Some strip shopping centers along Mountain Road in Pasadena are beginning to resemble the western ghost towns of the 19th century.
The 17-store Lipin's Corner Plaza has 11 empty storefronts.
Pasadena Square has six unoccupied stores in its eight-space condominium-style mall.
Also, "For Lease" signs are hanging in two storefronts in 10-space Long Point Mall, where an entire second floor of business office space is vacant.
Mom-and-pop store owners are increasingly facing hard-to-match competition from giant outlet stores, national franchises and technological advances such as shopping by Internet.
"Business for small stores is getting tougher because they have major warehouses to compete against," said Ray Huff, who owns Mountain Road Shopping Center. "Most people go to the big chains. Right now, there are too many stores in the area."
"Everything we're used to is changing, and the services have to keep up to date," said Steven Ingate, a Champion Realtor in charge of finding tenants for Pasadena Square.
Some business leaders contend that there is no need for alarm, that more merchants will be needed to serve an area where houses are going up and more residents are moving in.
"So many people have moved into the area, and I think businesses here benefit from that," said Craig Snoops, board member and former president of Pasadena Business Association. "I think that there's plenty of opportunity here."
But the store vacancies have led some longtime merchants to consider moving.
Mike Anspach, owner of Comic Relief in Lipin's Corner Plaza for four years, said he could triple his profit if he were located in a shopping mall with brisker business.
"Most people assume that this is an empty shopping center, so why bother?" Anspach said. "Obviously, if I was in a shopping center with tons of people, I would be doing better."
Suzanne Galford, who has owned Suzanne's Florist Inc. in Lipin's for more than six years, said most of her business comes from phone calls and mail orders from customers.
"If I were to only depend on walk-in traffic, I would be dead in a week," she said.
Dietrich Paul, who has owned Long Point Bakery and Restaurant since 1991, said that he is considering relocating near Lake Shore Plaza to attract more customers.
"I had hoped that the [Mountain Road branch] library would give me a boost," said Paul, "but it hasn't changed a whole lot."
But County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond, a Democrat who represents Pasadena, says the vacancies are not a reliable indicator of business opportunities.
The number of empty stores is a third of what it was three years ago, Redmond said.
In addition, some shopping centers are making gains.
Mountain Road Plaza had only three merchants three years ago, but 10 of its 11 storefronts are filled now.
Lake Shore Commerce Center is full.
The former Jamesway retail store in Lake Shore Plaza is vacant, but officials of Rudder Management, which owns the mall, is negotiating with representatives of Safeway to move the supermarket in the plaza to the Jamesway site.
Another tenant could move into Safeway's space as early as the fall, a Rudder official said.
Pub Date: 2/07/97