(I originally scanned b&w photocopies of this article here)
(I actually keep a photocopy of this article on the wall in my room, don’t joke. I know I’m a pathetic retail dork)
Competition, Economy May Cloud Its Chance For A Brighter Future
HAMPTON — As work crews scurry to put the finishing touches on Newmarket North’s metamorphosis into Newmarket Fair, one question remains for mall owner Goodman Segar Hogan.
Will it be enough?
Goodman Segar is gambling that its $9-million renovation will jump-start the moribund mall, which has lost ground the past three years to competitors Coliseum Mall in the Mercury Central area of Hampton and Patrick Henry Mall in the Oyster Point area of Newport News. a sluggish economy, immediate competition and the mall’s inability to fill the space vacated by one of its three anchors, Miller & Rhoads.
Newmarket tenants, who have lived through 10 months of construction, said they had high expectations for the renovated mall.
“It’s opened it up. It’s brighter, it’s more inviting,” said Carol Leggett, store manager for K&K Toys. “I think it will turn it around.”
Deborah Moreau, Newmarket Fair’s general manager, said Goodman Segar hopes to position the mall as an entertaining, family- oriented place. To that end, the mall has added a carousel and children’s play area and has placed TV monitors in the new food court.
During the pre-Christmas season, Newmarket will serve as Peninsula headquarters for the Toys For Tots campaign, Moreau said, while off-beat events such as a mall-sponsored Super Bowl party and an afternoon soap opera party are being considered.
The mall’s new information center will sell lottery tickets, in addition to providing fax machine service and a drop-off point for dry cleaning.
The mall has “a lot of amenities that makes this more of an all-encompassing shopping environment,” Moreau said. “We’re not just a place to come to shop.”
Moreau, a former marketing director for the mall, returned to Newmarket in June, following a three-year hiatus. “When I left, I thought we were holding our own competing with Coliseum,” she said.
Since then, the mall has tread water while Coliseum continued to grow and Patrick Henry opened in 1987. Tenants and officials saw Newmarket, built in 1975, as dark and outdated.
Coliseum, located about three miles north of Newmarket, put more heat on its competitor when it completed its own renovation in 1989.
Newmarket also suffered a disadvantage in access, as both Coliseum and Patrick Henry are in close proximity to Interstate 64.
“We knew it had slipped,” Moreau said of Newmarket. “We were contenders in the market, but not as strong as we used to be.”
When Goodman Segar bought the mall in July 1989, it immediately set out to rectify the situation. The Norfolk-based company announced plans to renovate the mall on the same day it acquired the property for $34 million from Hahn Co. of San Diego and American General Insurance of Houston.
Improving interior lighting was one of the primary goals, so Goodman Segar had more than 14,000 square feet of skylighting installed in the two-story mall. To improve the mall’s aesthetics, the orange and brown color scheme has been replaced with white walls accented with pastel blue.
Kiosks sport the mall’s new teal, fuchsia, purple and gold colors in small glass squares.
Goodman Segar commissioned a $70,000 sculpture for the center court. The sculpture, which consists of multi-colored triangular flags representing blowing sails, has already drawn attention, Moreau said. There are “people who love it, people who hate it,” she said. “But they talk about it.”
Goodman Segar is celebrating the mall’s rebirth with an invitation-only gathering today. While most of the remodeling is complete, some gaps remain.
The mall’s food court will not be completed by the grand opening, Moreau said. More importantly, Goodman Segar is still struggling to fill the space left when Miller & Rhoads closed its doors in January.
The Richmond-based department store chain was forced to liquidate after a failed reorganization attempt last year. Miller & Rhoads’ closing has left more than 120,000 square feet of retail space in the mall unused, and efforts to lure replacement tenants – notably Hecht’s – have been unsuccessful so far.
“It’s obviously of major importance to us,” said Moreau, who added the company has no time frame for when it will find a replacement.
Moreau said Newmarket’s turnaround should take less than the normal three to five years. A big hindrance is the uncertainty facing the nation’s economy, in which the Middle East crisis is playing a key role.
“The economy obviously is not working with us,” Moreau said. “I think it adds a lot of uncertainty to the time frame in which we can turn it around. It doesn’t help us.”
Regardless, Newmarket’s renovation has drawn praise from its competitors.
“I think they’re going to do all right,” said Roger Brown, Patrick Henry Mall manager. “It’s unique, it’s nice.”
He said the area’s shaky economy would not hurt Newmarket any worse than other retail properties. “We’re all looking at it. We’ve all got to stay awake and do what we’ve got to do.”
nne Marie Haverkamp, Coliseum Mall marketing director, said the renovation would increase Newmarket’s marketability.
“It was a needed renovation, just like it was necessary at Coliseum Mall,” Haverkamp said. “We compliment them on their interior changes and the addition of natural lighting, and the selection of new flooring.”
“It’s basically quite a transformation between what it was and what it is today,” said Robert Syler, project architect for The FWA Group, the North Carolina-based firm that designed Newmarket’s renovation. However, Syler said that if the proper tenant mix is not present, renovation alone will not make a mall successful.
Newmarket tenants are crossing their fingers that the renovation will be just the tonic needed. Kate Turney, an employee at Camelot Records, said the renovation had already helped mall traffic pick up. “After living through all the dust and dirt and construction, we’re trying to maintain as positive an attitude as possible,” she said.
The renovation has not come without a cost to retailers. Kevin Stickney, assistant manager for Hofheimer’s Shoes, said sales had dropped 30 percent from the same time last year. “I’ve noticed that the mall’s been kind of dead because of the renovations,” he said.
Stickney said Newmarket’s management had no choice in deciding to renovate the mall. “They really had to do something,” he said.
It really seems like Miller & Rhoads closing + the remodel absolutely killed the mall in 1989/1990. Probably didn’t help that Patrick Henry Mall opened in 1987.
I also wonder what Deborah is doing these days. I can’t imagine “managing a dying mall in the late 1980s when malls were booming” looks good on her resume. Note how she is DRESSED LIKE THE MALL.