Arbor Place Mall will turn 15 this October, but it will have to celebrate a milestone birthday without a big-name tenant that has been around since the beginning.
The Gap will close its doors for the final time at the end of business Sunday, Charlotte Wagner, assistant general manager at Arbor Place, said.
Late in the week, shelves in the trendy clothing store were heavily picked through and signs outside the entrances to Gap and the adjoining Gap Kids advised customers to visit the nearest Gap store at the Avenues at West Cobb.
The Gap announced in 2011 it planned to close 21 percent of its U.S. stores. Phone calls and emails to the San Francisco-based company were not returned, but the Gap had a growing cluster of clothing stores to compete with at Arbor Place.
The mall is anchored by five department stores that sell a wide selection of clothes. And shops like Forever 21 and H&M have opened at Arbor Place in recent years, joining an endless list of smaller stores targeted at specific demographics.
Wagner said she’s always sad to see a store go, but that “it does open the door for new opportunities.”
Wagner said the mall is already in negotiations on a lease for the Gap space, which is on the upper level in the middle of the mall near J.C. Penney and Belk.
“As soon as that is signed, we’ll announce those changes,” Wagner said. “Sometimes it’s a domino effect for opportunities where one person might take a space and open up another. It’s kind of the way this business goes.”
Then, adding what she admitted was a subtle hint, Wagner said: “It could be an expansion for somebody who’s doing really well.”
Abercrombie & Fitch is three doors down. That company announced in November it plans to start selling larger sizes and A&F might be a good fit for the space. Attach, a smaller clothing store aimed at 18-25-year-old men, and kids clothing store Crazy 8 sit between the Gap and Abercrombie. American Eagle is across the walkway.
But Wagner said until the lease is signed, mum’s the word on which if any of those stores might expand where the Gap has been for so long.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to announce that one really soon because I know that people get concerned when they see things closing,” said Wagner.
The parent companies for Macy’s and J.C. Penney, two of Arbor Place Mall’s anchor stores, have announced plans to close stores this year. But the Arbor Place locations weren’t on the hit lists for either company. Wagner said both stores “seem to be doing just fine.”
Overall the mall is at 97.1 percent occupancy, and more stores are coming.
Papaya, a clothing store aimed at women ages 16-25, is moving into the old Lane Bryant location on the first floor across from Forever 21. Wagner said Papaya should be open by April 1. Wagner compared Papaya to the women’s clothing store Charlotte Russe, which has a location on the lower level at Arbor Place.
“We’re excited about the way things are moving,” Wagner said. “Even in the wake of the Gap thing, there are so many opportunities that are becoming available and those thriving retailers will find space here.”