By LOU WILIN
In the wake of news that Findlay’s Sears Roebuck and Co. store is closing, most of its neighbors are worried about the future of the Findlay Village Mall.
Most, but not all, were surprised by the news that the Sears store will be closing in mid-April as part of a restructuring by corporate headquarters.
Managers of mall stores have seen smaller stores come and go, but now one of the anchors will be leaving.
“It’s going to affect the mall … It’s got to affect the mall,” said a store manager who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The mall’s dying anyway. Have you looked?”
Others, like Dara Allsup, manager of the Maurices store, shrugged off news of the coming Sears departure.
Sears has been an anchor along with JC Penney and Elder-Beerman, but the mall will go on without it, according to Allsup.
“People that shop our stores are still coming to shop our stores regardless of whether Sears is here,” she said. “Sears was not the attraction for my customer. That’s not going to stop them from seeing me.”
Sears’ strong suit has been appliances, snowblowers and hardware, but its clothing fashions have been wanting, Allsup said. Yet 68 percent of the Sears store is apparel, she estimated.
“The fashion end of it is where I think they struggle the most … Even me as a consumer walking in, there’s nothing in there that appeals to me to make me stop and shop,” Allsup said. “I’ve felt that way for over the last five years, and I’m old, so how much are the young people … They don’t even think of Sears.”
Others draw a closer link between the fates of Sears and the mall.
One store manager who spoke on condition of anonymity said she was not surprised about the Sears closing “because the mall’s not busy.”
Another store manager, Andrea Greve of MasterCuts, said with mall occupancy and traffic dwindling, it’s hard to believe Sears’ exit could make that much difference.
“The mall’s pretty slow,” she said. “To walk through the mall, there’s not a lot of stores open in the mall anyway.”
Maurices’ Allsup is undaunted. Sears’ departure will open room for better things, she said.
“It just makes room for bigger, better. Maybe we can attract … a bigger T.J. Maxx, or perhaps a Target or something else. Old Navy,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative. I think it’s ‘move over and let someone else come in, a bigger dog, somebody else that’s more competitive.’ It could happen.”
It’s happened before, said Kevin Lueders, General Nutrition Center manager.
“We’ve lost stores before and other stores come in,” he said. “We seem to get a good cycle.”
Greve, his neighbor at MasterCuts, was less bullish about mall management finding a strong replacement for Sears.
“I really doubt it,” Greve said. Most stores the mall has attracted lately are seasonal specialists, she said.
One of the anonymous store managers put the prospects at “not good.”
“Because people go other places to shop and the mall management is not active in finding tenants for the mall,” she said. “So it is a bit concerning.”
Attempts to reach Findlay Village Mall Manager Vonn Bowers for this story were unsuccessful.
Something better be done soon, said Pizza di Roma Manager Alvaro Miranda.
“They have to do something about this mall because we have a lot of empty spaces,” he said. “They need to work more into filling up those spaces instead of letting all the people go, or the mall is actually going to go in crisis.”
Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin
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