LIMA — The Lima Mall already had its challenges long before COVID-19 arrived.
Its appearance from the outside has changed little since the day it opened in 1965. Inside, stores have been dealing with an ever-changing retail world that sees more stores losing foot traffic to on-line businesses.
At one time the Lima Mall could boast of having four anchor stores. Two of those closed in the last five years — Elder Beerman in 2015 and Sears in 2018. There were fears a third anchor might be shut down when JCPenney filed for bankruptcy in May. The Lima store just learned late Thursday that it survived the first wave of cuts and was not on the list of 154 JCPenney stores to close. The company announced that it planned to shutter 192 stores by February 2021 and then 50 more locations after that. When it is finished, JCPenney will have cut nearly 30% of its 846 stores.
For now, news that JCPenney remains open in Lima is great for the mall. Despite its need for a makeover, people should not underestimate the value the 55-year-old shopping center brings to the region, says Dave Stratton, president of the Allen Economic Development Group.
The Lima Mall not only provides goods and services to nearly eight regional counties, but it also sustains much of the local economy. The mall pumps out more than $1 million in revenue for the region through property tax, payroll, and income tax of its employees,
“Even though there has been somewhat of a transition to shopping online, there are still many people who want a brick and mortar location to go in and buy products,” Stratton said. “The Lima Mall has also been a destination. It’s a gathering place over the years, and we want to see that continue on because really, it’s more of a regional asset when you look at people from and eight-county area that see the Lima Mall as their mall. We really think there’s still value there.”
To fully understand the economic impact of the mall you have to recognize the other business it has drawn in.
Washington Prime Group, which manages the mall property, expanded its reach into Lima Center, which includes stores like Hobby Lobby, T.J. Maxx and ULTA Beauty. Situated in the mall parking lot are Panera Bread, Bellacino’s Pizza and Grinders, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, Penn Station, Men’s Warehouse and even Firestone Complete Auto Care.
“I think the other thing that we really need to consider when looking at the economic development and economic impact of a facility like the Lima Mall is the amount of collateral businesses that are in the area because of the mall,” Stratton said. “If you drive down Elida Road or go onto Cable Road, you have a whole variety of restaurants and other stores in that area. People not only are frequenting the mall, but they are also going to go to a restaurant. You can’t consider what the impact is strictly looking at the mall, but by looking at the other properties surrounding the mall.”
As vacancies have opened in the mall, a wider array of vendors have also begun moving in.
The Hero Day, labeled as an inflatable Ninja-themed indoor park and event center, opened in March of 2019. It was followed by Glow Golf in August and Total Revolution Fitness Training Facility, a mixed martial arts facility, in September.
Since then, the mall has rebranded itself with a new facade offering it as an all-in-one “Eat. Shop. Play.” facility.
“Now more than ever, the Lima Mall is a place for people to safely gather and connect with each other,” said Lima Mall Marketing Director Betsy Billingsley via email statement to The Lima News.
With the landscape of retail shifting more and more online, closures as a result of the novel coronavirus have just added that much more additional stress not only to its vendors, but to the mall overall.
The mall closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 23 and was not able to reopen until May 13. However, there remain a number of vendors still closed or just opened. FYE, GameStop, Justice, The Children’s Place, Pink and Victoria’s Secret are among the retailers still gated.
Additionally, Bath & Body Works announced it will be closing 50 locations this year.
“As for any closures, it provides an opportunity to bring new tenants to Lima Mall. Our leasing team is in discussions with potential new tenants to fill the space and we will announce plans when we are able,” Billingsley’s statement noted.
The mall is still operating under temporarily restricted hours. The Amazing Space, The Yard, The Hero Day and Glow Golf all remain closed as part of the Ohio Health Department’s mandates involving mass gathering restrictions.
The restricted hours have an impact on Allen County.
According to Stratton, about 62% of the county’s budget comes from sales tax raised throughout the county.
“There’s going to be a real constraint on the budget because of the lower amount of sales tax that comes in through these businesses,” he said. “I think when a business has upwards of 80 days taken out of their revenue for the year, it’s certainly going to impact the bottom line.”
Stratton is hopeful there is still enough demand for the Lima Mall so it doesn’t face the same fate as the American Mall, which closed in 2009 and was demolished in 2013.
“It was quite unfortunate for the American Mall to close. When you close down that many businesses, there is certainly going to be a negative impact,” he explained. “I think what happened was when The Andersons left, it left that corner business that was really a mainstay and it ended up having a ripple effect. In hindsight, it would have been better if we as a county could have come together to support the American Mall.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.