TEXAS CITY — While the occasional customers were still visiting the few remaining stores in Mall of the Mainland, most shop owners were packing up their wares this week.
Leases with interior stores will be terminated tomorrow. The mall will close most of its space on Friday with only Sears, Palais Royal and Cinemark theater keeping their doors open.
Last week only a few booths in the central part of the mall, selling jewelry and other items, were left, as well as a furniture store, a massage parlor, a Bath & Body Works, Foot Action shoe and Royal Formal still had their doors open. Most of the locations were in the process of packing up their goods this week.
“I’m just so very said that I have to leave,” said Desi Caylor, owner of Royal Formal store in the mall.
She’s been in the mall for 11 years, but this week she was still working on trying to find a new space for all her dresses. Caylor said she has had her store in the mall and has bounced back from hurricanes and other disasters all the while building up a loyal customer base.
“It’s just like a home away from home with pretty dresses,” Caylor said of her store.
On Wednesday she said she was still looking at other potential locations to set up shop. Her customers were anxious to know where she was moving, Caylor said. Many of her loyal customers were even pitching in to help her pack, she said.
Caylor said she was not sure exactly what caused the mall to close.
“It’s a sad situation,” she said.
The mall opened in 1991 but has struggled through the years to attract staple stores.
Officials with Coastline Retail Center, which last year gained control of the shopping center as a result of a foreclosure action and related litigation, said they would close the interior common areas of the mall, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, to public access beginning Feb. 1.
Closure of the 450,904-square-foot mall was an effort to reduce costs, the company stated in a news release last year.
Officials also said they were in negotiations with a potential buyer but did not name the investor in the release. Reached on Thursday, company representatives said they had no more information to release.
“I’m sure there is going to be some people kicking (ideas) around once it closes,” said Texas City Mayor Matt Doyle of possible future uses for the mall.
The mall has plenty of parking and infrastructure and could be transformed into a distribution center, among other things, Doyle said.
But while that is a possibility, there are no easy solutions, he said.
“It’s going to take some work, there is no doubt about it,” he said.
If or when the space comes back it will likely be something other than an indoor mall, said Nick Finan, city secretary for Texas City.
City officials have been working on finding a new life for the space.
But these days the town center concept or large box stores are more popular than an indoor mall, Finan said.
The opening of the 90-store Tanger Outlet Center on Interstate 45, south of Holland Road, has also changed the dynamic by pulling the city’s center mass west across I-45 and is acting as a magnet for development.
It’s very likely that the Mall of the Mainland will come back as something completely different, Finan said.
“We aren’t focused on it having to be retail,” he said.