As Sears closes stores around the country — 250 last year, more than 100 to shutter this year — what will become of the empty spaces, especially anchor locations in malls?
In the two-floor space at the Paramus Park mall, where Sears will close in early 2019, developers are suggesting a Stew Leonard’s grocery store and a 13-screen movie theater with a bar, according to NorthJersey.com.
Stew Leonard’s operates three wine stores in New Jersey (in Springfield, Paramus and Clifton), but has not opened one of its signature grocery stores — a farm-style supermarket with costumed employees and animatronic entertainment — here yet.
Last week, attorneys for the mall continued the process of asking the Paramus zoning board for several variances to make the vision come to life; the next hearing on the application is March 22.
Sears will also close its auto center in the mall parking lot, but will maintain a smaller appliance store in that building, the report says.
There are approximately 1,250 Sears stores still in business nationwide, while in 2006, there were more than 3,400.
The Sears at the Ocean County Mall in Toms River will close in early April and stores in Watchung, Vineland, Mantua and Manahawkin closed last year.
The report says the Stew Leonard’s would include a cafe and also sell wine, relocating its wine operation from elsewhere in the city to the new space.
Stew Leonard’s began 1969 in Norwalk, Conn. as a small dairy store and now has five locations in Connecticut and New York.