North Coventry >> When the new Gabe’s store opens at the Coventry Mall on Saturday — it will represent the culmination of nearly a year of work by mall owner Pennmark Management Co.
The plans to bring Gabe’s into the mall were announced in October. Located in the former Sears store, Gabe’s occupies 45,000-square feet, according to its parent company. The store needed to be divided — to accommodate Gabe’s and Limerick Furniture. Painting and construction soon followed, along with the hiring and training of a staff of about 100.
Owned by Gabriel Brothers Inc., the North Coventry Gabe’s is the first in the tri-county region, and only the third in Pennsylvania. The chain offers famous brand apparel, footwear and accessories, as well as home décor, electronics and toys, at up to 70 percent off department store prices. It is the fourth anchor store for the Coventry Mall.
Following a soft-opening on Thursday, the store will officially open at 8 a.m. Saturday with a ribbon cutting and giveaways for the first 200 shoppers. Additional giveaways will take place throughout the day.
“This is huge. It is the fruition of what we have talked about and it’s the first cog in all the larger changes that are coming,” said Steve Batten, mall manager and director of marketing. “I’m not aware of another mall that has done what we have been able to pull off in a year.”
At about the same time the Gabe’s deal was announced in the fall, the mall’s operators unveiled plans for a face-lift for the mall — which includes the construction of a new mall entrance adjacent to Gabe’s. That entrance is still under construction, and Batten expects work to be completed within the next 30 days.
“When you drive up to the mall we want it to look like the front of the mall,” he said.
According to Batten, there is not an entrance to the mall from Gabe’s, but he adds the new mall entrance will give easy access to the mall for Gabe’s shoppers.
The goal for the area near the new entrance is to create a courtyard with outdoor seating for a planned restaurant.
Pennmark Management Co. CFO Bob Sichelstiel said in an interview Thursday that his company is interested in finding a brew pub operator for that space.
“We’re also trying to create a beauty hub — so we’re looking for a hair salon perhaps with a spa next to it. We’re searching for that now. We love working with local companies,” he said, adding that the restaurant could be anywhere from 6,000 to 14,000 square feet. “The size will dictate what we do with the balance of the space.”
When Pennmark Management Co. took possession of the mall last April, CEO Don Cafiero said at the time that the main goal was to fill vacancies and bring more people to the mall.
When Pennmark acquired the property, the mall was about 65 percent occupied, according to Batten. Today, the figure sits at about 88 percent. In addition, 11 new vendors have been added, and the former arcade has been turned into a community meeting room for area community groups.
Batten said that two additional large tenants will soon be added to the mall complex. Lomax Carpet and Tile will be opening in late spring in the former Superfresh store — occupying 40,000 square feet.
And he said Thursday that Pennmark is just days from signing a deal that will bring a medical facility into the 30,000-square-foot former Ross Dress for Less store. Because the deal isn’t signed, neither Batten nor Sichelstiel could say specifically who will be taking the space.
“However, this will be a full 30,000 square feet of medical offices, multi practices including pediatrics, dental, Ob/Gyn, an imaging center,” he said.
Sichelstiel said he believes his company’s experience with medical offices helped when it came to getting a medical facility at Coventry Mall.
“We can speak the language, we’ve done it before. Plus it’s also good for the community,” he added.
As for foot traffic, Batten said it is definitely up in the past 11 months.
“Some of that is due to events, some due to other things. Is it where we want it to be? No, but look at where we came from and where we are today and there is definitely an increase,” he said.
Sichelstiel said the mall has been holding a number of events to help bring in customers — some of which have worked better than others. But the key, he said, is to keep holding them.
“We have made some mistakes and done some great things. For the things that didn’t work as well, we can tweak them and make them better,” he said.
Is Pennmark pleased with where Coventry Mall is right now?
“We wish it was going faster. But there is so much leg work and details to make these things work. We are pleased we have good things to talk about. We are pleased with where we are,” Batten added.
Coventry Mall is the first mall that Pennmark has taken on; the company owns and manages a portfolio that includes 2 million square feet of retail, office and flex space across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio, including eight shopping centers in Pennsylvania.