December 20, 2012 10:04:31 AM
By next Christmas, shopping enthusiasts will likely have three new stores to choose from when searching for that perfect gift.
After nearly a year of uncertainty, sources confirmed Wednesday that the Leigh Mall space vacated by Sears has been subdivided to accommodate a Sears Hometown Store, Ross Dress for Less and another unnamed business.
Illinois-based Sears Holding Corporation shuttered its Columbus location April 29, announcing plans to close between 100 and 120 stores nationwide before the end of the year.
Sears had anchored Leigh Mall for nearly four decades, and the abrupt decision to leave left many wondering what might fill the 41,000-square-foot space.
At least 8,024 square feet is being renovated for an independently-owned Sears franchise, said Kenny Wiegel, director of the city's building department. A building permit for the renovation was issued in October, and all inspections have been completed.
Ross Dress for Less, purported to be the second tenant, has not filed an application for a permit -- a step that will have to be finalized before any work can begin.
"I'm confident in telling you that a permit or permits will be required," Wiegel said. "Sears is ready to go. I haven't heard of a tenant for the third space. I was happy for the city but kind of surprised to hear (about Ross). We haven't made any inspections."
Independent contractor Danny Sprouse said his company is working to prepare the space in the southwest corner for Sears, and workers are currently stocking shelves. He is not handling renovations for Ross.
Sears Hometown Stores were developed nearly 20 years ago, primarily to serve customers in rural areas. Today, there are more than 900 independent franchises sprinkled across the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam, including one in Starkville and one in Philadelphia.
Starkville store owner Joe Wallace will own and operate the Columbus location, which will carry name-brand appliances, electronics, tools and garden equipment.
California-based Ross Dress for Less, which specializes in discount apparel and home decor, has nearly 1,100 locations in 33 states, including five Mississippi stores located in Tupelo, Meridian, Hattiesburg, Gulfport and Flowood.
Gail Culpepper, manager of Leigh Mall, said she could not confirm whether Sears Hometown and Ross Dress for Less are planning to locate in Columbus.
Security National Properties owns Leigh Mall, but company representative Steven Williams could not be reached for comment. Wallace also did not return phone calls.
Carmen K. Sisson is news editor at The Dispatch.
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