When Carter D’Auria found a new Los Angeles location for a Japanese coffee company, it was only a small lease. But the transaction ended up being a big deal for both the broker and the two brokerages involved.
D’Auria of SRS Real Estate Partners led the search for a new storefront for % Arabica that resulted in the Kyoto-based company picking The Grove, the popular L.A. shopping center, as the site for its first outpost in the U.S. West. The coffee company plans to open the shop at 189 The Grove Drive by November.
The small transaction is significant, D’Auria said, because it marks the first one completed by Dallas-based SRS through its global alliance with London-based Savills.
The two brokerages formed the partnership late last year to help expand the retail reach of their companies into new territories and to help retail clients move into other countries. In May, top executives at SRS and Savills said the pair was working on the alliance’s first deals.
The % Arabica coffee chain has a location in New York and some 110 other shops in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Mainland China is its largest market, with more than 60 stores.
“They intend to open at least one to two roasteries in L.A. to do full roasting and then also retail,” D’Auria said in an interview. “So we have a market plan for other parts of SoCal that’s very spread out. But getting the flagship, even though it’s like a small kiosk, was very important to them to make their mark in the U.S.”
The deal came via Shanghai, where Savills cross-border retail tenant representative Kelly Cheng alerted Don Edrington, the managing principal who serves as SRS’ lead for business opportunities associated with the Savills alliance, that % Arabica was seeking to open several stores in the States.
“Savills established a good relationship with % Arabica by securing their first two locations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Pavilion KL and Penang Heritage Row — both prime locations in Kuala Lumpur),” Cheng said in an email. “Our team in mainland China,” Hong Kong and Vietnam “are also talking to them constantly,” she said, adding that % Arabica reached out to her in January to ask if the team could help the company in the United States.
The SRS-Savills alliance enabled Cheng to accommodate the retailer’s request to see sites in Southern California and elsewhere, she said. Cheng put % Arabica in touch right away with Edrington who then handed the Los Angeles-area requirement to D’Auria.
The “client required a market tour in multiple cities in the U.S., and they were very happy that SRS could cover the whole U.S. market and was able to give them professional advice,” she said.
D’Auria led several property tours for % Arabica’s four-person site selection team that flew into Los Angeles, including some decision-makers from Japan. The company picked The Grove, a mixed-use project developed by Rick Caruso, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles.
“The lifestyle center and being an open-air shopping center was very important to them,” D’Auria said. The tenant liked the idea of having its flagship near retailers whose shoppers naturally would migrate to the % Arabica location, she said.
“Being in front of Nike and Nordstrom, it’s just such an iconic location, and the visibility that you have there was really important to them,” D’Auria said.
D’Auria, who works out of the SRS office in Beverly Hills, knows how luxury stores and brands attract shoppers. She got her start in retail while working for Chanel.
Born in Los Angeles, D’Auria grew up in Houston, where her father oversaw bank branches in Texas for Washington Mutual, which is now mostly part of JPMorgan Chase.
She left Houston for Clemson, South Carolina, where she studied for two years before moving back to Southern California to finish college and where she landed a job at Chanel. While at Chanel, D’Auria said, she developed an interest in retail real estate.
D’Auria got her start as a retail broker in 2015 at a boutique firm in Southern California and joined SRS in May 2020. In her career, she has played a role in negotiating more than 150 leases with a mix of local, regional and national tenants.
“I just love retail and helping retailers,” she said.
In China, Savills’ Cheng said her firm is working closely with SRS in both the U.S. and across the Asia-Pacific region. “Hopefully we can bring more global brands into Asia and out of Asia to North America,” she said.
Thanks to the tie-up with SRS, Savills was able to help deliver the % Arabica deal. Cheng said that before, when Savills went at it alone, the firm had been less successful. “We tried to help some other Asian brands in the U.S. in 2019/2020 but it didn’t go through,” Cheng said.
SRS’ global alliance has not only resulted in working more deals with Savills. It’s also helped D’Auria come up with ways to do more business inside her own firm, she said.
“It’s really opened, I would say, not only our eyes, to being creative and discussing with Savills how we can expand our business — not only with them — but even with other employees within our firm that are in different markets,” she said. “I think it’s helping others in the company also rack their brain for how they can also work with us to create more business.”