Store owners concerned, but mall general manager says closure represents “a unique opportunity to ownership.”
As J.C. Penney Co. Inc. winds down operations at Regency Square Mall, store owners are worried about a decrease in foot traffic, with some already closing because of the pandemic.
J.C. Penney announced June 4 it is closing its Jacksonville store in Regency Square Mall as part of the first phase of 154 store closings in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
The company’s three Northeast Florida department stores closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those in The Avenues mall and the Orange Park Mall reopened last month. Those stores are not on the closings list.
The Regency Square store closed in March. Nine Florida stores will close, including Regency. Liquidation sales are expected to take 10 to 16 weeks.
The 5 Bucks or Less store is next door to J.C. Penney at Regency Square, at 9501 Arlington Expressway.
Manager Cori Young said many of her customers would come in from J.C. Penney, in addition to her crowd of regulars, especially during the holiday season.
“It’ll be sad to see” J.C. Penney and its shoppers absent from the mall, she said. “It’s not good, it’s not good.
“It’ll affect the mall. It’s the last anchor store, it’s the last big store.”
With J.C. Penney closed, Young said the majority of traffic will be near the food court.
She said she hopes Impact Church coming into the former Belk store in the central anchor space will help business. Impact Church is building-out its space.
The western wing of the mall, between Belk and the closed Sears store, has been vacant for years.
“I have to keep my job too,” Young said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Some stores, like AlyCat and Piercing Pagoda, closed in the mall. Workers were packing up contents of the Piercing Pagoda kiosk, and confirmed the location was shut permanently.
Bath & Body Works, one of the few remaining national tenants, has not reopened. Rogers Jewelers has a sign taped to its store gates notifying customers it will be closed until further notice.
The food court was mostly open, except for two kiosks, around noon June 5. There were about 20 people inside eating. Most tables were still piled up and taped off to keep people socially distanced.
Timothy Greco, Regency Square general manager, said Penney’s closure opens up that space for something else.
“The loss would be disappointing, but it does present a unique opportunity to ownership to identify new and different types of tenants to continue diversifying the property,” Greco said in a statement.
After the company filed a petition for Chapter 11 on May 15, J.C. Penney said the reorganization included a plan to permanently close about 30% of its 846 stores.
J.C. Penney operated 52 stores in Florida in February.
The retailer expects to begin store closing sales at Regency and the other 153 locations after getting approval at a June 11 hearing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.
Additional store closings will be announced “in the coming weeks,” the company said in a news release.
Contributing Writer Mark Basch contributed to this report.
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