Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sears 2011-12 Store Closings in the Southeast: Many already featured on Sky City

Sears and Kmart just posted their closing list.  To no surprise, many of these malls have or will soon be covered on Sky City.  Here is a run down of Sears stores and Kmarts with links to ones in malls I covered:

1. Middlesboro Mall: Middlesboro, KY (Sears Hardline store)
2. Halls Mill, AL [5451 Halls Mill Rd] (Sears Essentials)
3. Multiple Sears Grand/Essentials locations in FL:
  • 101 E Interntn'l Speedway Deland FL 32724
  • 3020 Se Federal Hwy Stuart FL 34997
  • 4560 Forest Hill Blvd W Palm Beach FL 33406
  • 1363 Nw St Lucie W Blvd Port St Lucie FL 34986
4.  Ellicott City, MD [9200 Baltimore Nat Pike] (Sears Grand/Essentials)

Sears full-line stores listed below:

5. Metrocenter Mall: Jackson, MS (this is the last department store anchor)
6. Hickory Hollow Mall: Antioch, TN (this leaves Macy's as the sole remaining anchor)
7. Macon Mall: Macon, GA (the mall has now lost half its anchors since 2007)
8. Military Circle Mall: Norfolk, VA

Both photos above are of the Military Circle Mall store taken by Mike Kalasnik on July 31, 2011

9. Oak Hollow Mall: High Point, NC (this leaves Belk as the sole remaining anchor)
10. Leigh Mall: Columbus, MS
11. Edgewood Mall: McComb, MS
12. Cypress Bay Plaza (strip center): Morehead City, NC
13. Bradley Square Mall: Cleveland, TN (mall also has a Kmart)
14. Oak Ridge Mall/Downtown Shopping Center: Oak Ridge, TN (store anchors a long-abandoned mall)
15. Sumter Mall: Sumter, SC (previously a Capitol and later Tapp's)
16. Crystal River Mall: Crystal River, FL (mall also has a Kmart)
17. Golden East Crossing Mall: Rocky Mount, NC
18. Signal Hill Mall: Statesville, NC (former Woolworth and Hills)

Sears at Signal Hill Mall.  The store was renovated from its former life as Woolworth and later Hills.  Photo taken October 16, 2011.

Signal Hill Mall mall entrance to Sears.  Photo taken October 15, 2011.

Kmart stores listed below:

19. Winchester, KY [951 By-Pass Rd]
20. Buford, GA [1605 Buford Highway]
21. Hazard, KY [101 Town & Country Lane]
22. Fernandina Beach, FL [1525 Sadler Road]
23. Callaway, FL [225 S Tyndall Pkwy]
24. New Smyrna Beach, FL [1724 State Road 44]
25. Douglasville, GA [9552 Highway 5]
26. Hendersonville, TN [237 East Main]
27. St Augustine, FL [1777 U S 1 South St.]
28. Auburn, AL [2047 E University Drive]
29. Gadsden, AL [75 E Broad St] (Very close to Sears at Gadsden Mall)

Kmart in Gadsden, AL in May 3, 2008

Abandoned Kmart Foods, later Food Giant, adjoining the store.  Photo taken May 3, 2008.

30. Atlanta, GA [230 Cleveland Ave] (Last Kmart in Atlanta City Limits)
31. Orange City, FL [810 Saxon Blvd]
32. Columbus, GA [5600 Milgen Rd]
33. Jonesboro, GA [7965 Tara Boulevard]
34. Midlothian, VA [11003 Hull St Rd]
35. Pompano Beach, FL [2421 N Federal Hwy]

It should be noted this list is preliminary with more closings likely.  At least one on those list I predicted which was the closing of the store at Signal Hill Mall.  I expect the store at Southlake Mall in Atlanta to probably join this list when they wrap this up (and this post will be modified to show that).  It should be noted that no Kmarts in malls were on this list.  However, Sears locations in malls also anchored by Kmart were included.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Valley Hills Mall: Hickory, NC

Hickory has well defined itself as the major retail center of the North Carolina foothills region, and Valley Hills Mall is the centerpiece of this.  The most upscale shopping to be found is in and around the mall, which arrived with a bang in 1978 and has been going strong ever since.  As Hickory's only active shopping mall, it left its former older competitor Catawba Mall in the dust over two decades ago.  Today, it is a solid two-level mall with four anchors and plenty of business.

Valley Hills Mall is a curious mall in that it was apparently built on a narrow plot of land that required interesting design modifications.  The mall first opened as an L-shaped mall (or a "V" depending on how you see it) anchored only by Belk Broome and Sears.  Apparently Mr. Beery (of Belk Beery) built the store, but the ownership was transferred to the Broomes.  It did not seem at the time the mall was built that the owners were interesting in killing off their older nearby competition, though both malls shared a Belk.  However, it was pretty obvious by that time which mall had more to offer in size and architecture, and its name did not start with a C. 

Looking towards JCPenney at center court.  The first photo is of center court looking towards the Sears wing.

Traversing the Sears wing.  Note the style of skylights along the Sears and Belk (original) wings.

Sears features the same old mall entrance other than for some reason being completely off-center.

Looking back along the Sears wing to center court.

Dull Dillard's features the dullest wing of the mall with a dull, boring skylight and bland design unlike the rest of the mall.

Valley Hills Mall grew into a dominant mall in the 1980's when JCPenney left its large two-level store at Catawba for a brand new store at Valley Hills in 1988.  At the same time, Belk consolidated its operations into Valley Hills ending any chance that the two malls would be complimenting each other at all.  At the time, no other mall in the region had Belk, Sears and JCPenney though the mall would have been more ideal with anchors like Ivey's or Thalhimer's, neither of which the city could apparently support at that time.  Spainhour's might have also joined the mall, but at the time they seemed to be looking more into phasing out their department store business.  It would still be another decade before the mall would attract a more upscale anchor tenant.

The above two photos show the Belk wing approaching the store itself.

At the end of the wing is one of the best Belk mall entrances I have ever seen!

Looking back along the Belk wing to center court.

Looking down from the upper level at center court is this very attractive, albeit small, fountain.

1999 would be the next and last major modification the mall would see.  It was in that year that the mall added two new wings.  One included a food court fronting a new main entrance to the mall on the north side between Belk and Sears.  The second was the addition of a longer wing for a new Dillard's store giving the mall a Z-shape.  Dillard's at the time was new to the market, so its arrival was likely exciting for mall patrons.  The then-aging mall also received an interior renovation, updated entrances and a new logo.  The improvements did not strip away all of the 70's features, but it made the mall seem less dated and sufficiently contemporary.

These guys clearly look bored and a bit irritated as the wife clearly wore the pants that day so that she could go to try on some.  They were staring into space imagining more exciting ways they could spend their time such as watching football or doing something that involves a hammer or loud machinery.

Here is the mall map to explain what is hard to explain.  It is an interesting layout.

The food court is reasonably attractive and includes a carousel typical of 90's malls.

Valley Hills Mall sign along the street.  Definitely not the worst I've seen.  The name sounds a bit like a trailer park, though.  I like the name Catawba better.

 What does remain vintage at the mall is quite striking.  The skylight configuration through the older part of the mall is somewhat SouthPark inspired with its skylights along the sides instead of in the center.  The skylights, however, are placed at a 45 degree angle with the roof sloping back down on the opposite side.  Bigger, brighter skylights are found in center court.  Fake plants give the mall a more lush feel.  About the only thing that looks different is the Dillard's wing, which contains a less inspired, more conventional design.  What is also nice in the mall is the small terraced fountain in the lower level of center court.  This likely replaced a much grander fountain before, but it is still a nice feature that they did not have to install.  The mall as a whole is bright and cheery compared to the dark and plain Catawba Mall.  In all, it is a well-designed mall that is a step above the average small city mall.

JCPenney arrived in 1988 with a basic but eye-catching exterior shell.

A view of Belk from the parking deck entrance.  The renovation wasn't great, but some elements remain.  The parking deck here was built just for Belk.

If you look below you can see some of the original stonework that was retained from when the store first opened.

The last photo features the rear mall entrance between Belk and JCPenney.  I did not include any photos of Dillard's or Sears because neither store retained any distinctive design elements.  The Sears looked like the typical 90's remodel and Dillard's looked like every other stucco atrocity they've thrown up.

Hickory today pulls from a large, although largely rural market.  Because of that, the mall will probably never attract more upscale stores or anchors, but for its market is still a far nicer mall than what cities of its size tend to have.  Because of that, the mall is fully leased and not likely to be crushed by a large power center or "lifestyle center" project.  In truth, it is even nice compared to other malls I have seen in the state, and its ownership by GGP makes it a first-tier mall.  My only beef with the mall is that its anchors look bland and boring.  Belk renovated away its stone-clad 70's elements, Sears has been upgraded to bleached-out blandness, Dillard's is the usual clone and only JCPenney really seems to stand out although still colorless.  The main issue the mall faces in the future is potential failure of 2-3 of its anchors.  Sears is on very shaky ground with JCPenney and Dillard's both known to be struggling as well.  Management will have to be creative if an unraveling occurs due to that issue.  Obviously, many other malls will have this problem but this is a very difficult challenge for malls in second tier markets with fewer stores to choose from.  If such a shake-up does not occur, this is a pretty standard, reasonably attractive mall that will likely avoid the worst of the current mall insurrection wiping out so many malls every year.