Elder-Beerman parent company, Bon-Ton Stores Inc., sent out a 60-day notice on Friday warning of layoffs that could start June 5 for the 122 jobs at the Dayton Mall store and 330 positions at the Bon-Ton fulfillment center in West Jefferson. The company filed a bankruptcy notice earlier this year in federal court. If another company buys Bon-Ton, it could reorganize the company to keep stores afloat or liquidate its assets to pay off debts.
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At the time it opened in 1970, the Dayton Mall was considered a “mega mall” and was larger than any malls in both Dayton and Cincinnati, according to the website MallHistory.com. The Dayton Mall’s original anchor stores were Sears, J.C. Penney and Dayton-based Rike’s and Elder-Beerman was later added as a fourth anchor retailer.
“The Dayton Mall is still a very attractive location for stores and customers. And with the growth south of Dayton, it remains a strong retail center for this region,” said Chris Kershner, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce executive vice president.
Even with the notice on Friday, Elder-Beerman’s future remains up in the air but the Dayton Mall’s fate is anything but uncertain.
Around one-third of U.S. malls are projected to close in the next few years, which has forced the Dayton Mall’s owners and local officials to plan for changes that have been brewing in the retail industry for years.
Malls that are in danger of closing typically have an occupancy rate of 70 percent or lower, Chris Snyder, board member with the Miami Twp.-Dayton Mall Joint Economic Development District, told this news organization last year.
As of last June 2017, around 95 percent to 98 percent of the Dayton Mall was occupied, Snyder said.
“Whatever Elder-Beerman’s decision is on its Dayton Mall location is much larger than anything that can be controlled at the local level. It’s based on what has been happening in retail across the nation,” Kershner said.
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Plans are already underway to re-brand the Dayton Mall and the surrounding area as the Miami Crossing District.
The district would include 2.2 square-miles around the Dayton Mall, which already includes more than 400 businesses, 3.7 million square-feet of retail space and 200,000 square feet of restaurant space. Miami Twp. and Miamisburg adopted a master plan for the district that calls for more than $200 million to be invested which would result in new landscaping and redesigned outdoor spaces.
Kershner said the chamber has been working with Miami Twp. on its strategic plan for the mall area and that “the planning has been and will be very beneficial for the community.”
Elder-Beerman’s parent company filed for bankruptcy in early February. A vendor group has the option of buying 210 stores still open after the planned closures of nearly 50 stores this spring. The distribution center in Fairborn is among locations the company said would close if a buyer was not found.
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The company extended the deadline for bids in its bankruptcy auction last week to April 4, after announcing it was in active discussions. Reuters reported the bidder is a joint effort between Namdar and Washington Prime, the same company that owns the Dayton Mall.
At the Dayton Mall on Sunday, shoppers were not surprised that a store might close but some were disappointed to learn of Elder-Beerman’s trouble.
Camrin O’Flaherty of Centerville said she occasionally shops at Elder-Beerman and hopes that a new store might bring more customers to the Dayton Mall.
“I think its pretty sad,” she said. “But, it opens opportunities for other stores to come in. Maybe better stores, bigger stores that people might know of more.”
Beavercreek resident Ric Torres said Elder-Beerman isn’t usually one of his shopping destinations but that he’s “sad to see more stores closing.” Online shopping is just more convenient and most shoppers are taking advantage of how easy it is to shop on websites rather than in stores, he said.
“Nowadays nothing surprises me with a retail closing,” Torres said. “I’ve got to say I contribute to it because I’m a huge Amazon shopper.”
Elder-Beerman has stores in Piqua, Huber Heights, the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, and the Kettering Towne Center, among others in Ohio. The stores employ hundreds of workers.
Elder-Beerman has a deep-rooted presence in the Miami Valley — and it can be traced back to another store, Boston Dry Goods, in 1883. The Boston Dry Goods store was opened by Thomas Elder, William Hunter, Jr. and Russell Johnston on East Third Street in the early 1880s. It sold texiles, clothing and groceries, and it later became the Elder & Johnston Co.
In 1962, Dayton businessman Arthur Beerman, who had opened two Beermans for Bargains junior department stores in 1950, merged his store with the Elder & Johnston Co. During the 1960s the Elder-Beerman Co. opened numerous department stores in the region, including Hamilton and Richmond, Ind.
The company continued to expand, acquiring department stores in Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky. In 1993, the 50th store opened at the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek. In 2003, Elder-Beerman was acquired by Bon-Ton Stores, Inc.
By the numbers
12,000: Number of stores expected to close this year.
$200 million: Investment that could be made in Dayton Mall area.
122: Jobs that could be eliminated at Dayton Mall Elder-Beerman.
330: Positions that could be affected at Bon-Ton fulfillment center in West Jefferson.