New stores open at University Student Union

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As part of a new effort to bring more off-campus vendors directly to students in the University Student Union, two new stores will be open for business this fall.

Mirella Nazarian, graduate student in theatre, is general manager of the four-month-old Digital +1 Hour Photo store. Nazarian and her father, Tony Nazarian, take turns working at the store, but they hope to hire new employees once the fall semester begins.

The photo store offers an assortment of services, such as reprints, enlargements and graduation portraits. Mirella Nazarian said business is slow, but attributes it to the low number of students that attended CSUN during the summer.

She emphasized that the store is in the USU to serve students taking photography classes, and to provide them with photography accessories at lower prices.

“We let the students drive a Mercedes for the price of a Toyota. There’s no use going anywhere else,” Tony Nazarian said about the prices offered at his photo store.

The Nazarians also have a photo store in Moorpark, which has been open for 15 years. Mirella Nazarian and mother and father also take turns working at the Moorpark store. This is the first time their store has been located on a college campus.

“It differs from being located elsewhere because we are solely dependent on the students, staff and faculty,” Mirella Nazarian said.

Tony Nazarian added that the atmosphere of the college campus makes it more difficult for them to get customers. He said they need help from the university to become better advertised to students.

“The only problem on this campus is communication,” he said.

The Nazarians are confident that business will pick up during the fall semester.

“We are catering to the students (of CSUN),” she said. “We’re not here to rip them off.”

Sam’s Clothing ‘ Accessories is directly across from the Mercantile Express convenience store in the USU. The new retail store had a “soft opening” on Aug. 16, but officially opens today.

Linda and Sam Watta owns and operate the clothing store. Although there are some empty spaces on the walls, the couple await the arrival of more merchandise. The clothing store has replaced the Southwest Study Lounge that was next to the Associated Students office.

“People ask me if we’re going to leave, but I tell them that I’m here forever,” Linda Watta said.

Sam Watta called the store a mini department store because of the large array of items they plan to stock. A suggestion box will be available for customers to request any items that are not currently sold in the store.

“If people need something, we will try and provide it,” he said.

The Wattas said they know what students need because they have worked as vendors for almost 19 years on school campuses in California. They plan to hire students part time once they see how the business is doing.

Sam Watta said they are responsible for selling merchandise that is cheaper than in department stores in the mall because the items need to be affordable to all students. He said he understands many students have to work to pay their college tuition.

“I hurt because some students don’t get financial aid,” he said. “We try and make the student happy when they come to this store.”

Jeremy Hamlett, USU Commercial Services manager, accepts proposals from bidders that are interested in leasing space in the USU. Hamlett turns over the proposals to the USU Board of Directors, which then makes a decision regarding who can lease the space.

The Mercantile Express will move to a new area of the USU currently under construction, Hamlett said. Replacing the Mercantile will be a flower shop, and a coffee shop will also be added. Both stores will open in late Spring 2006.

“We’re trying to make this a multi-use facility,” Hamlett said. “If we can provide this for students, it will allow (them) to do everything in one place.”

Hamlett said the USU is not trying to compete with the Matador Bookstore by opening up a retail store that sells clothing.

“We co-exist with the bookstore,” Hamlett said. “With over 30,000 people on campus, it can’t hurt to have two locations (where you can shop for clothing).”

Sam’s Clothing ‘ Accessories and Digital +1 Hour Photo are tenants that pay rent to the USU.

More than 40 percent of respondents said they would visit a retail clothing store on campus, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the USU.

Hamlett said he can see that Sam Watta and Mirella Nazarian are both excited and motivated about their new jobs on campus.

“Sam would rent daily space,” Hamlett said. “He was a vendor before the construction began. He is really excited. It’s not like we can get a Gap or a Banana Republic (on campus), because (those vendors) won’t be as motivated.”

“Mirella is very motivated. She has been collaborating with photography classes on campus,” he said.

The photo store is looking to pay students to hand out fliers in order to advertise.

“I love the campus,” Mirella Nazarian said. “I understand student life. Students are working hard so they should (all) be able to have the same things at a lower price.”

“I’m excited,” Hamlett said. “Why go to Reseda (Boulevard) or Balboa (Boulevard) when you can stay on campus all day? Build a sense of community so people can hang out. That’s what they can do at the Union.”

Cynthia Ramos can be reached at cmr70871@csun.edu.