Many Unanswered Questions About Future of Clarion Mall

Clarion Mall exteriorCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – With malls across the United States reeling from store closings, it’s easy to wonder about the future of the Clarion Mall.

Thursday’s announcement that the Kmart store in Clarion Mall would close by the end of January 2018 was another blow to a shopping center that has had its troubles over the last few years.

The Clarion Mall currently has five empty store spaces, and with Kmart closing, one of its three anchors will be gone.

Clarion Mall empty spaces 2What, if anything, will replace it remains to be seen.

Neither Mall General Manager Denny Hill nor Assistant Manager Stacy Thompson could be reached for comment on future plans for the mall.

Nevertheless, there were others at the mall who did speak to

Shoppers Amanda Whitling and James Kunselman were headed to Cricket to look at new cell phones.

Whitling said she wasn’t happy with the announcement of Kmart closing.

“I’m disappointed because of their layaway. I price shop, and sometimes Kmart had better prices and sometimes Walmart did. Now, there’s no choice,” Whitling said.

For another shopper, Karen Callender, she wasn’t happy with Kmart closing, either.

“My best friend worked there for 15 years, and now he’ll be out of a job. And, their layaway was for anything and for all year. Walmart only does layaway for certain things and just at Christmas,” Callender said.

Lori Hinderliter, a Lickingville resident who mans the Bathfitter display near the main mall entrance, had strong feelings about the entire situation after watching things decline for a while.

“It’s devastating for us. Our business requires traffic,” Hinderliter said. “We’re already struggling to meet our sales goals. With Kmart, Medifast, and Simple Things going out, we’ve probably lost 45 percent of our traffic here.”

Clarion Mall interior

“If we could get a Big Lots or a Bed, Bath and Beyond, something like them, it would really help. But, most of the empty spaces that are here have been that way for a few years, so it’s hard to know what will happen.”

“Cricket is the only new place here this year, but there just aren’t the events being held here that were previously. I don’t know why there aren’t more events, but they used to have a petting zoo, there used to be a home show, there were cars and boats displayed in here, and we don’t even get the seasonal stores, such as Hickory Farms, the winery in here anymore,” Hinderliter said. “Our lease is up in January, so I don’t know how long we will be here.”

“It would also be good to see another restaurant here, somewhere you could get something to eat in a shorter amount of time. The malls have become outdated, not enough stores have outside access. I’m not sure what will happen,” Hinderliter added.

Bo Lockwood, the new owner of the RRR Roadhouse, said that while it’s unfortunate for those working at Kmart, he said it could turn out to be positive.

“Kmart was not attracting a large amount of people anyway, so if that space can be filled with something that will draw more people here, it’s something that excites me,” Lockwood said. “I have complete faith in the managers and the owner of the mall that they will get something else in here.”

Krystal Strain, the manager at the Cricket store, which opened in February, was concerned about the drop in traffic past her store.

Cricket shoppers

“For one, it was a place we could go to get snacks and drinks for while we are at work, but I’m most concerned about fewer people being here without Kmart,” Strain said.

Thuy Hoang, who works at Q Nails and Spa, which is owned by her brother, Peter Hoang, was disheartened.

“It’s sad to see, and it’s happening everywhere,” Hoang said.”We do have our regular customers here, but with it leaving and the Medfast gone, there are fewer people in here.”

Brandon Wilson, the JC Penney store manager and one of two remaining anchors at the mall, said he felt bad for the people who worked there, but he wasn’t overly concerned about what it meant for the mall, in general.

“I can imagine good and bad scenarios that come out of it, but we’ve been fortunate to have a loyal customer base here for a long time, and I think it’s too early to tell what will happen,” Wilson said. “I certainly don’t want to see anyone close here, but we believe our customer service, prices, and selection will continue to make a difference for us.”

Although there were many opinions about the news that Kmart is closing, one sentiment was agreed by everyone: no one was happy about its upcoming closure.

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