This year was not kind to anyone, especially the retail business. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown last spring was enough to drive an already fragile state for retail even further into the hole. Several retail chains called it quits this year, including Pier 1 Imports and Pet Valu.
In Lycoming County, the Lycoming Mall lost a few more stores as it struggled to bring in business after being shutdown from mid-March to early June. The area saw few new store announcements this year. Below is a review of what has closed in our area this year, and what will be coming soon:
The mall has steadily been losing stores since Macy’s left in 2017. Soon, other anchor stores including J.C. Penney, Bon-Ton and Sears followed suit and left the mall. This year, the mall lost at least seven stores and eateries.
Related reading: Lycoming Mall update: Another store leaves and several more reopen
In January, teen and pop culture retailer Hot Topic closed its doors. Hollister, which sells Southern California-style clothing to teens and young adults, also closed in January.
Related reading: Hollister closing at Lycoming Mall
By mid-March, the mall was ordered to shut down as part of state restrictions on non-essential businesses. In early June, the mall was allowed to reopen but several stores did not return, including Victoria’s Secret, Piercing Pagoda, Pearle Vision. The parent company for Victoria’s Secret, L Brands, announced in June they were closing 250 stores in the U.S. The Susquehanna Valley Mall and Nittany Mall also were among Victoria's Secret stores closed last summer.
L Brands also owns Bath and Body Works. They recently announced they will close at least 50 stores in the U.S., but no official has been released yet. The stores at Lycoming Mall, Susquehanna Valley Mall, and Nittany Mall remain open. The Bath and Body Works store at Columbia Colonnade closed last summer.
Justice, a tween girl clothing retailer, closed in August. The parent company for Justice, Ascena Retail Group, announced in July they were closing stores due to bankruptcy. The month of August also saw Arby’s close, which was a longtime eatery at the mall. The franchise owner, Matthew Lange, told NorthcentralPa at the time that they closed because “they just couldn’t make ends meet.”
Kay Jewelers, which also has been in the mall for a long time, is set to leave sometime in 2021. The jewelry retailer originally was going to move in April to the former Payless ShoeSource on E. Third Street in Williamsport. However, the pandemic has pushed the moving date back, according to an employee.
As of December 27, the lights were out at Brennan’s Café and Deli. A sign on the restaurant said they are closed until further notice. Pennsylvania currently has a three-week restriction on indoor dining with is set to expire on January 4, 2021. It is uncertain if Brennan’s is only closed during this period or if it is a permanent closure.
A.C. Moore, which was an outparcel store at the mall, had announced in November 2019 that the entire chain was closing. The store was in the middle of liquidation in March when Governor Tom Wolf ordered non-essential businesses to close. The arts and crafts retailer was forced to abruptly stop the liquidation and fixtures and some merchandise still remain in the building today.
One bright spot is that an outparcel building, which was the former Pier 1 Imports, opened in October as the Muncy NAPA Auto Parts store (Rakoski Automotive). Pier 1 left in June 2019.
Related reading: Auto parts store relocating to former Pier 1 in Pennsdale
The former Gander Outdoors also had a new purpose when Miele Manufacturing purchased the building last summer.
The mall is currently owned by Kohan Retail Investment Group, based in Great Neck, New York. The group purchased it in March of 2016 for $26 million from Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. Kohan currently owns six malls in the Northeast, including Colonial Park Mall in Harrisburg and Clearview Mall in Butler, Pa.
The strip mall, which is located less than a mile from Lycoming Mall, lost several stores in 2019 including Dress Barn and Bed, Bath and Beyond. These spots, as well as the former Cato women’s fashion store, remained vacant this year. In August, the Gap Factory store closed.
Related reading: Factory outlet store leaves Lycoming Crossings
Although Old Navy is currently at the mall, an employee told NorthcentralPa that they will be moving into Lycoming Crossings in the spring of 2021.
GameStop, which is located at a small plaza next to the Cracker Barrel restaurant, is also closing. The store is currently in liquidation and the last day will be January 24, 2021. GameStop continues to downsize their brick and mortar stores, as the company announced they are closing 450 stores this year. The GameStop at Kriner Plaza in Montoursville remains open.
Loyal Plaza/Golden Strip
Most businesses on E. Third Street in Loyalsock Township, the Golden Strip, have remained open this year. The most notable closing was Kmart, which had been in the Loyal Plaza since August 1976. Kmart closed in February after the parent company, Transform Holdco announced in December 2019 that the Williamsport location was on a closing list.
Related reading: Kmart in Williamsport closes its doors after 43 years
Kmart stores in the U.S. have been closing in rapid succession the past few years. The chain, which was once the largest discount department store retailer in the nation, has just under 35 stores remaining in the U.S.
In November, Hobby Lobby announced they will move into the former Kmart space by May 2021. The arts, crafts and décor store will occupy only part of the space, leaving the former garden shop and diner areas vacant. Hobby Lobby also will be moving into the former Weis Market at Susquehanna Valley Mall at some point in 2021.
Related reading: Hobby Lobby to move into former Williamsport Kmart
At least two restaurants on the Golden Strip closed this year. Casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday closed in March. By October, the chain announced they were filing for bankruptcy citing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining as being the main factor for their financial loss.
Although rumors have been circulating that other restaurant chains, including Outback Steakhouse and Chick-fil-a will be moving in, no one has signed a lease to date. The only Ruby Tuesday restaurants left in north central Pennsylvania are in Bloomsburg and Mill Hall.
Related reading: No commercial lease yet at former Ruby Tuesday space in Williamsport
Moe’s Southwest Grill also quietly closed their doors. By the time indoor dining was allowed again in June at 50% capacity, the lights were out at Moe’s and doors were locked. No word yet on plans for the repurpose of that building.
Local restaurants also have shuttered this year, including the Country Store Café in Pennsdale and Kevin’s Place in South Williamsport. Kevin’s Place has signs saying “Thanks for 27 years.” The owner reportedly is retiring.
One local couple has proven that business can survive through innovation and perseverance. The owners of Basil Wood Fired Grille in Muncy opened their dream restaurant in May 2020.
Brooke Bishop and her husband, Greg Stine, previously ran a catering business in Charleston, South Carolina. When they moved home, they decided to proceed with opening Basil Wood Fired Kitchen and Lounge on May 1 for curbside pickup. The venue has dabbled in fundraisers and hosted a summer Farmer's Market when possible, and most recently offered a special holiday to-go menu.
Related reading: New Muncy restaurant owners hope to build a sense of community
In Williamsport, A Kut Above Katering started offering meals for takeout and dine in when Lycoming County went into the green reopening phase in June. The restaurant, located at 761 W. Fourth St., offers a menu of soul food. Owner Roselle Applewhite said he grew up cooking soul food with his parents. "There were no recipes passed down. It's just good home cooking." Longtime cook Deborah Parks also cooks for A Kut Above Katering.
Related Reading: A Kut Above Katering has 'soul food cooking with love'
In September, Sheetz continued their expansion in the area with the opening of a 4,900 square foot store on Route 15 in Montgomery. The store features the MTO made-to-order food menu and a drive-thru.
Related Reading: New Sheetz store opens in Montgomery
Pet stores have done well this year, as the pandemic has actually increased the number of pet adoptions and time spent at home with pets. However, in a competitive field Pet Valu was not able to make an impact with sales. They announced in November that all 385 U.S. stores would close by the end of the year, including the Lewisburg and Bloomsburg locations.
However, this is not a total loss at Pet Supplies Plus announced in December they will take over 40 locations including the Lewisburg and Bloomsburg stores.
NorthcentralPa will keep a watchful eye on retail and restaurant developments in the new year, and hopes to report on far more positive business news going forward!