Exterior of The Andersons in Northwood, Ohio.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
To the surprise of virtually no one, The Andersons Inc. announced Monday that it will close its general store in the shuttered Woodville Mall in Northwood by the end of February.
“I want to first say, ‘Thank you’ to all the loyal customers we’ve had here at the Woodville store for the last 24 years. It has been a pleasure to provide a service here,” said Dan Anderson, president of The Andersons’ Retail Group.
“That fact makes it even more difficult to announce ... we’ll be closing this store sometime by the end of February.”
The Woodville Mall store has 29 full-time and 92 part-time employees whose jobs will be phased out over the next three months.
Mr. Anderson said those employees will have opportunities to seek positions at The Andersons’ other stores or within the company’s other divisions. Workers also will receive severance and outplacement services, he added.
The store will operate as usual in December, then begin an inventory liquidation sale.
Mr. Anderson said the key reason for closing the 120,000-square-foot store is the “serious deterioration of the structure in recent months.”
Although an interior entrance to the Woodville Mall was sealed off some time ago, the 43-year-old mall building continues to deteriorate, with its owner in default and no maintenance occurring for more than a year.
The Andersons’ lease expires at year’s end, and it will operate through February on a month-to-month lease.
Other stores operated by the Maumee-based company will not be affected. The Andersons has stores in Maumee and Toledo, as well as two in the Columbus area. It also has a specialty food store in Sylvania Township.
In December, a Wood County Common Pleas judge issued a temporary order that the Woodville Mall be closed because of structural problems that presented safety hazards at the 778,000-square-foot mall at 3725 Williston Rd. Problems included a lack of heat, large holes and collapsed areas in the roof, water leaking into public and nonpublic areas of the mall, a partially nonfunctioning fire suppression and alarm system, and pervasive mold and mildew.
That order closing the main retail section of the mall was made permanent on June 7 by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey. The mall’s owner, investor Mike Kohan of Little Neck, N.Y., failed to appear at a hearing on the order and also later failed to clear up unresolved safety issues at the mall.
“There are serious maintenance issues to do here. We’ve replaced the air conditioning and furnace and so forth,” Mr. Anderson said Monday. “In a building of this age, there’s just continued and significant maintenance to do. The parking lot, all those kinds of things are issues and you have to keep them up. Because of the nature of this mall, they were not being maintained appropriately, so you have to make a decision,” he said.
“We have really enjoyed serving on the east side of Toledo, and this store was an important location for us. Unfortunately, the circumstances don’t give us much choice here,” Mr. Anderson added.
Company officials met with employees Sunday night to give them the news.
“We hate to announce this kind of news any time. We’re especially sensitive to the fact that it's just before the holidays, but we thought it most appropriate to get the news to our people as soon as possible to help them in the transition in employment. We’re awfully sorry to make this decision,” Mr. Anderson said.
The company hopes to place as many people as possible in other divisions or other stores, he added.
“I don't know exactly how it will work out. That’s why we wanted to announce it with our people as soon as we made the decision. It gives us essentially three and a half months to work on outplacement and to find other opportunities in this company,” Mr. Anderson said.
“As you know, other parts of this company are very vibrant right now. We have significant growth going on in some of our other businesses, and we have a serious commitment to try to help people find continued employment in this company. So we’ve got some time and we’ll work with everybody as diligently as we can to help them find good opportunities.”
Andersons customer Cindy Jacobs of Northwood was disappointed to learn that the store will be closing.
“That's terrible. There's not a whole lot over here. Andersons, Sears,” she said.
But she was not surprised. “I can understand. [The mall] is falling apart over here. But I wish they’d find somewhere over here to build a new one,” she said.
Likewise, Shirley Fitzpatrick of Toledo said the move by the retailer was not a shock.
“I figured they’d close it sooner or later,” she said while walking into the store Monday. “I'm going to miss this store.”
It is unlikely that a replacement location or a new Andersons store in Northwood will occur, the company said.
“We’ve looked on the east side for essentially three years for other opportunities. There are some buildings, but they’re just not large enough for what we need to do, and our financial performance here doesn’t warrant new construction,” Mr. Anderson said. “So we have just not been able to find a viable opportunity on this side of town.”
Northwood city administrator Bob Anderson, who is not connected to the company, said the possible closing of the store had been the subject of intense discussion in Northwood for months.
“We've known there’s been problems with the mall ownership. ... I kind of understand what The Andersons are doing,” the city administrator said.
“I spoke to Dan Anderson, and he said that they had been looking in this area [for a new site] but they had not been successful.
“As a city, we need to see what we can do to help them. We’d certainly like to keep them in Northwood, and at the very least, on this east side of the city,” Bob Anderson said.
The city administrator said no one in Northwood faults the retailer for its decision, and that The Andersons has had several talks with Northwood’s mayor and its economic development officials.
When The Andersons departs, Northwood will lose nearly $40,000 a year in income tax paid by the retailer.
“As a city, we would have liked to take over the mall, but you can’t do that because it belongs to someone else,” Bob Anderson said. “I'm left wondering what more we, as a city, could do.”
The city administrator said he spoke Monday to officials of Sears Holding Co., Woodville Mall’s soon-to-be last remaining tenant, and the Chicago-based retailer said it intends to remain in Northwood at its present site at the east end of the mall.
A Sears spokesman confirmed that the store was “open and serving customers,” but would not answer questions about its future.
Germano Bressan, a commercial real estate agent and retail specialist at the Toledo office of Signature Associates Inc., said he was not the least bit surprised by The Andersons’ decision.
“I drove by there the other day and noticed everything around there was dark. They were the only place doing anything,” Mr. Bressan said. “So I thought they’ll either do tremendous volume there or they’ll wait until their lease runs out and then leave,” he added.
Pete Shawaker, a commercial real estate agent with the Reichle Klein Group, said the loss of The Andersons will make it that much harder to redevelop the Woodville Mall property. He is the marketing agent for the mall’s former Elder-Beerman store, which closed in 2009.
“Woodville is one of the few market segments in our area that has not been revitalized. At some point over the last 20 years, you would expect it to be redeveloped, but it hasn’t happened,” Mr. Shawaker said.
“You look at any major road coming off a major highway in this area and at some point it’s been redeveloped or revitalized, but not there. This one area is still crying out for redevelopment.”
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