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When developer Hugh Codding opened Montgomery Village in 1950, the east Santa Rosa shopping center stuck to the basics.

"He would have every dry cleaner and 'Mom-and-Pop' store," recalled his son, mall owner David Codding. "He had to do that after World War II. People didn't have any money.

"Over the years, we decided we'd do better if we attracted higher-end tenants," he said.

Today, the outdoor mall debuts its newest tenant, Boudin SF bakery, following a renovation project that spanned more than five years and cost $4 million.

The project, which began in 2007, reshaped the northern end of Montgomery Village. The row of shops, which previously faced passing traffic on Montgomery Drive, were inverted to face the rest of the shopping center to the south.

Several prominent tenants were moved to make room, including Copperfield's Books, Exchange Bank and Cold Stone Creamery.

A few doors down from Kaleidoscope Toys, owners Steve and Miquelle Hutchison opened a new children's shoe store, Hopscotch Shoes, on Magowan Drive.

"I think that Boudin is really going to bring a lot more families over to the center," Steve Hutchison said. "(Codding) was happy when we wanted to open a toy store to bring more families, and he was thrilled when we wanted to open a shoe store."

Making way for Boudin also required cleaning up some of the toxic waste left behind by a dry cleaner that used to occupy the site. That work will probably continue over the next five years, Codding estimated.

"I've been managing the Village for about 30 years, and it's a constant thing. Constant upgrading," Codding said. "And you do it when opportunities arise. You upgrade when you have a great tenant you want to bring in."

Codding has aimed to bring in upscale retailers, following the example of his stepmother Nell Codding, who opened a shop in Montgomery Village that sold fur coats, he said.

Codding dreams of luring Nordstrom, the upscale Seattle-based department store chain, to Montgomery Village. But it would require him to move out Lucky Supermarket, which anchors the southern end of the shopping center and occupies the only space large enough for a department store, Codding said.

"They (Lucky) have such a long lease and the rent is so cheap I think it's hopeless that I'll ever get them out," Codding said. "I offered to buy them out and they rarely return my phone calls."

The store manager at Lucky could not be reached for comment.

Commercial real estate brokers said it can be more expensive to rent a space at Montgomery Village than other shopping centers. In addition to the monthly lease and associated costs, shop owners pay a marketing fee that can be higher than other locations.

"You're going to pay more for your marketing, and you're going to pay more for your maintenance, and it may be worth it, because look at how pretty the flowers are," said Keegan & Coppin broker Annette Cooper, who owned a women's clothing store, Annette's, and was a tenant at Montgomery Village from 1987 to 1997.

"It's one of the only places where you can have a smaller store, and they have a really fighting chance of having a nice location," Cooper said. "At a mall you'd just be drowned."

The village has about 280,000 square feet of leasable area. Monthly rents vary, but average about $2.50 per square foot, Codding said. The monthly "triple net" cost, which generally includes taxes, insurance and maintenance, adds about 65 cents per square foot. Then there's an additional fee of about 5 to 7 percent of sales, which is used for marketing, Codding said.

"We collect about $400,000 a year in advertising from the merchants for the center, and I put in an additional $475,000 a year to promote the center, for concerts and so forth," Codding said. "It comes back. That's why we're more than 99 percent leased."

There's also the impact of ongoing construction.

"They're re-doing the sewer, and that has impacted the shops on Magowan," Hutchison said. "But that's going to be over in the next couple of weeks. We wish that maybe it could be finished tomorrow, that would be great."

More construction could be in the works. Codding is in talks with Tomatina, an Italian restaurant with five Bay Area locations, to open across the street from Boudin.

He's also still revising and pushing his wish to build an archway sign near Montgomery Village to commemorate his late father.

"I'm positive and hopeful, and I think the city is supportive," Codding said.

You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or cathy.bussewitz@pressdemocrat.com.