Owners of The Westchester in White Plains are hoping the mall’s latest addition will transform the downtown center into not just a place to shop, but a dining destination.
Atop the upscale shopping center on the mall’s fourth level is Savor Westchester, a replacement for the food court that previously occupied the space. But don’t make the mistake of calling Savor by its former name.
“We never say food court in this company anymore,” the mall’s General Manager Steven Sayers told the crowd at a recent event held by the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors. “It’s now a dining district.”
Three New York City-based eateries have opened within Savor this spring: Whitmans New York, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque and Bluestone Lane coffee shop.
“We’re bringing in first-in-market tenants that are mainly food and experiential based,” Sayers said. “People want a localized, individualized experience that no one else has ever had before.”
Sayers said that food available at malls has historically been used as a way to extend a shopper’s stay, but that’s no longer the case.
“Now it’s a driving force,” he said.
Savor Westchester offers a variety of seating options, from sleek, white four-person seating arrangements to wooden picnic tables. A patio area features a fireplace and plush outdoor chairs and couches overlooking downtown White Plains.
“The Westchester mall itself is beautiful,” said Josh Perring of Bluestone Lane, an Australian-inspired cafe that operates a dozen shops in New York City, along with outposts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and San Francisco. “We’re community-oriented, and the reception in this community has been really positive.”
When asked why Mighty Quinn’s chose to open an eatery within The Westchester, co-founder Hugh Mangum responded, “Why not?”
The barbecue eatery got its start as a vendor at Brooklyn’s seasonal outdoor food market, Smorgasburg. Since then, Mighty Quinn’s has grown to open locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx and New Jersey. The company also has an international presence in Taiwan, Philippines, Dubai and Japan.
But for Mangum, expanding just north of the company’s homebase into Westchester was a no-brainer.
“We have a lot of commuters here that know our brand,” he said. “It’s nice to have people come by that do dine with us in the city.”
Whitmans owner Craig Koenig agreed that brand recognition from New York City workers and visitors played a role in the company’s opening at The Westchester.
“We don’t want to expand too fast or go too far,” he said. “This was perfect.”
Burger joint Whitmans operates three sit-down restaurants in New York City. For Koenig, transitioning to a quick-serve environment has been the greatest challenge of the company’s newest location.
“We cook everything to order,” he said. “People don’t like to wait, and some of our burgers take over 12 to 14 minutes to cook. In time, people’s expectations will change when they see our quality.”
Savor Westchester will add pizza shop Tomato & Co. to its roster of restaurants later this month. Juice Generation and Hai Street Kitchen, an urban Japanese-casual concept, are set to open in August.
Simon Property Group, operator of the 890,000-square-foot mall, believes the new restaurants will help fill a “major dining void” in White Plains.
“It will appeal to the downtown daytime population, the surrounding communities and our guests who have been shopping the mall for over two decades,” said Meghann Martindale, Simon’s director of leasing.
Simon unveiled the new Savor area as part of the mall’s multimillion-dollar renovation project. Along with the dining district, the 12-acre mall also opened a children’s play area and a technology lounge on its fourth floor in December.
Other enhancements include modernized elevators and lobbies, all new facades on major mall entrances and new landscaping and flooring.