Bloomingdale's? Macy's? Saks Fifth Avenue? Such glitzy, pricey stores are not what Eastpoint Mall has in mind for its nearly completed $30 million renovation.
"We'd be cutting our own throats if we went too upscale," said Robyn J. Clark, general manager of Eastpoint, which serves predominantly blue-collar communities such as Dundalk, Essex, Middle River and East Baltimore.
Rather than add fancy New York-style department stores, Eastpoint will be welcoming an 88,000-square-foot Sears Roebuck & Co. store when the mall renovation is completed Oct. 16.
"Sears is a great equalizer store," said Dawn M. Bunyon, director of marketing for Eastpoint.
Eastpoint will also add "The Atrium Offices at Eastpoint," two levels of office space totaling 52,000 square feet, and "The Atrium Cafe," a food court that will bring in 10 eateries.
"We're trying to draw customers from outside our immediate trade area without losing our core trade area," said Ms. Bunyon, noting that 500,000 people live within a five-mile radius of the 35-year-old mall.
The desire to keep core customers is reflected in the slogan for the grand reopening: "Eastpoint Mall: It's Still Your Mall."
"Our customer base is a very, very loyal and local working class base. People in this community have been shopping here generation after generation," Ms. Bunyon says.
"Eastpoint is based on the old retail premise of having a neighborhood shopping center," said Richard Clement, manager of Shaw's Jewelers, a national chain with an outlet at Eastpoint for the past 14 years. "People come here for the down-home service. They even come from out of state after they've moved."
The renovation is an effort to reach out to those who live nearby but travel to White Marsh to shop at the Sears store there. Eastpoint's managers would also like to pick up customers who live in the vicinity of White Marsh and Golden Ring malls.
Golden Ring is a 10-minute drive from Eastpoint and a 20-minute ride from White Marsh. With so much competition in its area, retailers must renovate or lose their competitive edge, Eastpoint's managers say.
"The strategy is to improve the look of the mall and the ambience of the mall. We're not raising our prices, but we want to make the mall more visually appealing," Ms. Bunyon said.
Because the mall was built in the '50s, that theme is being used for the face lift. The theme is "Introducing a 50's Classic with a Brand New Shine . . . From the Nifty 50's to the Neon 90's." That translates into a color scheme with such '50s favorites as foam green and neon pink and '50s entertainment on re-opening day.
The mall is owned by Eastpoint Partners L.P., a joint venture between the Shopco Group, the mall management firm, and Shearson Lehman Bros., the financial services company. Both firms are based in New York.
The owners of Eastpoint grappled with the need to renovate the shopping facility after Hutzler's, the now-defunct Baltimore department store chain, left the mall in 1989. Finally, it was decided that the interior of the old Hutzler's building should be torn out and the space transformed into the Atrium cafe and offices.
The mall will become a multi-use facility with the addition of the office space, which is expected to serve an array of small financial and consumer-oriented companies as well as doctors, dentists and other professionals.
Although Eastpoint is mounting a challenge to other shopping malls in its trade region, its rivals remain confident.
"We can hold our own," said Janice Biele, manager of sales and marketing for White Marsh Mall, which is owned by the Columbia-based Rouse Co.