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The Styled Side: South Coast Plaza turns 50




The Bulgari Boutique during a benefit for the Pacific Symphony held at the Bulgari Boutique in South Coast Plaza on Thursday, February 21, 2013 in Costa Mesa, Calif. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Invision/AP)
The Bulgari Boutique during a benefit for the Pacific Symphony held at the Bulgari Boutique in South Coast Plaza on Thursday, February 21, 2013 in Costa Mesa, Calif. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Invision/AP)
Ryan Miller/Ryan Miller/Invision/AP

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Fifty years ago, luxury shopping center South Coast Plaza opened its doors.

It's a big milestone for the Costa Mesa mall, which is also a juggernaut of retail.

"They are the highest-grossing shopping mall in the country with nearly $2 billion in sales," says Michelle Dalton Tyree of Fashion Trends Daily.

The land had humble beginnings as a dairy farm, owned and operated by the Segerstrom family.

"I recall vividly being able to stand at our farm and look in a 360-degree radius and see nothing but open land," says Anton Segerstrom.

But the advent of mechanical milking machines led the Segerstroms to close the farm – they thought the technology hurt cows – and open up South Coast Plaza, instead.

The mall primed Southern California for some of the biggest luxury retailers in the world.

The Nordstrom family opened the first Nordstrom outside of the Pacific Northwest at South Coast Plaza, which remained its highest-grossing store until recently.

Paris-based Courrges joined in 1975, and Halston followed in 1976.

"These were stores that wouldn't have deigned to go into a mall, before," says Tyree. "Founder Henry Segerstrom believed that if you build it, they will come.

That gamble has paid off. 

Some of the biggest spenders at South Coast Plaza are overseas tourists.

"They have a huge Chinese customer base," she adds, noting that it has a tourism department dedicated just to Chinese visitors. "Many of their stores and boutique have Mandarin-speaking salespeople."

Shoppers from the United Arab Emirates also come out in big numbers during the summer.

Listen to the full interview by clicking the blue audio player above.