Pet Champion Out in Shopping Center Shake-up

Owner Sid Fanaroff

After months of uncertainty due to drawn out negotiations with shopping center managers, the line-up of tenants at the Albertsons-anchored Aliso Creek Shopping Center appears to have solidified.

As it now stands, Zpizza, which faced eviction from its longtime current location, will remain in the center but in a new location, that being vacated by Animal Crackers Pet Rescue and pet supply store.

Local support base notwithstanding, pet rescue founder Gina Kantzabedian is scheduled to clear out of her shop by the end of November, as her lease was not renewed. No new location has yet been announced.

Chase Bank, expanding throughout California, is expected to take over two shopping center storefronts at 30902 S. Coast Highway, that presently occupied by Zpizza and an adjacent space recently vacated by Walsh Flooring.

And Jeff Kash dispelled speculation that the United Studios of Self Defense, near Animal Crackers, might lose its spot as a byproduct of tenant shuffling elsewhere in the center. Kash confirmed recently renewing a five-year lease for the martial arts studio that he’s been operating for 10 years. “I love the town, I love my students, and I’m not going anywhere,” said Kash.

ZPizza founder Sid Fanarof signaled in April that the company’s flagship location in the center faced eviction after failing to finalize lease terms with the landlord.

Though the brand now boasts pizza shops in 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as two locations in Vietnam, three in Mexico and five in Saudi Arabia, it derives its ethos from the Laguna locale.  With organic flour and tomato sauce finished off with fresh toppings, Zpizza epitomizes healthy California cuisine on a crust, and on their web site they link the integrity of their ingredients to the fact that the business “was founded in the art colony of Laguna Beach, California, where creativity and craftsmanship have flourished for almost a century.”

Though Shelter Bay Retail Group, which manages the center, did push back Zpizza’s eviction date, the center was fully occupied at the time and Fanarof began vetting other locations in Laguna, with little luck.

Now that terms are nearly finalized, Fanarof faces a raft of new but welcome hurdles.

Zpizza will keep turning out sizzling pies until the end of October, but won’t get possession of the new location before December, said operations manager Summer Garango. City planning manager Ann Larson confirmed that Zpizza’s operators have already submitted paperwork for necessary restaurant improvements in a new location.

Even so, their best hope for reopening is next February, necessitating a four-month closure, said Garango.

Chase Bank’s plans for the center are also moving ahead. Shelter Bay chairman Stephen Robertson, confirmed that they have a signed lease, and the Design Review Board already approved plans for door and window modifications and the installation of an ATM machine out front, Larson said.

Chase also had a bid in for the former rug gallery space at 222 Ocean Ave., but they abandoned that pursuit, said Lee & Associates broker Ryan Harmon, the listing agent for the property. According to Larson, flood issues prompted that decision, but she noted that Chase seems intent on establishing a second Laguna Beach branch downtown since they continue to explore other options.

Unresolved in the tenant shakeup is a new home for Kantzabedian’s Animal Crackers rescue operation. The beloved animal savior whose staunch supporters raised $22,000 in a June fundraiser desperately needs an alternate location before the end of November. Anyone who has ideas for a relocation spot should stop in at Animal Crackers, 30822 S. Coast Highway, or give them a call at 949 499-1988.

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