BJ's ready for its grand opening

DOWNEY - As BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse prepares for its grand opening on Monday, anticipation mounts for the newest addition to Stonewood Center."Everyone I've talked to has been really excited about it - both shoppers and community members," said Whitney Wigle, marketing manager for Stonewood Center. Wigle, who oversees advertising, sponsorships, Stonewood events and promotional programs, believes adding the BJ's is a great way to draw a new crowd into the shopping center and the city. "It really shows on the exterior, what's changing on the inside," said Wigle. "We have a lot of new retailers - Zumiez, Aéropostale, Crazy 8 by Gymboree, Aldo - BJ's reflects those changes." According to BJ's website, the first restaurant opened in 1978 in Santa Ana by two guys with a great recipe for deep dish pizza. Today, the Huntington Beach-based corporation oversees 85 company restaurants across the country. On Monday, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse of Downey will become number 86. Sporting a rust-colored, brick exterior, the 8900-square-foot facility features a modern, unique design not only outside but inside as well. Greg Levin, CFO for BJ's Restaurants, Inc., confirms that this is a part of BJ's appeal. "We try to maintain a non-chain image," said Levin, in a phone interview. "We want to create a high-energy, electric atmosphere for our guests, a place that feels like the neighborhood restaurant." BJ's hopes to embody a comfortable place for everyone from young kids to grandparents, said Levin. For guests, a black revolving door serves as the entrance to the restaurant, which features semi-circle booths and square tables throughout, a striped wood-grain floor and cylinder lights dangling from a high ceiling. Customers at the 16-seat bar face a buffet of alcoholic beverages and a 103-inch plasma screen tuned to several adaptations of ESPN. "We have always liked Downey. The mall keeps a tremendous amount of volume," said Levin. "We thought Downey would be the perfect place to continue building out." For Downey Brewing Company owner Walter Vazquez, however, the new BJ's brings mixed feelings. "This might have a negative impact on small businesses like ours," said Vasquez. "But this could also bring more people to the city, which could give us the opportunity to be seen." The family-owned Downey Brewing Company, which opened its doors in October 2008, shows televised sporting events and serves everything from pizza and salads to steak and burgers. Levin acknowledged BJ's popularity, but expressed his hope that the people enjoying their handcrafted beers will patronize other breweries in the area. In preparation for the restaurant's grand opening, free lunch and dinner items were served to select members of the community as the cooks practice preparing BJ's specialties and servers practice seating and serving guests. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday by the Downey Chamber of Commerce and on Monday the restaurant will be officially open for business. "Our BJ's will continue to keep the mall fresh and exciting as well as bring our national concept into the city," said Levin. "We love being here in our backyard." Christian Brown is a journalism intern for the Downey Patriot.

********** Published: July 31, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 15