Changes are happening at north Napa’s Bel-Aire Plaza. The popular hangout for shoppers, diners, and coffee aficionados is welcoming new neighbors and making room for new digs for some of the regulars.
Copperfield’s Books will be moving a short distance from its old location to adjacent to Whole Foods. Pier 1 Imports will take over Copperfield’s old location. Umpqua Bank at the south end of the center will be downsizing, shifting its business to new construction behind its now home and next door to Villa Corona restaurant.
Casey’s Hallmark, which closed earlier this year, is still vacant.
Bel-Aire Plaza is managed by Main Street Properties in Lafayette.
The firm is not ready to discuss potential renters at the center, according to Holland Tromblee, Main Street Properties marketing director.
Over the years Bel-Aire Plaza has developed from a wallflower strip mall to a bustling shopping center and meeting place for friends to sip coffee, grab a bite to eat, play music and visit.
Peet’s Coffee, the snack area in Whole Foods and the outside tables are dotted with people tapping away on their laptops.
“This center has really changed. I used to walk to Ralph’s market and pick up some groceries,” said Fred White. “You didn’t see a lot of people like you do now. I like it. It’s fun just to come here get a coffee and people watch.”
Lottie Samuels isn’t quite as enthusiastic.
“I liked it better when it was more quiet. I miss the old Montgomery Wards. I shopped there a lot,” she said. “Now we got all these high-fluting stores. I like simple. I can make a cup of coffee at home for almost nothing. Why should I spend almost $5 for one of those fancy things. Don’t need it.”
Other shoppers at Bel-Aire Plaza expressed interest in seeing even more new stores open up shop in the center.
“We need, I mean really need, some type of electronic store ... like Good Guys,” Tom Brewer said. “We don’t have anything like that. I have to go to Fairfield or Vallejo.”
As far as new businesses in the Plaza, the public’s suggestions vary.
“We need a sporting goods store other than Big Five Sporting,” said Jesus Chavez. “Big Five doesn’t have a very big selection. If you want a good selection you have to go out of town.”
Cam Cameron would also like to see a sporting goods store in the center.
“Other than Big Five, which has a limited inventory, and Sweeny’s on the other end of town, Napa doesn’t have such a store,” he said, adding, “If I could choose just one thing I would like to see come to Bel-Aire, it would be more parking.”
Joanne Duncan lives only blocks from Bel-Aire Plaza.
“I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years and really seen this shopping center change. There used to be nothing where Orchard Supply and Target is. At one time there was a bowling alley here,” she said. “I don’t think we need any more businesses. I’m happy with the way things are. But I wouldn’t be upset if they made the parking better.”