk also announced Wednesday that Westrust is in talks with PF Chang's China Bistro, though the upscale chain - whose policy is not to comment until leases are signed - said nothing at the Nut Tree is currently on its development calendar.

A long list of other restaurants and food shops are rumored to be in negotiations.

A representative with Famous Dave's Legendary Barbecue said Wednesday that a deal is in the works.

Other rumored possible tenants include Elephant Bar and Grill, Athenian Bar and Grill, Jamba Juice and Ikeda's Produce Market. Those companies were all unable to be reached for comment.

The original Nut Tree, founded in 1921 by Edwin and Helen Harbison Power as a fruit stand on the north side of the old Lincoln Highway, was closed in 1996 amid financial troubles. The city purchased the land several years ago, and in 2005 sold the property to Nut Tree Associates, which consists of Westrust along with the project's master developer Snell and Co. and financial backer Rockwood Capital.

The first phase of the project includes 30 acres of retail and restaurant space, dubbed the Nut Tree Village.

The centerpiece of Nut Tree Village will be the Market Pavillion where an atmosphere akin to that of San Francisco's Ferry Building is envisioned. Westrust has said that the open-air, indoor/outdoor complex will have an emphasis on seasonal and speciality foods, as well as products from local artisans, that will be sold in marketplace stalls ranging from 300 to 1,500 square feet.

Phase one also includes a 3.7-acre family park being developed by Snell and Co. The park, which will include family oriented recreation features as well as a refurbished Nut Tree Railroad line, is scheduled to open in the late summer.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Amanda Janis can be reached at

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