Despite attempts by Northwood officials to keep The Andersons from closing its store in the Woodville Mall, the company could no longer tolerate staying in the deteriorating facility, where it has been located since September 1988.
On Monday, Dan Anderson, president of The Andersons Retail Group, announced what many have dreaded since the Wood County Health Department shut down the mall last year and sent most of the shops looking for another location: The Andersons will close its store by the end of February.
“The decision to close the Woodville Mall store was difficult,” said Anderson. “We’ve been in this location for 24 years and have appreciated a loyal following. We will miss the opportunity to provide a convenient location to serve the customers of the east side of Toledo and surrounding suburban communities.”
|The Anderson's has been at the Woodville Mall location since
1988. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
The store decided not to renew its lease with the Woodville Mall at the end of the year due to the vacancy of the mall as well as the deteriorating conditions of the structure, according to Anderson.
“For a variety of reasons we could not continue operations at the current location, and we cannot justify constructing or relocating a store in the immediate area,” said Anderson.
Store manager Tom Keller will oversee the store’s liquidation process, he said. The positions for the 29 full-time and 92 part-time employees will be phased out during the closure proceedings. Employees will have the opportunity to apply for positions elsewhere within the company. Separation pay and outplacement services also are being provided to all employees to assist in their career transition.
“Displacing employees is difficult no matter when it happens, and we are especially sensitive to the time of the year and current unemployment rates in our state,” said Anderson. “We will do all that we can to ease this transition for our exceptional workforce.”
When the store came to the mall, it was a viable location, Anderson told The Press last week. In today’s economic climate, combined with the poor condition of the mall, that is no longer the case.
“It was not a great location, but it was not in the condition it is in today,” he said. “We never had a huge return at that location, although it helped our financial performance. Frankly, somebody has to pay for all of this stuff. There is not the demographic density to make sense of keeping a location open there.”
Company officials have looked for alternate locations on the east side for the last several years, but came up empty.
“We looked all over the east side, Oregon and Northwood,” he said.
Buildings were either too small, too expensive, or they just were not available, he said.
“We have had many discussions over many years trying to find alternatives. Trust me, if we had a better option, we would have exercised it a while ago,” he said.
The company had also looked at opening a specialty food market, similar to The Andersons Market in Sylvania, in the area, but in the end doubted there would be enough support for such a store, he said.
“We did the research for a market store on Woodville and Navarre and the demographics were not there,” Anderson said. ‘The demographics for that kind of store are very particular. There are no viable locations here for a specialty food concept store. ”
The Andersons has two retail stores in Columbus and three in the greater-Toledo area, which Anderson said are doing very well.
Last December, the Woodville Mall was shuttered after officials from the Wood County Health Department, Wood County and the City of Northwood toured the structure. What they found was a leaking and collapsing roof and ceiling, mold, wet carpeting, no heat and an inoperable fire suppression system.
At the time, Brad Espen, Wood County director of environmental health, said his department had been trying to work with the owner, Mehran Kohensieh, LLC, of Little Neck, New York, to no avail. Kohensieh purchased the mall in November, 2009.
“The owner has not responded in writing to our notices of violation,” Espen said in December. “We did speak with him on the phone and he indicated that he did not have the financial resources to make the necessary repairs to the structural components of the mall.”
Since then, the mall has sat empty and boarded up. Small business owners in the mall were forced to close their shops just before the Christmas shopping season. But The Andersons and Sears continued to do business there.
“My first impression was, Hell, if The Andersons goes, what will happen to Sears?” said Northwood City Administrator Bob Anderson, no relation to the retail family. “You need more than one store in that area. It is a tough game. They have 120 employees and that brings a lot of money into the local economy.”
Mayor Mark Stoner said he was surprised by the announcement. He said he learned of the store’s plan to close on Monday from the city administrator just before the announcement was made. The city had received a letter from the company earlier in the day about plans to close the store.
“We were told that the store was doing well,” said Stoner, who had met with company officials in the last several months.