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By D Magazine |

THE MIRACLE MILE. What is it? A Dallas-style Rodeo Drive? A fashion phenomenon too unique to be defined? A real estate development area that’s growing so fast that a blink of a well-mascaraed eyelash might miss the latest change?

By definition, a miracle is something that seems to transcend or contradict all natural or scientific laws-a wonderful or amazing thing. Like beauty, wonder or amazement is often in the eyes or pocket-book of the beholder.

Consider Will Caruth Jr. Back in 1941, he heard about a 90-acre tract bounded by the Cotton Belt (now the Dallas North Tollway), Inwood Road, University Avenue and Lovers Lane, which was for sale for a modest $750 an acre. When he bought the area, many people told him the price was outrageous for what the land was or would be worth. His father said, “What the hell you want with that land? It’s too rocky to grow Johnson grass on.” Caruth used the land to create the Inwood Shopping Village.

By definition, a mile is 5,280 feet or 1,609 kilometers. Depending on who’s doing the reminiscing, the original Miracle Mile encompassed the less-than-lengthy stretch on Lovers from Douglas to what is now the Tollway (or the territory around the Inwood Shopping Village). Now, as one observer astutely appraised the MM, “It’s going to end up running from Douglas to Love Field.”

Phoenix is a word whose definition would fit well on the Miracle Mile. Like the legendary bird, the area seemed to falter several years ago, only to rise again, young and beautiful, to live through another cycle.

Lisa Carren, the third generation of her family to work in their florist shop, Carren’s Flowers on Lovers Lane, recalls the railroad tracks that ran where the Tollway is today. Her father, Seymour, remembers Lovers as a street of little service shops. There was no consistency or uniformity to the stores, but they did have a flavor,” he says. There was a fraternity of people who traded on the Miracle Mile and, like a club, merchants and friends would drink coffee every day at the Country Club Pharmacy.”

Marjorie Henry of Marj’s, a stationery store in Inwood Village, remembers the Dallas of the late Thirties. “There was nothing on Lovers Lane. It was very far out in the country,” she recalls. But little by little, the shops started being built.

Gilbert Cuellar Jr., whose family owned the El Chico restaurant in the Village, says that the establishment was a vital part of his growing up in University Park. “I used to go to that El Chico every Friday night and Sunday. It was the community meeting spot for family and friends.”

The El Chico closed, and was followed by other restaurants that failed. Not surprisingly, Cuellar returned to the site in February 1982 to open an updated version, Casa Rosa. The successful eatery and bar now serves the former El Chico patrons along with their children and grandchildren.

It’s those people and many more who are determining the future of MM. “The key to success is simple: It’s the location,” says Richard Brooks of Richard Brooks Fabrics. “Miracle Mile is the area of the ’haves.’ Lovers Lane is right in the middle of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods-Highland Park, University Park, Inwood Lane and Preston Hollow. Catering to what those people want is what it’s about. Lovers Lane is offering a tremendous fashion and quality-of-life product.”

Going that extra step for the consumer is the key. “We’re anxious to get to know our customers, and that includes remembering their names and faces,” says Lisa Yost of Plate N’Platter, a tabletop and gourmet store that opened in March 1979. This is the era of the specialty store, where people want to be helped by knowledgeable and well-educated salespeople. The merchandise must be up-to-date, too.”

To be competitive, retailers have analyzed the consumer and his or her needs. Ed Geller, who opened Smyth Bros., a designer shoe store for women, almost three years ago, says, “The consumer just happens to live in Dallas, Texas, but she travels the world. She knows fashion and what’s happening. You either have it for her or you don’t.”

Jeanne Emerson, owner of Rae Jeanne, finds her typical customer very sophisticated and well-informed. “She’s not afraid to try something new, fashion-forward. This woman knows what she wants, who she is and where she’s going.”

According to Susan McMullen of the Susan Hope boutique, “Women are saying, ’If I only have an afternoon to shop, I’ll go to Lovers Lane, since there’s such a good cross-section of fashion there.”

Jill Handel of Jill Handel boutique has written a customer profile of the Lovers Lane shopper. “Style is important; age isn’t,” she says. The customer has a large disposable income, is generous and charity-conscious. Strong desires are to please her husband and to put her best foot forward.”

Elaine Devenport, who recently opened her boutique, e’lane’s, observed that the Miracle Mile shopper looks for something that’s unique and different. “People here travel a lot and see so many clothing labels overseas. All my labels are European, mostly German, Swedish and Italian, with the exception of two. Four of my major ones are exclusive to me in the city.”

“We’ve concentrated on service and an excellent staff of experienced fashion consultants to put our fashions together in a unique way,” says The Gazebo’s Susie Bagwell. “We’re bringing in more Italian designer labels, as well as affordable clothes for working women. We want to be fashion-forward at all prices.”

Through the good and bad times on Lovers Lane, two stores provided firm anchorage with their brave, spirited approach to fashion and service. Today, Albert Lidji of Lou Lattimore and John Leavell of Marie Leavell reign proudly, their couture palaces easily identifiable by the luxury cars parked in front.

Their inspiration has lured others. “Shelle had a strong belief in this area being one of the better-concentrated high-fashion areas in Dallas because of the existence of John’s and Albert’s stores,” says Bagwell, discussing owner Shelle Bagot’s decision to move The Gazebo to Inwood Village five years ago.

“When a woman comes to Lou Lattimore, chances are she’ll come across the street to see my store,” says Susan McMullen, who began her Lovers Lane association with designer Milo four years ago and now owns Susan Hope, a boutique specializing in sweaters and coordinated pants.

“We’ve gotten lots of support from Lou Lattimore, with their people calling to say, ’We have Mrs. So-and-So here and we’re going to send her over to you,’” says Ann Priddy, whose boutique emphasizes cruise and resort wear.

Clyde Campbell Menswear relocated last May. “We thought the Miracle Mile was going places because of the revitalization of the area,” manager Danny Taylor said. “One pleasant surprise is getting new customers who drive by on their way home from work downtown. So we’ve kept the customers we’ve had along with finding these new ones.”

When Abbreviations, a clothing store for women under 5-foot-4, opened its second store, Lovers Lane followed the initial store at Sakowitz Village. “It’s almost the same group of customers, but they seem to spend a little more on Lovers Lane,” Paula Sanders says. “The market is good here because of the large number of working women.”

Terri Coit chose the Miracle Mile as the second location for her fitness center, The Workout. Those who come for fitness and exercise programs are, she says, “A pretty sophisticated group, and most are in good shape.” One bonus to the address: an eager group of SMU students.

The lure of the Miracle Mile is also attrading out-of-town retailers. For their first expansion store, Oklahoma City-based Mike and Jane Webb opened The Webb, their shoe and apparel accessory boutique on Lovers Lane. Like so many stores in the area, they’ve incorporated extra hospitality, which includes a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Heart’s Desire, specializing in gifts and home accessories, is the second store opened by three young women from Waco. Jewelry, antiques, neon sculpture and hand-dipped chocolates are a few of the items in their eclectic mix.

Many stores along the Mile provide services for those who live for fashion. A woman who frequents clothing shops soon has a crowded-if not disorganized -closet. “A lot of clothes they own, they don’t know they have,” says Anne Hardie of Closet Concepts, a store that organizes wardrobe space to provide efficiency for the well-dressed. “Also, many people are moving from larger homes into the prestigious Park Cities neighborhoods. But many of those houses have smaller closets, so a store like ours is in demand.”

Goodbody’s chose Lovers Lane for its second location because, according to Carol Smith, “The fashion center of Dallas needs a workout place. This is such a good economic area. There’s a lot of energy here; it’s popping and growing.”

Relative newcomers to retailing on the Miracle Mile owe much to those retailers whose strong influence and reputation for quality kept the area stable until the current boom period.

For 35 years, wedding and social invitations, Crane’s stationery, leather goods and desk sets have been the attraction at Marj’s. Ben Morris Jewelry Co., a discount store specializing in first-quality silver for 25 years in its Lovers Lane location, draws customers from the Park Cities area as well as from other countries.

The Party Bazaar, now celebrating its 30th year in business, has expanded over the years. “Now, I find our customer profile changing,” says owner Lin Kimmer. They’re younger, because the Park Cities school system is attracting them to this area. And that’s your buying, boutiquing and partying group.”

One institution appreciated by all ages (and the most visual symbol of the area) is the Inwood Theater, built as the anchor for the Inwood Shopping Village. Constructed in 1946 as the first luxury suburban theater, it fell from favor some years ago when the ticket-buying public looked farther north. Then, three years ago, it was returned to its former glory by a renovation that included modern projection equipment and the Lounge, an “in” watering hole.

“There’s an attraction to the theater as well as its pictures by those who appreciate its historic value and ambiance,” says manager Bob Berney. “People like to come to the theater, and that’s important, because without this community support, we wouldn’t be here. The theater draws people from all over the city. It’s the one place to see quality foreign films.”

But there’s still room for improvement and amenities in the area. Those who work on the Miracle Mile are the first to notice.

Elaine Greenberg and Lois Plumb, owners of Ben Morris, would like to see a Lovers Lane neighborhood association established. “We could organize to bring tour buses into this area,” Plumb says. “The malls get the convention business we could use.”

“I’d like to see twice as many parking spaces,” says Lin Kimmer of The Party Bazaar. “But that’s true of all Dallas now.”

Interestingly enough, Carol Farrow of Suz-Ann Flowers Inc. finds that the consumer who has to park several stores away from her destination becomes her customer. “If they’re going to Plate N’ Platter or Ben Morris, they pass my shop. That’s why we instigated Happy Flower. Every day between 4 p.m. and closing, all cut flowers are two for one. We’ve received tons of good friends with that.”

Ed Geller of Smyth Bros, would like to see a beautification of Lovers Lane. “We have wonderful people and shops, but no trees. We’re lacking in ambiance.”

Restaurants scored highest on the “must have” list. Miracle Mile restaurateur Cuellar realizes the problem. “We need a wider selection of restaurants,” he says. “La Tosca is good Italian. We have The Riviera, Ewald’s and Chez Philippe for the high end. Then there’s Casa Rosa, Celebration and the Park Café. But currently, there’s not a good place to walk in and get a drink, someplace you don’t have to spend a lot of money.”

One eating place praised by many Dal-lasites is Au Bon Gout, which began as a takeout and catering firm on Lovers. Last March, chef Christian Gerber, formerly of the Old Warsaw and the Pyramid Room, put an “Open for lunch” sign in the window and set up six tables with chairs. That expanded to a cozy 11 tables and two evenings’ worth of dinners served. Encouraged by the line that forms at lunchtime, Gerber hopes to get more space, increase his serving hours and obtain a wine and beer license.

Another newcomer is the Park Café, opened by Nadier Oflaki, a journalist and political science graduate of SMU. His downstairs dining room can serve 75 at lunch, where soups, sandwiches and salads are emphasized. Dinner offers heartier fare, such as beef stroganoff. Philippe Carre of Chez Philippe prefers to concentrate on leisurely dinners, where guests can enjoy “a feast” all evening. The 34-year-old French chef, who was formerly the owner of a restaurant in Bordeaux, consultant to the Intercontinental Hotel chain and chef to the king and queen of Thailand, worked in Dallas with chef Jean Claude Prevot. With an investment of “almost a million dollars,” he has created “a luxury atmosphere without scaring people.”

Other elegant establishments in the neighborhood include The Riviera and Ewald’s. The latter, headed by a talented European chef, has maintained years of popularity with a devoted Park Cities following.

Each passing day brings more patrons for the chic restaurants and boutiques. “The past two years have been dramatic ones of growth and change,” Lisa Carren says. “Developers have bought many of the shops. A lot of retailers had to move out because of the higher rents.” Carren’s, which has moved to three locations on the Miracle Mile since its 1952 establishment, was fortunate enough to be able to buy their building.

Look for the great land grab to increase: “Retailing in general is strong now, with the higher end being the best,” says Steve Levin of Levin, McCall & Assoc, a real estate investment and development firm. “Dallas, which has had a limited amount of higher-end retailing until recently, is now experiencing a tremendous growth. With the Miracle Mile, the location is right because of the proximity to the Park Cities. It’s the best area in town to be in.”

Currently, Levin’s firm is involved in a retailing project that will include a total redevelopment of two existing buildings and construction of a third or West Lovers Lane near Inwood. The European-styled Italian tile and glass buildings will be completed about a year from now. With its own brick walkway and courtyard, the complex will offer 20,000 square feet of retail space catering to the upscale market.

Levin projects rents to range from $25 to $30 per square foot. “That’s reasonable when you compare it to those on the street, which are anywhere from $25 to $50, or you go to Rodeo Drive, where rents can be up to $1,000 a square foot.”

Real estate agent David Claassen agrees with the average of $25 to $30 per square foot and anticipates that within five years, the range will be from $40 to $50. “It’s a question of supply and demand,” he says. “Most of the prime property has been leased.”

A good example of this is his property at the southwest corner of Lovers and Inwood. The renovated buildings form an attractive strip that’s now 90 percent leased and projected to be totally committed by the year’s end.

The 21,000-square-foot center was remodeled by the development firm of Hopkins-Shafer. Imported Italian tile and cast stone formed the exterior decor. Approximately a year ago, the developer sold the property to Claassen and continues to handle its leasing.

Tenants in the high-end specialty boutique center include Clyde Campbell Menswear, Turtle Cove Fish Market, A Budding Success florist and e’lane’s. Further examples of the center’s retail specialization are Gabrielle Christiana, which features lingerie; Pea in a Pod, a designer maternity shop; and Heart’s Desire, with unique gifts and home furnishings.

The center leased quicker than any I’d seen,” Claassen says. “With the success of projects like mine and those of Tom Brosseau and Hopkins-Shafer, we’ll see more high-end retailers coming to the Miracle Mile.”

Proper leasing depends on a correct tenant mix, he says. “First, you have to know the individual. This includes financial strength and his past track record. Then, as long as developers continue to do quality projects and work on getting the right tenants, rents will stay high or go up.”

Michael J. Hopkins of Hopkins-Shafer says that many were skeptical when his firm began to develop the Lovers Inwood Center. “But I knew we would make it a winner if we filled it with tenants that reflected the taste of the neighborhood.”

To him, the extraordinary demand for high-priced residential property in the Park Cities triggered the face-lift of the Miracle Mile. “It’s a younger group who have moved in, and they have a much greater disposable income,” he says. His firm has been involved with six to eight projects on the street, including the polished granite building housing The Webb. The latest activity will be creating 15,000 square feet of small shops at Lovers and Devonshire. But, he says, “I don’t see us buying any more property because prices have gone out of reach. In less than two years, what would have cost us $45 per square foot of building, excluding land, is now $200.”

On the northeast corner of Lovers and Inwood is Lovers West, the project of Swearingen-Brosseau, whose dramatic advertising campaign for the center forecasts a high-fashion approach.

With 26,000 square feet, it’s currently the largest renovation project on West Lovers Lane. The first tenants to be signed are Ann Harelty, a women’s clothing store that will debut February 1, 1985, and Le Cadeau, a 4,000-square-foot store featuring hand-knitted sweaters, unusual furs, cocktail dresses, ballgowns and fine jewelry. The latter is owned by Tom and Lauren Mattio, who opened their first store in Vail, Colorado, 10 years ago.

Lovers West has an “original style” Southwestern look fashioned in tones of peach, gray and dusty rose. Italian ceramic tiles with terra cotta for sidewalks blend with exposed neon lighting. The vast landscaping will include mature oak trees. Parking for 120 cars, 24-hour on-property security and valet parking service on weekends and holidays are additional special touches for the property.

“The idea is to create an ambiance for high-end merchants and to make customers feel as comfortable as possible,” says Tom Brosseau, who dispatched his architects to Rodeo Drive to study that area.

His firm conducted a nationwide search for the right tenants. At rents averaging $30 or $31 per square foot, he says that tenants are utilizing their space well. “Every square foot goes into the sales or dressing areas, with warehousing elsewhere.”

Future development plans for Inwood Village could add another chapter to the history of the Miracle Mile. Tenants such as The Gazebo and Casa Rosa are hinging their expansion plans on those of the center, which was sold by Caruth to Realty Development Corp., a firm headed by Rick Strauss.

“We’re planning a 4,800-square-foot expansion,” The Gazebo’s Bagwell says. “We’re bursting at the seams and desperately need more space. But what we do depends on the center.”

While many people are quick to encourage the Miracle Mile to develop into another Rodeo Drive, others are more cautious.

“Rodeo Drive is more of a descriptive tool than an actual comparison,” says Steve Levin. “What’s happening on Lovers Lane will cause it to be distinctive, but not another Rodeo.”

“The Miracle Mile is unique in that it sets itself apart by its character and personality,” Jeanne Emerson says. “Ours isn’t the beauty of Beverly Hills; it’s more of a quiet statement. Emotionally, the area has what it takes.”

“Lovers Lane is the Miracle Mile, not Rodeo Drive,” Jill Handel says. The Dallas customer won’t blow $10,000 on an outfit and not care. And yet she’s far more beautiful than her California counterpart. It’s not only her fashion sense, but the way the Dallas woman is groomed and takes care of herself. It’s what makes her the most attractive woman in the country.”

Miracle Mile Calendar

December 1-31:

Free aromatic red cedar slack/skirt hanger with each appointment during the month of December at Closet Concepts.



For Children Inc. will be featuring holiday fashions from such designers as Malley, Maggie Breen, Classic Creations, Sylvia White and many more. Treat your child this Christmas by giving him or her a true-to-life stuffed animal by Steiff of Germany.



Stop by The Gazebo for a glass of wine and browse through our wonderful selection of holiday evening wear.



During the month of December, come by St. Charles of Coppes and receive free kitchen and bath planning brochures, and see our outstanding displays.



Come to the Work Out and take a WOW Class-“work out with weights.” Call for times, 363-0013.

December 1-20:



Come to Gabrielle Christiane and hang your name on the Christmas tree. A drawing will be held on Dec. 20. The winner will receive a $200 gift certificate redeemable in lovely lingeri



December 1:



The Gazebo Conscience Corner opening. Special Christmas gifts for men, women and children.



Le Cadeau, a new women’s specialty store, is opening at Lovers Lane West, 5301 W. Lovers Lane.



Come try a free class at Goodbody’s today!



Heart’s Desire, located at 5216 Lovers Lane, launches a holiday preview week featuring a unique assortment of sophisticated contemporary and high-tech gift items.



Simac demonstration at Plate & Platter, 12-3 p.m.



December 2:

A hair and fashion show at The Golden Parachute on Belt Line Road. Hair by Fu Fu Salon. Clothes by e’lanes boutique. Call e’lanes for further information, 351-3131.



December 8:

Heart’s Desire launches a holiday preview week featuring Christmas gift accessories, including festive, original-design cards; wrapping paper; ornaments and wreaths.



Nicholson-Hardie Bow Tying School, 10 a.m. & 3 p.m., 5725 W. Lovers Lane, 357-4348.



Chantal Cookware Demonstration at Plate & Platter, 12-3 p.m.



December 10:

Chinese Christmas all day at Jill Handel. Unusual gifts and accessories for men and women hand-selected in China by Jill Handel.

December 12-13:



Come by for Christmas tea at Ann Priddy and view our new resort collection



A Pea in the Pod, a new concept in maternity fashion and accessories, invites all expectant mothers in the Dallas area to come view their holiday fashion and create their own “Christmas Gift Wish List” (to present to husbands, families and friends).



Men’s Nights on Dec. 13 at Susan Hope. Join us for cocktails, and choose from a beautiful and unusual collection of accessories, handknit sweaters and sportswear for the woman in your life, 6-9 p.m.



December 15:



Fashion Fur trunk show designer appearance and one-of-a-kind designs by Pam Kochat at Le Cadeau.



Heart’s Desire launches a preview week featuring a glorious array of antique lace pillows, potpourri and Victorian memorabilia.



Nicholson-Hardie Bow-Tying School, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., 5725 W. Lovers Lane, 357-4348.



Belgian Waffle and Pizelle Iron Demonstrations at Plate & Platter, 12-3 p.m.



Au Bon Gout will offer a free chocolate truffle with each lunch purchased during December 18-24.



December 20-22:

Champagne Christmas gift shopping for men. All day at Jill Handel.



December 21-22:

Fashion Fur trunk show and designer appearance. Come see the fur fantasies designed by Marilyn Blumer at Le Cadeau.



December 22:

Heart’s Desire launches a holiday preview week featuring a delectable assortment of pre-wrapped Christmas gift candy pack



December 26:

Look for the arrival of our special Smythe Brother’s cruise footwear. Also, watch for the opening of our Sakowitz Village location.