Earlier this week the newly refurbished stores on Sunset Boulevard re-opened a little early, much to everyone's surprise. These stores have been re-done substantially from what they once were and this week, I'd like to give a "walk through" of the stores to give you an idea of what's changed here and how everything looks. If you haven't already seen the photos, you can view this week's Studios Update for photos of the store.
For those unaware, or those who don't keep constant tabs on the changing scope of the Studios, three stores on Sunset Boulevard recently were closed in September of this year to begin a semi-major refurbishment to re-do the stores. The idea behind the refurbishment was to combine the three stores into one contiguous store that had 3 exteriors. Think of how the Emporium at the Magic Kingdom is set up or even Mickey's of Hollywood in the Studios. There were a couple of reasons for the change; first and foremost, Disney merchandise has their own reasons for streamlining merchandise options and re-doing the general themes of the merchandise sold their. In addition, before the changeover, there were two Disney sketch artist positions in 2 of the 3 buildings. Since the changeover, they've spread that out, with one artist in the Animation Gallery shop and the other remaining in Sunset Club Couture.
We'll start this tour with Sunset Club Couture, which is that rather blueish looking building that is first if you're coming from Hollywood Boulevard. Previous to the upgrade, this store specialized in jewelry along with a Disney sketch artist, as previously mentioned. Post-refurb, there are still some jewelry to be found in cases but there's much more clothing to be found here. In addition, they've radically changed the interior of the store and the theme that it has. While I'm no architecture expert, the new look has a 1920's "Bubbsy Berkely" feel to it with the wooden and silver accents. There's also a lot of teal and green and the light fixtures in the ceiling are simple, yet elegant. Sunset Club Couture is the smallest of the three stores but I really like what they've done with the architectural theme here and I think it's a splendid little upgrade.
Next door is Mouse About Town. This store used to have mainly men's wear and sport clothing. There was a polo theme to the entire store with photos of people playing polo as well as general polo sport related items adorning the walls of the store. Mouse About Town certainly has undergone the most radical of changes since the refurbishment as it now has a very different look to it. Gone is the polo and wooden panels and they've been replaced by black marble with silver accents. It reminds me a lot of the exterior of one of the parts of Mickey's of Hollywood. Not sure if the interior is supposed to match that building, but if it is, it's rather odd they put the exterior on Hollywood Boulevard and the interior on Sunset Boulevard. The real interesting change here is the new backdrop behind the cash registers. Before thechangeover , there was a large mural featuring Mickey Mouse and signage for the Disney-MGM Studios. It was quite nice, albeit dated since the name of the park has changed along with the Backlot Tour which was also in the mural and it's entrance has changed (in the mural, it featured the entrance of the Backlot Tour from when the entrance was in what is now the Animation Academy). The new backdrop features a less prominent Mickey Mouse along Sunset Boulevard, right in front of Mouse About Town (while the name of the shop is not in the mural, the architecture of the store in the mural behind Mickey is identical to the store's architecture). I really like the new mural and the whole new black look really stands out.
The final store is the Carthay Circle Theater store and of all the three stores before the rehab, this one I really like the most. Luckily, much of the look of the store has been kept in tact and it looks somewhat similar to it's pre-rehab version. The ceilings and floors remain the same while the content of the store has been widened up a bit. Compared to the previous version, the new edition of the store is much more open, thanks in part to the removal of the Disney sketch artist position here. The displays feature bright wood and overall looks very much like it's former self. My only complaint is the checkout area here looks a little empty and they could certainly add a few more decorative items to bring some life to the area.
Overall I really like what's been done with the change. It hasn't become one large Wal-Mart type store, but instead a few distinct themes that meld together into the three stores. This change to meld the stores into one giant one obviously works in that I noticed many more guests floating between the three stores whereas in the past, going from one store to another was less flowing. I certainly have to tip my hat to Disney for doing a good job with the changeover and improving upon what was previously there.