FLORISSANT • Take a look around where Lindbergh Boulevard and New Halls Ferry Road meet, and you’ll see a snapshot of the glut of box-store closures here and nationwide.
At the Shoppes at Cross Keys, the Pier 1 is in its final days. Pieces of furniture and home decor are being sold for up to 50 percent off, as well as store fixtures and equipment.
The shopping center lost its Barnes & Noble in 2014, and the O’Charley’s restaurant closed recently.
Across the street, the Lowe’s shut down two weeks ago.
On the other side of Lindbergh, in the Flower Valley Shopping Center, the last Kmart in St. Louis and St. Louis County closed its doors for the last time this month. The nearby Shop ’n Save shuttered a couple months ago.
For years, those stores anchored the strip mall on each side with smaller businesses sandwiched between them, including One Dish Wonders.
Annie Magny opened the catering company in mid-October, when Kmart and Shop ’n Save still were open. The proximity of those stores, and the foot traffic they brought to the area, weighed into her decision to locate her business there. She also said it’s close to her home and safe.
“It was a very busy, thriving mall,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that both of those stores closed, and at the same time.”
She has seen fewer cars in the parking lot, although other nearby businesses such as a McDonald’s bring people to the area.
“I’m just hoping for the best,” Magny said. “Whatever business I did garner, I don’t want to lose it.”
Around the St. Louis region and the country, once-massive stores sit empty in the wake of a retail landscape changed by online shopping, with fewer shoppers heading to brick-and-mortar stores and malls.
Just a few miles north of the Florissant intersection, the 1.2 million-square-foot Jamestown Mall shuttered in 2014 after losing all its anchor stores and national retailers. It’s slated to become a logistics center.
Although city officials and a retail analyst say the prime location of the intersection, and area around it, means vacancies likely won’t linger like elsewhere, Lindbergh and New Halls Ferry is a reflection of that trend.
Kmart had 18 stores in the St. Louis region in the early 1990s. In October, the company said it would close the Florissant store as part of dozens of closures nationwide. The only Kmart left in the St. Louis region is in Crystal City and it’s expected to shut down in late March, the company has said.
Schnucks bought 19 Shop ’n Save stores in September but passed on acquiring 14 others, including the one in the Flower Valley center that now sits empty. Pier 1 said in 2017 that it planned to close up to 25 stores in the coming years, and the Lowe’s was one of 51 underperforming stores the company decided in November to shut down, along with stores in Bridgeton and Granite City, as the chain struggled to compete with rival Home Depot in a slowing housing market.
The Florissant Lowe’s sat across the street from a Home Depot in the Cross Keys development, where city officials approved $15.5 million in tax-increment financing in 2001 and the addition of Home Depot as an anchor sparked fierce controversy.
“They came in and invested their own money into the community, and a short time later, Home Depot goes in with taxpayer dollars,” Ellen Geerling, who opposed Home Depot being allowed at that spot, said of Lowe’s.
She called the Home Depot “subsidized competition” but said she didn’t know that its location so close to Lowe’s forced that store out of business. Other factors may have hurt Lowe’s, she said, including the entry of Menards, a big regional home-improvement chain, into the St. Louis market in 2013.
Although things look grim with so many stores leaving that intersection, and there’s a shortened list of tenants capable of filling so much space, talks already are happening for new businesses to move in, said Chase Young, a vice president in the St. Louis office of the commercial real estate firm CBRE.
“In reality, it’s good real estate and there are other tenants in active discussions to backfill that space,” he said, describing Lindbergh and New Halls Ferry as the predominant intersection in that area.
Negotiations are under way for the old Barnes & Noble, as well as the Pier 1 and Shop ’n Save, said Young, who specializes in retail investment sales.
And when such stores leave, their competitors prosper. He cited the Schnucks in Cross Keys, already a well-performing store, and the Home Depot as likely to see improved sales with the departure of Shop ’n Save and Lowe’s.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity because some of the tenants there have been paying way less than the market rate,” said Mayor Tom Schneider, who identified Kmart as that tenant.
He said business has been booming along the Lindbergh corridor. He cited $10 million in development around the busy road’s intersection of New Halls Ferry, including a soon-to-open Aspen Dental office, a MOD Pizza and Chick-fil-A, and that the most-recent vacancies open the door for new tenants and fresh renovations to nearby developments.
Less than a mile from that intersection, the closed Value City department store on Lindbergh was carved into several smaller stores, including Petco, Ashley Furniture HomeStore and Ulta Beauty, in 2012.
Plans are in the works to get the vacant stores filled, and quickly, said Bob Russell, the city’s economic development director.
“The owners of the shopping centers don’t want them empty,” Russell said. “They are aggressively marketing that space.”