Fourth in a series about changes at Suburban Square in Ardmore.
The news over the past couple of months has not been great for Suburban Square, with several high-end shops closing, part of a national downsizing or liquidation trend that’s affecting everything from to wedding dresses.
The store closed in the Spring. ’s French parent company no longer exists and is liquidating. The elite string of bridal shops are closing, including the one on St. James Place, just as you enter the Square’s . At the other end of the courtyard, closed its doors last week.
But Mark Bachus, the shopping center’s general manager—though frustrated at times—is not worried. A veteran of the business, he’s seen much worse, on a much larger scale.
“The reason I’m not worried is that I started seeing this at King of Prussia,” said Bachus, who worked at the mega-mall complex before taking over at Suburban.
“My personal opinion of what we’re seeing is the last wave of what this is going to do to retail,” Bachus said, referring to the three-year dip in consumer spending since the dramatic economic events of September 2008. “We have a lot of activity among retailers approaching us who are expanding, who are interested in space here.”
‘The ownership this community has for the shopping center is amazing.’—Mark Bachus, GM
For instance, a new Anthropoligie “concept” store by is coming to the vacant space on the corner of Coulter and St. Georges Place, and should start construction within a few weeks. They’re taking the site of the old , which relocated to a smaller space on St. James—an example of how retailers have gotten smarter with their inventory during lean times, Bachus said.
Seidenburg has been at Suburban Square for more than 50 years, but wanted to downsize. Moving the store to an empty slot made room for a retailer that market research indicated customers wanted: “Ladies wanted more shoes,” Bachus explained.
Hence, “Accessories by Anthropologie,” which includes footwear. (One fashion blogger in Nashville describes the new store as having “an array of shoes, clutches, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, eyewear, scarves, and headbands ... they had the brands that Anthro has always carried, as well as some local pieces by some local Nashville designers.”)
And Talbots’ closure? , Bachus revealed here earlier this week: the existing on St. Georges is expanding into the much larger Talbots space, to make room for its new concept store, complete with amenities like an “energy bar” and an iPad station.
Another Bridal Store Targeted
“Talbot’s and Priscilla’s just did phenomenal business,” Bachus said. “Unfortunately, that’s just what happens” when large corporate entities control the fate of large chains, he added. Priscilla of Boston opened in November 2009, after one of worst years in American economic history, and “they did incredible numbers,” Bachus said.
Asked if Priscilla’s down-market sister company, David’s Bridal (both are owned by the publicly traded Inc.), might be interested in occupying the space, Bachus said immediately that Kimco Realty, the real estate investment trust that owns Suburban Square, rather go after another high-end retailer.
“We’d be looking for something a little more luxury-related, and that’s what our customers obviously wanted. The growth potential of that space, in terms of sales, was amazing. What that tells us is that maybe we should look for another bridal [tenant] to fill that space here, because they certainly did very, very well here.”
The Main Line area, as demonstrated by the housing market, has fared extremely well over the past few years when compared to the rest of the region, and especially when compared to the rest of the nation. “Suburban Square did not take a big hit on sales—it performs very well, it has a very local, concentrated market who are very devoted and committed to the shopping center. It shows during these times,” Bachus said.
“When there are closings, people get very concerned because the ownership this community has for the shopping center is amazing, and one that you don’t see a lot.”
New Restaurant: Check. New Parking: Maybe?
The long-rumored new restaurant for Suburban Square is not a fiction, Bachus confirmed, though he is not yet at liberty to provide details beyond the fact that it is not a chain.
“We are negotiating a restaurant that will be located in the courtyard. They want something unique for the area, and a little upscale,” Bachus said of Kimco.
Management has met with the township and civic groups to get input on the choice, which will be made public soon, he added.
There will be valet parking for the restaurant, too, with a small valet canopy and infrastructure for that purpose built into the new landscaping and roadways.
Additionally, “if we ever expand our parking situation, we would like to offer valet to our customers,” Bachus said, referring to the mall in general.
“Some sort of parking facility,” though, is down the road, he admits, after the renovation of the interior courtyard and pedestrian walkways.
“We’re trying to get through this first.”