As the lunch hour was ending yesterday, four live models made up as mannequins, staring blankly past the lunchers and shoppers, burst into song in high-pitched tinny voices.
"We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year," they sang to the crowd lured into the Connecticut Connection by a skillfully planned promotion for the four-story shopping mall at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW.
The promotion is the handiwork of Judith Miller, executive vice president of the Miller Companies, a group of development, construction, management and leasing organizations that built and manages the red brick building at 1101 Connecticut Ave. The building is above the entrance to the Farragut North Metro Station and connects to the mall.
Judith Miller devised a series of promotional activities earlier this fall to pump some life into the company's venture, which looked then like it might die aborning. Since then, the crowds have come -- to look at the models, to listen to the bands, to admire the Christmas decorations and to sign a giant Redskins booster banner before the Redskins-Cowboys game.
"I think it's a really good thing," said Dorcas Phillips, a secretary who came to lunch with her friend Valorie Millett, at the Connecticut Connection. On the subway level, lunchers can listen to live music and watch the crowds or the models from a cluster of tables in front of fast food shops that serve tacos, fried chicken, cookies, yogurt, salads and other items.
"It sort of has a New York flavor that Washington has missed," said Phillips, who said she keeps coming back for the bands.
Harvey Rosenthal's business, Radishes and Rainbows, is located next to the bandstand where a variety of groups have performed since Dec. 2. Rosenthal sells so-called natural foods, including yogurt and salad and pastries made daily for the shop by individuals in their homes.
Even when the bands are playing the same disco number for the fourth time in a lunch hour, it's music to Rosenthal's ears. "I don't get tired of the bands when they bring in customers," he said.
Radishes and Rainbows opened last July, but the customers really began to arrive with the promotion, said Rosenthal. "Our volume is what we had hoped to achieve in a year or 15 months," he said.
"All good promotions must come to an end," said Rosenthal. But Rosenthal expects the success that the promotion brought to stick. "I feel people have set a pattern and will come back," he said.
The idea of offering a variety of fast foods was to give shoppers a choice of lunches to come back for. The mall will soon include a seafood restaurant.
The second floor of the mall, at street level, is a variety of specialty shops, including a jeweler, a gift shop and Crabtree & Evelyn, which offers imported toiletries and foods.
The upper level is the major retail location, with an Arthur Adler men's wear shop, an August Max, a women's clothing store corporately related to Casual Corner.
The Miller's expect the mall to be fully occupied by this summer.