Businesses displaced by the closure of the Shoppes at Riverside mall have a little longer to search for retail and storage space. Mall manager Jasmine Dickhoff notified the businesses as quickly as possible Tuesday morning after speaking with mall ownership and confirming that engineers who discovered potential safety issues had agreed to a May 4, deadline for the mall to be cleared. The initial date had been March 21.
Coming Attractions Theatres, which operates a theater and fun center and owns the Aberdeen property, announced over the weekend that it would close the mall to the public in light of a structural engineering report that turned up safety issues. Dickhoff said the announcement affects about 27 spaces with various uses, including retail, office space and storage. She said the mall itself has a decent amount of things in storage there. “We closed a cinema in Ashland, Oregon, and all of the chairs and projectors, everything that was in there is (now)stored here,” said Dickhoff.
In terms of the mall’s long-term fate, ownership has said it is considering its options. The structural engineering report was commissioned after roof problems developed following last month’s snow storm, but for years the mall has had problems with wavy floors caused by settling.
Some of the businesses, like Deen Dogs and Tectonic Comics, are reporting success and offering timelines for when they may reopen at other locations. Others continue to search for space while they also race against the clock to empty their stores.
Deen Dogs, specializing in selling hot dogs, posted to its Facebook page on social media Monday night that it had “just secured a lease on the Cakecakes Bakery location at 107 E. Wishkah Street in Aberdeen. The bakery has relocated to Hoquiam. Deen Dogs owner David Gleaves on Monday said he was “hoping to open on April 12th.” Meantime, he’s focused on cleaning out his store and securing the new location.
“It’s very sad for me, I don’t want to leave.” said Michelle Simon Conrad, who moved Tectonic Comics into the mall five years ago last month. She said she has been very happy in her location and understands the challenges of maintaining such a building. But Conrad said she had been shopping for retail space for some time before this happened, and she was working on closing a deal that might let her reopen by the end of the month at a new address.
“We’re going to land on our feet,” she said. “We’re going to land on our feet, and I hope everyone else does, too.”
Gail Anderson, owner of All that Glitters and Pandora’s Box faces a daunting task of relocating a store packed with inventory for her gift and costume shop. “I just wish they would let me leave my stuff here and then come back when they’re done,” she said Monday. She said many of the storage rental businesses she contacted were full, and she wasn’t finding any comparable rental rates for the store. She said she wished the mall would just let her have a garage sale in the parking lot, or let her store the merchandise in her closed storefront until decisions are made on the mall.
The Moore Wright Group, a non-profit that distributes items for low-income households in Grays Harbor and several surrounding counties, is looking for about 15,000 square feet of storage space. Executive Director Tanikka Watford Williams explained that the group moved to the mall in October and has distributed a little over $4 million in donations into Grays Harbor County through their Aberdeen location since the move. She said they’re happy to not have a truckload of mattresses, but expecting one in June. Their supplies included many pallets of goods, including items such as Sketchers shoes, air mattresses, sheets, socks, kitchen appliances, etc., from partner agencies like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Men’s Warehouse, 360, Map International, JoAnn, and Ross stores as well as Bed Bath and Beyond.
“We don’t just give people a bar of soap, we’re giving them everything they need for their house.” said Williams. Their distribution center looks like a busy storefront at times, filled with donations to be distributed to about 300 partner agencies. Last year, they distributed a little over $19 million throughout the state, including about 200,000 toys through the Toys-For-Tots program.
The agency is looking to find a large space with lots of room for storage and loading of trucks. Williams said in the same week that this happened they were supposed to be moving a large portion of inventory into the mall for storage. So now the agency is looking to store about 900 pallets. She’s used to the logistics of the move. Before COVID protocols, the center handled about 13 to 14 pallets a week. During the closures they have been handling closer to 4 truckloads (96 pallets total) per week.
“I would love the middle Swanson’s building,” said Tanikka on Tuesday morning, but she said they are still shopping real-estate options that could be comparable to their current rates — factoring in paying first- and last- months’ rent and deposit fee upfront — with not much notice or time to prepare.
Many local groups have come forward to help the businesses with donations of time and money. The Downtown Aberdeen Association announced Monday afternoon that they are offering a one-time $500 gift to licensed businesses wanting to relocate into the Main Street footprint. For details email email@example.com.
Greater Grays Harbor Inc is reaching out to tenants and has announced a resource roundtable scheduled for 3:30 p.m. this afternoon (Wednesday). Chief Executive Officer Lynnette Buffington said they’re inviting Professional Services, Small Business Administration, local financial institutions, insurance, real estate offices, city, state and county officials and others to an online meeting for the tenants. Any tenants who have not been contacted by GGHI should contact GGHI to get details of the meeting.
Dickhoff, the mall manager, said she is also talking with the state Department of Commerce and other organizations to secure funds to help the businesses make the move. In the meantime, an outpouring of support from the community continues.