The Wilson Times | Wilson Mall stores closing, relocating

11/12/2012

Courtesy of The Wilson Times by Rochelle Moore

Businesses in the Wilson Mall will either close or move to other areas of the city by the first of the year when the mall is slated for demolition.

Hull Storey Gibson, which owns the mall, has notified business owners that they must be out of the mall by Jan. 7 when their leases end. The decision to tear down the mall except for businesses with outside entrances was made after years of declining business and customer traffic. Through the past several years, more and more businesses have closed or relocated to other shopping areas in the city.

The inside of the mall is left with seven businesses that will need to close or relocate. Several have announced their plans while some, including The Shoe Dept., Bath and Body Works and the Foot Locker, have not indicated what their plans are.

Carolina Outfitters, which opened in the mall about 12 years ago, is having a closing sale with items at 50 percent off or more. Jerry Taylor, owner, decided to close the business and retire instead of trying to find another location, grapple with a difficult economy and compete with the future opening of Dunhams Sports in Wilson.

"One was the national economy and just the reduced traffic in the mall and the advent of the sporting goods store," Taylor said. "The handwriting was on the wall for the past three years. I was hoping things would turn but they didnt. I'm just going to get out completely."

Carolina Outfitters will close completely in two to three weeks, after the stores merchandise is sold.

The Hobby Shop will relocate in the Regency Plaza, next to Food Lion, on Tarboro Street. The Hobby Shop is currently having a moving sale in it's mall store where its been located for 35 years, said Sue Furman, owner.

"The plan is to move the week between Christmas and New Years Eve," Furman said. "Its scary. This is a lot of stuff to move. I'm excited and scared. Change is always scary."

The Hobby Shops next location is under renovation and will provide more space and more flexibility with its hours of operation. The new location will have a game room and plenty of floor space for the store.

"We're happy with the space," Furman said. "We'll be able to do midnight releases, which we couldnt do here. I'll do a lot more things that we can't do here."

Dance Studio B is also planning a move and is renovating a building, at 200 Nash St., at the corner of Goldsboro Street. Dance Studio B will likely remain in the Wilson Mall through Jan. 7, said Patricia Bradshaw, owner.

"We're going to be moving downtown and we're really excited about it," Bradshaw said.

"The closing of the mall, where Dance Studio B has been for five years, is disappointing but the new location promising," she said.

"We loved being at the mall," she said. "It was a great location for us. We were disappointed but it's going to work out. We're just looking at it as a dress rehearsal for our new location."

GNC manager Kim Baker said that the store is planned to relocate in Wilson. Baker, however, didnt know any details about the relocation that is being handled by corporate leaders. The Beltone Hearing Care Center has already moved out of the mall and is now at 2305 Wellington Drive.

Hull Storey Gibson's plan to demolish the Wilson Mall involves tearing down the interior of the mall and leaving two anchor stores JCPenney and Roses as well as the Dollar Tree, Carmike Cinemas and the K&W Cafeteria as free-standing.

Demolition of the mall is planned in early 2013 and in its place will be a grassy area that could be developed later.

Managers with the K&W Cafeteria and Roses don't anticipate that the demolition will hurt their business.

"There's not much left in the mall anyway," said Robert Phelps, K&W assistant manager. "I don't know that it's going to have any impact. I think our business is going to stay the same. It's a little disappointing to see all the businesses go toward I-95 but I guess the citys got to change."

Mike La Bar, Roses manager, also said that the lack of mall business has been a norm so the closing isn't expected to impact Roses very much.

"I think we're still going to be here," La Bar said. "I really don't foresee it impacting Roses at all because the mall has been empty for so long that it hasn't been a drawing card. I don't anticipate us closing the doors. This has been a good location."

Hull Storey Gibson, which bought the mall in 2005, spent millions of dollars to improve the mall before watching several factors, including the opening of Heritage Crossing, lead to slower customer traffic and the successive closing of many businesses. Gibson attributes the mall's decline to the opening of Heritage Crossing and relocation of Belk from the mall to Heritage. Hull Storey Gibson has been considering an end to the inside of the mall for more than a year.