Stein Mart loss has Kettering center eyeing ‘all spectrums’ to replace largest tenant

Stein Mart, at Town and Country, decided to go out of business after filling for bankruptcy Aug. 12. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

KETTERING — Town & Country Shopping Center this year will lose its largest tenant — more than tripling its available space by the departure of a mainstay anchor for nearly 30 years — as retailers face a challenging time exacerbated by a sagging economy.

Stein Mart’s decision to go out of business after filing for bankruptcy Aug. 12 raises questions about the future of the biggest single space at the complex near the heart of Kettering.

The move for Town & Country co-owner CASTO to replace the 112-year-old national retailer that occupies 34,000 square feet may require an innovative approach during an economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Riley Dugan, a University of Dayton associate professor of marketing.

Town & Country, built in the early 1950s, has attracted shoppers from surrounding areas decades before construction of the Dayton Mall, The Mall at Fairfield Commons, The Greene and Austin Landing.

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Now all retail centers are competing with the rapidly expanding option of online buying, Dugan said.

The state of retail leasing “is certainly not good and it wasn’t good before COVID with the increasing ubiquity of online shopping,” he said.

“Replacing that amount of square footage, maybe it would be in Town & Country’s best interest to kind of get creative” by seeking one or more tenants which offer a “shopping experience” unavailable online, such as a bowling alley or brewery, Dugan said.

Retailers ‘being innovative’

CASTO officials have indicated it’s too early to tell the extent of COVID-19′s impact on shopping centers like Town & Country, said Lauren Bowers, marketing and communications manager for the Columbus-based retail estate business, which partners with Skilken on the development.

“We have seen in the industry as a whole that retailers are really coming back now – after shutdowns – that they’re really stepping up and being innovative in the way that they approach their business,” she said told the Dayton Daily News.

Stein Mart, at Town and Country, decided to go out of business after filling for bankruptcy Aug. 12. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

CASTO is considering a variety of options for Stein Mart’s site, Bowers said.

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“I think right now we are looking at all spectrums of tenants to see who may be interested in that large space,” she added.

The number of Stein Mart jobs to be lost at the Kettering site and the tax revenue the retailer has generated annually for the city is unclear.

Other than briefly explaining its closing plan, Jacksonville-based Stein Mart and its local management declined to comment.

Citing legal issues involving confidentiality, the city of Kettering declined to provide tax revenue information sought in a public records request by the Dayton Daily News. Both the city and CASTO said they did not have numbers on Stein Mart’s Town & Country jobs.

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Town & Country is a small slice of CASTO’s business. It leases more than 26 million square feet of commercial space on 100-plus properties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina, according to the company’s website.

Town & Country investment

Town & Country’s 226,981 square feet at the intersection of East Stroop Road and Ohio 48 – also Far Hills Avenue – has 50 tenant spaces, according to CASTO’s website.

Eight of those spots – totaling 14,699 square feet - are now available, Bowers said.

Aside from Stein Mart, the other largest tenants at the center are 2nd & Charles, TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, Petco, Trader Joe’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. That sports bar, Dugan noted, has been a particularly good draw for the center.

TJ Maxx opened at Town & Country after CASTO announced plans for a $7 million renovation in 2016. The remodeling included extensive changes to the shopping center’s interior, its facade and to the parking lot.

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Other work included a new pedestrian breezeway connecting the center to the Village Shops behind the center.

That recent investment at Town & Country “gives us an opportunity (when) Stein Mart moves out it to make us more marketable, too, for that space - to bring in a phenomenal tenant to replace them,” Bowers said.

She noted that the shopping center’s “rich” history in the community should bolster prospects and that CASTO is “excited about the opportunity to bring a new tenant to the center and one that can serve the community well. Because the community is the backbone of the center.”

Bankruptcy impact

The city of Kettering, which has “been very appreciative and supportive” of Town & Country, will “work closely with them as they work through the process of identifying their needs for that space in the future,” City Manager Mark Schwieterman said.

Stein Mart has been at Town & Country since 1992 and has said it will close all of its estimated 280 stores by the end of the year, each store closing when its stock is depleted.

Stein Mart, at Town and Country, decided to go out of business after filling for bankruptcy Aug. 12. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

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CASTO has had no formal communication with Stein Mart’s corporate office since the bankruptcy filing, Bowers said last week.

Stein Mart’s Kettering lease expires in 2023, but its bankruptcy filing will dictate when the Town & Country space can be filled, officials said.

“Once the courts release that space to us,” Bowers said, “we can lease it before their lease has expired. So it’s just a matter of working with the courts.”

Also uncertain is if the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Fla., will hold Stein Mart financially liable for the remaining time on its lease, Bowers said.

Bowers said Stein Mart’s situation in Kettering is not a foreign one to CASTO.

“We’re going to similar things with our centers down south with Earth Fare,” Bowers said about the Asheville, N.C.-based natural and organic grocer which also has filed for bankruptcy.

“Once the bankruptcy court has it, then they have to go through all of their assets – their properties – before they can release it to the landlords….because we don’t have possession of that space,” she added.

TOWN & COUNTRY LARGEST TENANTS

Town & Country Shopping Center’s tenants leasing the most square feet include:

•Stein Mart, 34,000

•2nd & Charles, 22,246

•TJ Maxx, 22,100

•Tuesday Morning, 13,936

•Petco, 13,700

•Trader Joe’s, 12,223

•Buffalo Wild Wings, 8,775.

SOURCE: Casto

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