Photo Gallery: Last Call by Neiman Marcus at Ontario Mills

ONTARIO - What do high-end designers Chanel and Christian Louboutin and have in common?

They can now be found inside the newest retailer at the Ontario Mills Mall, Last Call by Neiman Marcus which bills itself as an affordable option for designer fashions.

It's the reason Liz Garcia not only drove more than an hour but was willing to brave the chilly temperatures Friday morning. She was in search of a good deal.

The Laguna Woods resident was the first in line.

Last Call by Neiman Marcus at Ontario Mills.
Last Call by Neiman Marcus at Ontario Mills. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/Staff Photographer)

As Garcia and a small contingent of loyal followers already awaited the store's opening, Ontario Mills mall, city and Neiman Marcus officials celebrated the opening of the new 21,000-square-foot store with a ribbon cutting.

"I usually shop at the Block (of Orange) but I wanted to come here because they usually have really good stuff for the opening," Garcia said.

Garcia had gone to the Mills the day before for the store's soft opening and was back Friday morning in the hopes of finding more specials.

"I bought Chanel shoes for $350 and a purse for $900 both items were 30 percent off," said Garcia, who was waiting by the exterior entrance because it was closer to the shoe section.

Last Call by Neiman Marcus opened in Neighborhood 6, on the south side of the mall near the Rainforest Cafe.

At the same, renovation of several entrance to the Mills are under way as is remodeling of the existing Nordstrom Rack store.

"The addition of Last Call by Neiman Marcus will further brand Ontario Mills as California's leading shopping destination with an impressive line-up of retail, dining and entertainment options," Ontario Mayor Paul Leon said.

The opening of the store was years in the making, explained Bill Earnheart vice president of stores for Neiman Marcus, based in Dallas.

Officials had been trying to move into the Mills for more than five years but were waiting for the right space and size to open, he said.

Several Neiman Marcus representatives, including Earnheart, made the trek from Dallas to commemorate the opening.

The Ontario location represents a new prototype for Neiman Marcus which features a more modern look. It is only the second storefront of its kind that the they have opened, and marks the fifth store opened in the state.

"We're glad Last Call by Neiman Marcus continues to broaden Ontario Mills Mall as California's leading shopping destination," Earnheart said.

With the opening, it will mean a combination of 35 part- and full-time jobs, he said.

While the area has been hit particularly hard by the economy, representatives were not deterred, Earnheart said.

"We know we have a potential great customer base," he said. "That is going across the country and just a factor affecting all businesses but we still need to serve the customers."

He also noted the region is lacking in high-end shopping options, he said.

That was the case for Sonya Hudson of Moreno Valley who has had to commute to the Block of Orange location for the nearest Neiman location.

On Friday, as she waited to get in, Hudson said she was looking to buy a Chanel purse or Christian Louboutin shoes.

From left to right:  Councilwoman Debra Porada, Mayor Pro Tem Sheila Mautz, Mayor Paul Leon, and Last Call VP Bill Earnheart, and Ontario Mills VP Marc
From left to right: Councilwoman Debra Porada, Mayor Pro Tem Sheila Mautz, Mayor Paul Leon, and Last Call VP Bill Earnheart, and Ontario Mills VP Marc Smith cut the ribbon to officially open Last Call by Neiman Marcus at Ontario Mills on Friday. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/Staff Photographer)

"Hopefully, it's everything I expect," she said. "I was excited to see quality stores here in the Inland Empire. We need high-end designers because we don't really have that here."

Clothing items at the store range from under $50 to designer handbags for more than $1,000.

With the store opening on Memorial Day holiday weekend, traditionally one of the busiest shopping period for stores, everything in the store will be 30 percent off through Tuesday, Earnheart said.

For the past few years the mall management has worked to bring popular name brands to the center, said Marc Smith, the mall's general manager.

"This puts the bookend on what we call the fashion district," he said. It will be completed in September. 

In addition, a renovated Nordstrom Rack, just next door, will be completed this summer.

"We continue to add some of the best brands that shoppers love, making Ontario Mills a big draw for area residents and visitors to the city of Ontario," he said.

Friday's opening also marked a major aspect of the second phase of the mall's redevelopment. Smith acknowledged the work could not have been done without the partnership from the city, who understood the business climate and stepped with financial assistance.

February 2011 marked the start of more than $4.5 million worth of improvements financed by the city and mall owner Simon Co.

The enhancements includes the relocation and expansion of Forever 21 and Burlington Coat Factory plus the addition of Sports Authority. The project will include additional entrances, parking spaces and decorative landscaping to be completed in the fall.

A new contemporary food court is expected to be completed by October with 11 dining options including a Chipotle which opened earlier this year.

The city's Redevelopment Agency, before it was dissolved by the state, provided $4.5 million to the project.

Simon Co. would not disclose the amount of its contribution, citing company policy.

The ribbon-cutting was somewhat a sensitive situation for Leon. The governor's decision to do away with redevelopment agencies means the Mills project will be the last one the city does.

Without those funds the improvements would not have been made, he said.

"All of these jobs, it's a job creator and tax revenue creator," he said. "When you invest in projects like this, you create jobs."

About 16 years ago, the Ontario Redevelopment Agency pumped in $20 million toward the construction of the Ontario Mills Mall, Leon said.

Since then, the annual sales tax from the mall alone has been between $6 million and $7 million, meaning it has brought the city close to $100 million.

"Ontario Mills has proven itself to be a great asset to the city of Ontario as a magnet for jobs, increased tax revenue, tourism growth and expanded business development," he said.

Reach Liset via email, call her at 909-483-8556, or find her on Twitter @DBOntarioNow.