The expansion of Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem continued this morning with the "soft" opening of the Shoppes at Sands, the first retail complex located in a Pennsylvania casino.

Only six of the planned 31 stores were open for business at 10 a.m. when the bi-level mall allowed the public in for the first time: women's retailers DKNY, Nine West and Talbots, Hartmann Luggage, Lenox china and Farmer's Almanac General Store. But business appeared to be brisk, especially at Nine West, which rang up its first sale at 10:24 a.m.

Three more outlets--Guess, Spritz Designer Fragrences and Ultra Diamonds--are expected to debut later this month, with all 31 stores in place by next spring, said Sands President and CEO Robert DeSalvio.

The Shoppes, which encompasses 133,000 square feet, follows by about five months the opening of the Sands' 300-room hotel. Next May, the property will debut its multi-purpose Event Center, which will, among other things, host A-List performers booked by Live Nation, the national concert-promotion firm that is the primary entertainment booker at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.

According to DeSalvio, the shopping center "helps us attain our goal of becoming an integrated destination resort the company [Las Vegas Sands, owner of Venetian on the Vegas Strip] is known for.

"We always wanted to be the complete package, with gaming, entertainment, an excellent culinary experience, retail shopping, hotel and convention and meeting facilities. This will help us expand our customer base."