Mall to get two new tenants

Women's apparel retailer, restaurant renting space

July 12, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

TownMall of Westminster is getting two new tenants - national women's wear retailer Dress Barn and Super Buffet, a Maryland restaurant chain serving Chinese and American food - that officials hope will boost sales at the struggling mall.

"We hope it will increase traffic to the shopping center," said Rene F. Daniel, president of Daniel Group LLC, the agency employed by mall owners Cranberry Mall Properties LLC to lease stores at the property.

The new tenants will raise the mall's occupancy rate to 70 percent. The Dress Barn, the first women's clothing store to open in the mall in three years, will lease nearly 6,000 square feet next to Ritz Camera.

The Super Buffet will occupy 6,000 square feet formerly leased to O'Toole's restaurant, opposite Westminster Union Bank.

The last publicly reported sales for the mall showed $19 million in the first eight months of 1999, down from $20.4 million in the same period for 1998. The numbers point to the effect retail vacancies and increased competition along Route 140 have had on the shopping center.

When Daniel's company took over leasing a year ago, he said it faced an uphill battle. The mall had lost two anchors - Caldor and Montgomery Ward - and occupancy was 62 percent.

"TownMall has been challenging because it lost its anchor and because it lost a prior anchor before, so when we took it over we started working," Daniel said.

In May, Daniel Group's efforts paid off with the announcement of a new anchor, Pennsylvania-based Boscov's. The department store will take over space left by Montgomery Ward early last year, and is the first foothold the chain has made in the Baltimore area.

Demolition of the old Wards store last month has made way for construction of a nearly 180,000-square-foot, two-story building set to open in the spring.

"That announcement has led to additional interest to additional tenants we've been talking to - a lot more are on the table," Daniel said, although he declined to name any. "I never talk about it until the ink is dry."

In May, Gold's Gym agreed to lease 6,000 square feet in the old Caldor store, which is being split into three spaces to accommodate future business. A temporary site opened last month. The complete facilities will open in the fall.

Dress Barn plans to open Aug. 16. It has more than 750 outlets across the country, with eight in Maryland, including one in Towson. This is the company's first store in Carroll County. The 40-year-old company made more than $700 million in sales this past year.

Super Buffet plans a December opening. The family-owned restaurant is moving east from its locations in Hagerstown and Frederick. Cranberry Mall Properties runs the mall with Strategic Resources Corp., a New York City-based independent investment advisory and fund management company. The Daniel Group handles leasing for seven other regional malls, including Harford Mall in Bel Air.

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