COWABUNGA! THE GROVE LOOKS WEST

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Two decades after bringing retail sizzle to sleepy Shrewsbury, the owners of The Grove have embarked on their first major breakout effort.

Developer/owner Metrovation started site work last week on The Grove West, a new shopping center just across Route 35 from the existing center.

The move is premised on what appears to be a leasing coup, as Metrovation has landed Billabong to anchor an 8,000-square-foot structure to be built at the the entrance to the site.

The store will be Billabong’s first outside of New York’s Times Square, according to Chris Cole, a Metrovation partner.

Australia-based Billabong sells surfwear, including something called “boardshorts” — which we hear aren’t as uncomfortable as they sound — jeans, tees and other casualwear with a Pacific Island theme. The company is huge in the sponsorship of surfing competitions and a magnet for beachloving teens.

Scheduled to open in time for the Christmas shopping season, Billabong will join Fidelity Investments, which has a long-term lease. A couple of national chains are in negotiations for space, Cole says.

Marty’s, a discount shoe chain, is among the current tenants, but redbankgreen was unable to learn if the store is staying put.

Metrovation has long had a yen also to acquire the strip center just to the south of the Grove West — home to the Shrewsbury Post Office and a handful of stores — but owner Al Tomaino isn’t interested in selling, Cole says.

For Metrovation, Grove West means a significant investment in a property it bought a decade ago.

“The whole thought was that over the long run it would be the perfect shopping center to continue to upgrade — to make more Grovelike, if you will,” he says. “We understand that there’s a lot of demand for more upscale retail in this market that we can’t fill at the Grove.”

Already, Metrovation has cleared out access to the site from Patterson Avenue, through property that was formerly home to Brown’s Heating & Cooling.

“We’re creating a much more enhanced landscaping package, very similar to The Grove,” says Cole. “We’ll be really mirroring what we have across the street.”

“Across the street,” of course, is the lushly mulched and flowered Grove, home to three dozen stores, including Banana Republic, Brooks Bros., the Gap, a Starbucks, Talbot’s and Victoria’s Secret. Soon to join them: Anthropologie, a women’s casual-wear and home-décor retailer.

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