Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 29, 2011

Big Lots heading to Cherryland Center

Retailer to take over former Tom's location

TRAVERSE CITY — A Garfield Township shopping mall that recently lost one of its anchor stores will gain a new tenant.

Big Lots, a Columbus, Ohio-based national closeout retailer, will move into the former Tom’s Food Market space at the Cherryland Center mall at 1144 South Airport Road.

Company officials expect the store to open in late September as part of Big Lots’ aggressive expansion effort that includes six new stores in Michigan this year among 90 across the country.

“We’re finally really hitting our stride when it comes to opening new stores where we haven’t been before,” company spokesperson Toni Fink said.

Big Lots is taking advantage of a weak commercial real estate market with lower-cost properties to expand into new areas and find better sites for some existing stores, she said.

“The softening real estate market has allowed us to go into more locations, and better locations,” she said. “We’re getting into better real estate.”

Big Lots offers closeout, brand-name merchandise from a variety of national retailers, including furniture, electronics, home items, toys and groceries. It operates almost 1,400 stores around the U.S. and generated more than $4.5 billion in sales last year. It’s also opening a store in Cadillac in early August, and in Kentwood in late July.

Big Lots will take over the Cherryland Center mall’s west anchor space. Tom’s Food Market vacated the site last fall, when the local grocery store chain said it was “no longer economically feasible” to run the store, which had been there since November 1986.

Fink said the company is finalizing an opening date and other operational plans, but about 40 employees typically are hired for new stores. Renovation costs were not disclosed, but township building department manager Carl Studzinski said the company pulled permits covering $350,000 in improvements for more than 32,000-square-feet of building space.

Other mall tenants are excited about their new neighbor. Paul Barbas, owner of Opa! Coney & Grill in the mall, used to work for an electronics company that sold merchandise to Big Lots. He said those stores consistently generate customers because of an evolving inventory of low-cost products, which should help other mall businesses.

“It’s going to continually drive traffic into that complex, and that’s what we’re lacking right now,” Barbas said.

Garfield Township Supervisor Chuck Korn said he expects the store will draw consumers from a wide region, which should help other local retailers. He’s also happy to see a gaping retail space filled in the township’s original shopping mall that dates to the mid-1970s.

“I thought it would be a good addition to that property,” Korn said. “Having a big, empty building like that isn’t very attractive.”

Big Lots is a publicly held company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares closed at more than $33 Tuesday, and have ranged from $27.82 to $44.44 in the past year.

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