The supermarket corridor along Route 12A in western Lebanon has long been smashed.
Consumer spending fell off a cliff during the Great Recession of 2007-09. Then Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 flooded some shopping centers, forcing many stores to close for months while the damage was repaired. A massive shift to online ordering over the next decade sparked a retail apocalypse for stores. And the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people – including employees – to stay off Route 12A.
Now, traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts along 12A that rely on customer traffic are hoping for, if not exactly a throwback to the good old days, at least a resumption of business following the installation of two nationally branded retailers. in the neighborhood.
Construction crews are in the final stages of the $ 2 million project to convert the former Kmart store into an 87,000 square foot Target and 18,000 square foot Sierra store, as revealed by local property manager, Charter Realty & Development.
A sure sign that Target and Sierra are preparing to open, the two have posted job offers in shops in western Lebanon on the site Indeed.
But the exact opening date of either store is not yet known. A Target spokesperson said the western Lebanon store “is expected to open later this year.” A spokesperson for TJX, Sierra’s parent company, did not respond to an email requesting.
Still, consumers eager to get into Target to grab a set of Cuisinart colorized stainless steel knives or one Spyder Monterosa Gore-Tex ski jacket at Sierra aren’t the only group eager to see stores open. Other businesses in western Lebanon have said they expect the increased traffic from the new outlets will also bring customers through their doors.
âI think Target will just be bombed when they open, and we’ll take advantage of that,â said Eric Roberts, owner of Lui Lui restaurant at Powerhouse Mall and across Route 12A from the mall. “The more things there are, the more reason there is for people to get off at exit 20. We’re going to see more people coming this way.”
And Tina Robinson, optician at Pro Optical – the only independent chain-less company in the plaza – said “we expect a huge increase in traffic” following the opening of Target and Sierra.
She said the optician’s office and the eyeglass store, which is the oldest business in the area, planned to put up a sandwich panel on the sidewalk outside the store to advertise available appointments, eyeglass sales and a raffle to attract customers to the store.
Formerly known as Kmart Plaza, the mall is now called by Charter “TJ Maxx Plaza” – the square hosts a TJ Maxx in addition to parent company TJX Cos. owner of Sierra. (The chain was once known as the Sierra Trading Post, but TJX renamed it simply Sierra in 2018.)
The square is owned by Boston-based real estate development and investment firm Davis Cos., Which bought it in 2017, along with North Country Plaza in western Lebanon and the eastern half of Miracle Mile Plaza in Lebanon, by Dead River Co. for a total of $ 27.2 million.
One open issue is the status of the former Kleen Laundry store and the former Irving gas station, which are adjacent to each other and face Highway 12A. The former laundromat and dry-cleaning store is part of the plaza owned by Davis Cos., But the gas station plot is owned by Irving Oil and has been vacant for a decade since the Interstate 89 viaduct was released. been rebuilt on route 12A.
Candice MacLean, spokesperson for Irving Oil, said via email: “We are continuing to assess long term options for this property and have no plans to share at this time.” Mark Bush, senior vice president of asset management at Davis Cos., Said via an email spokesperson that “Davis Cos. Is negotiating a lease that will bring a new tenant into the old one. Kleen Laundry building “.
Daniel Haselton, the optician who has owned Pro Optical for 41 years, remembers when there was a Grand Union supermarket in the spaces now occupied by Xfinity and TJ Maxx stores and the square included a pizzeria and florist.
Today, with the exception of his company, all of the tenants in the square are national chain stores.
But despite the closures and struggles of shopping centers across the country, things appear to be looking better with the closure of Kmart and Payless shoe stores, both victims of business bankruptcies and shifts in consumer habits.
“We have a new sidewalk in the parking lot,” Haselton said standing in his eyewear showroom last week and looking through the store windows at the newly paved surface. “And they put those things on,” he added, referring to the workers on the sidewalk outside his door who put up cinder blocks for the pillars to support the overhang of the sidewalk.
âThey spent a lot of money there,â Haselton mused, looking out the window at the construction activity. “So someone is optimistic about the future.”
Contact John Lippman at [email protected]