After losing a slew of retailers in the past year, Coddingtown Mall is starting to show some tentative signs of life.

Three new merchants are opening this week, bringing to five the number of new businesses in the mall in the past several months.

"You're seeing a lot of things starting to happen now, which hopefully is a positive thing," said Laura Kozup, manager of the Santa Rosa Plaza and Coddingtown malls.

KidSpot Imagination Center, an indoor play center for children, is planning to open Thursday next to Big 5 Sporting Goods.

That same day, The Classic Duck, a gift store that left Coddingtown earlier this year for Montgomery Village, will open a temporary holiday store in its former location.

And on Friday, Mara Shepard Designer Jewelry is opening in the former location of longtime jewelry store Earthworks.

The three new businesses will join Max Caf? a small eatery opened in April by TacoMax owner Arturo Gonzalez, and Bollywood Beauty Day Spa, opened in June by cosmetology school graduate Kuljeet Kaur.

The new tenants say they believe the mall, for all its shortcomings, has turned the corner.

They say they are hopeful that new tenants will reenergize the mall. Whole Foods Market, the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, is scheduled to open its store at Coddingtown in the fall of 2010, Kozup said. And neighboring merchants hope the mall will even find a replacement for Gottschalks, which departed over the summer after going bankrupt.

"I really feel like we've gone over Niagra Falls and now we're paddling again," said Mara Shepard, a 30-year veteran of the jewelry business.

Shepard had managed Earthworks since 2006, and tried to buy the business from the retiring owner last year. But the deal fell through, and Shepard decided to move forward with opening her own store.

Codding Enterprises Vice President Lois Codding convinced Shepard to reopen in the mall, and Shepard is glad she did. She looked all over town and couldn't find a similarly sized store with as much parking.

"I love my store," Shepard said. "I have a huge jewelry store that I could not have had anywhere else in town."

The addition of KidSpot is a "little different use" than is typical for the mall, but will draw families with young children, Kozup said.

Danielle Silverstein purchased the Sebastopol business in December. She moved it to a rural area on Piner Road, only to be shut down by the county three weeks ago, Silverstein said.

The whole process has been "brutal," but the Codding family was tremendously supportive, she said. And the lease rates at the mall were very competitive, she said.

"I'd describe it as allowing this small business to actually have a chance," Silverstein said.

Staff Writer Kevin McCallum is at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.