The Village Square complex was a pretty quiet place a couple of years ago, when Westport Capital Partners bought it out of foreclosure.
“There were a lot of vacancies,” Westport principal Scott Chernoff said. The center at Sahara Avenue and Fort Apache Road was only 45 percent leased.
But there were indications of better things to come — at least as far as foodies were concerned. Bachi Burger, a popular fusion restaurant that had opened its flagship location in southeast Las Vegas in 2010, was in the construction process, poised to join existing businesses that included Archi’s Thai Cafe, Cold Stone Creamery and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
Today, visitors to the center can choose from a cornucopia that includes Thai food, two styles of Asian fusion, sushi, Mexican food, certified Neapolitan-style pizza, sandwiches, salads, smoothies and ice cream.
In the past two years, openings have included Avery’s Coffee, which sells coffee drinks and teas, sandwiches and pastries, and Rocket Fizz, a store that specializes in vintage soft drinks and candies.
A branch of Henderson landmark Settebello Pizzeria opened in October; Viva Mercado’s, from longtime local restaurateur Bobby Mercado, was reborn at Village Square in late November; and The Lion’s Tail Tavern, an offshoot of the Boca Park-based Embers, is expected to open soon.
“We’re very pleased with how it’s gone,” Chernoff said of the center that’s now 85 percent leased.
“I’m extremely excited about the growth,” said Bachi Burger co-owner Lorin Watada, whose Village Square location opened in April 2012.
Watada acknowledged that the upturn has been gradual.
“When we first got there, there weren’t a lot of businesses,” he said. “There’s been tremendous growth, and a variety of businesses. It’s been exciting for us. We hope it continues to expand.”
Dean Okada, a co-owner of 808 Tapas, which opened in September 2012, said he was drawn to the center by the fact that it was being renovated and by the demographics.
“We liked the fact that it’s more of a residential area,” Okada said. “We’re off the Strip. We’re here for the locals. As much as we love people who come off the Strip or find us online, I like to take care of the locals.”
Like Watada, he said they’ve been seeing steady growth.
“It’s been getting better every month, especially with all these new people coming in,” Okada said.
Brad Otton, co-owner of Settebello, said he started looking for a west valley location two or three years after his restaurant moved from Horizon Ridge Parkway to The District, both in Henderson, in 2008.
“Sometimes we spent a lot of time, sometimes we were just passively looking for a spot on the west side,” Otton said. “That seemed to be the No. 1 request we’d get from customers. We’ve been looking for quite a while, but had never been able to find the right mix and the right spot for it.”
Part of the draw for Settebello’s partners? Other restaurants.
“The restaurants that they already had — Archi’s and 808,” Otton said. “When Bachi opened up and they were doing well, we talked to them about their experience. It seemed like a good fit. A lot of our customers were probably going to that center anyway.”
Because, although it may seem counterintuitive, the owners said a lot of restaurants in one center actually is good for business.
“Competition is good for everybody,” Watada said. “If you have more variety — more of a mix — you’re just going to draw more people to the center.”
“When restaurants are clustered together, it just provides more energy,” Okada said. “They may go next door to Settebello and see 808 Tapas and say, ‘We have to try that next weekend.’ It just feeds off each other.”
Mercado, whose restaurant at Spring Mountain Road and Rainbow Boulevard had closed in December 2012 as a victim of the flagging economy, said the other tenants were a draw for him as well.
“The diversity of different restaurants brings more people into the area when they’re hungry,” Mercado said. “There’s a lot of different shops in the center, too. It helps us draw them in.”
Another plus, Mercado said, is the 18-screen Regal Cinemas.
“It’s a captive audience,” he said. “When people come to the theater, it’s such a great draw. Once they see the sign, they want to try it. After the movies, it’s a perfect fit.”
Watada said he welcomes even more competition in the center, for another reason.
“We’ve got to eat, too,” he said.
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at email@example.com or 702-383-0474.