Bankruptcy filings from three national retailers have resulted in planned or completed store closings at the Mall at University Town Center, as the mall prepares to reopen its expanded Lululemon store and welcome Vans to Sarasota later this year.
Gymboree and Charlotte Russe are in their last few days at the four-year-old mall, in the southwest corner of Interstate 75 and University Parkway in Sarasota County. Things Remembered, which was next to Icing on the ground floor next to Dillard’s, is gone, a little more than a month after the specialty gifts retailer filed for bankruptcy.
Home decor seller Z Gallerie, also on the lower level, filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday, but court documents show that its Mall at University Town Center store will remain open.
The Sarasota mall has dealt with several store closures for various reasons since it opened in 2014, but unlike other local malls, University Town Center is able to fill empty retail spaces consistently. After Brookstone closed there last summer because of a company restructuring and bankruptcy filing, the mall replaced it with Elite Home Gamerooms. When Mimmic closed in January at the end of its lease, the mall quickly announced that Vans would take its place.
Prom dress shop Russian Roulette recently took over the space next to Mayors on the upper level. Tenants like Kurtos Chimney Cakes, Kahwa Coffee, Kendra Scott and Shoes di Oggi have all joined the mall in recent months, and Cosmo Nail Bar is scheduled to move in soon.
At Gymboree, on the upper level near Dillard’s, signs said that everything in the store is 60 to 70 percent off. The children’s clothing retailer, which is closing all of its Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores nationwide, still had plenty of shirts, jackets, pants and the like at its Sarasota store as of Tuesday afternoon.
Retail analyst Jeff Green, president of Jeff Green Partners, said that Gymboree’s main problem was that its brick-and-mortar presence was too big.
“They over-expanded, especially in this kind of retail environment, as dollars really transfer to online retail,” he said.
Janie and Jack, a former Gymboree Group, Inc. children’s clothing store with a presence at University Town Center, will remain open following an acquisition of the brand by Gap Inc. Gymboree Group’s assets were acquired by a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Children’s Place, Inc. in a bankruptcy auction, according to a March 4 announcement.
Tuesday was Charlotte Russe’s second-to-last day at the Mall at University Town Center, according to a sign in the store’s window. The scarves, shoes and clothing pieces remaining in the 5,000-square-foot store are heavily discounted at 70 to 80 percent off. The store was even selling some of its artwork for $5.
Charlotte Russe also had a footprint problem, Green said, but it was a little different than Gymboree’s. Charlotte Russe’s stores were too big, Green said, and there also wasn’t a lot of differentiation between them and other young women’s apparel retailers.
Things Remembered, since acquired by giftware and home decor seller Enesco, closed its Sarasota store. Its lease was valid through January of 2024, according to court documents, and the store is 1,200 square feet.
The Mall at University Town Center is part of Sarasota’s sprawling University Town Center development, which includes retail, restaurants, entertainment and other activities on either side of University Parkway just west of I-75. UTC, as the district its known in the community, will welcome a Shake Shack in the coming months, a Barnes & Noble next spring, and other tenants, including Waxing the City, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, European Wax Center, Jared, Bassett Furniture, Ford’s Garage and others.
Vans is scheduled to open in the mall during the first half of the year. Lululemon’s grand reopening is scheduled for Wednesday.
Plans for the East District at University Town Center, a site east of the mall originally pitched as a shopping, dining and entertainment district, have not yet been disclosed by developer Benderson Development Co. of Manatee County.