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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 14) - A lack of customers has forced another store at La Fiesta Mall in San Roque to close up shop.

Love Beach, which sells island-wear and apparel, has left the mall, making Fiesta Mart the only retail shop left in the facility that was bought by the Babauta administration for $7.5 million.

To attract customers, Fiesta Mart has marked down some of its items.

The mall’s remaining restaurants, which are owned by Hotel Nikko Saipan, have also downsized their operations.

Toh-Lee is now open only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 10 p.m. Salt ‘N Pepper is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and resumes operation from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"There are not many customers here -- even after CUC moved here. We only have guests from Nikko and Marianas Resort," an employee said.

But Variety learned that four retailers have inquired about setting up branches at La Fiesta.

"It only makes sense with people moving in like CUC. With the prospect of schools or training facilities at La Fiesta, it makes sense for retailers to want to open their shops there," said Press Secretary Peter A. Callaghan.

Even though their restaurants at La Fiesta hardly make money, Nikko general manager Yutaka Fujita said they will not pull out.

"There are many reasons why we won’t close those two restaurants. The schools and CUC might move over here," said Fujita. "I want to maintain a positive outlook about the place."

Since La Fiesta has lost its attraction to tourists and local shoppers, businesses there have suffered significant financial losses.

"Our restaurant, Salt ‘N Pepper, lost 45 percent of its revenue. During the best times, we used to operate day and night and earn US$500,000. Now, we only open at night," Fujita said.

In the case of Toh-Lee, Fujita noted that from 25,500 a year, the number of customers dropped to 22,000. "We used to earn US$1.5 million from that restaurant, but that has been reduced by US$600,000."

But Fujita said they would not abandon their business for the sake of their employees.

"Even though the business is down, we want to hold on because of our employees," said Fujita.

July 15, 2005

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