A shopper walks into Starkville's Sports Center on Monday. The store has announced plans to close, which would make it the second to leave the Middleton Court Shopping Center after Tuesday Morning relocated earlier in the year. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
December 12, 2018 10:43:46 AM
Two of Middleton Court's anchor store locations will soon be empty.
However, the shopping center's owners and Starkville business leaders and retail recruiters say there's little concern about Middleton Court's long-term success.
Tuesday Morning left the shopping center, at the intersection of Highway 12 and Louisville Street, earlier this year and relocated farther west to a larger facility next to Bargain Hunt. Sports Center's owner, Wyatt Craig, announced last week in a Facebook post that his store is closing.
Another Middleton Court tenant, Revolution Consignment, has bought a building and will soon be moving, as well, according to Jason Perry, who owns the shopping center through the company Lewko Properties LLC.
Still, Perry said, there are already plans in the works to bring new businesses into those spots.
"We (already) have a tenant that will be going in (the Revolution) location," Perry said. "There's a tenant going in the Sports Center Archery space probably in March. I can't say who yet.
"The shopping center is doing well," he continued. "It's one of those things that I have no doubt will continue to fill up."
Sean Koehn, Perry's business partner, said Sports Center's main location, which is separate from the already vacant former Archery space, could be split to house two stores. He said there's already been some interest in those locations.
"We have gotten some interest," Koehn said. "In all likelihood, that one store will be two potential new locations. Both of those are in negotiations. At the same time, we're still under lease and in negotiations with Mr. Craig (which expires in July)."
For the former Tuesday Morning spot, located at the east end of the shopping center, Koehn said his firm is being "very selective."
"The phone has been ringing off the hook," Koehn said. "... We want to be sure we have a good fit for that location."
A central location
Scott vonCannon, a portfolio manager with the firm Retail Strategies, said Middleton Court's location makes it a significant shopping center for Starkville. Retail Strategies has a contract with the city for retail recruitment.
He said that location - a central part of the city's major retail corridor -- also is a strength for drawing new tenants.
"I don't think there's any concern about backfilling any vacant locations there because it's so well located and in good condition," vonCannon said. "There will always probably be some kind of interest in that center.
"There has been interest from retailers in the past, but there just hasn't been existing space," he added. "We've communicated with Jason in the past regarding different tenants at different times. A lot of this comes down to timing."
Billy Wang, owner of Umi's Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Middleton Court, said he's confident the vacant spots won't stay that way long.
"I think that location can fill very quickly," Wang said. "It's a very prime location. Our business, every year, has been picking up, at both locations in Starkville and Columbus. Every year has been better than the last. I'm very confident that the shopping center will continue to do well."
Multiple other business owners in Middleton Court spoke with The Dispatch and expressed satisfaction with their location. Citi Trends, a clothing store, just signed a five-year lease extension.
Rent going up, but not doubling
Craig blamed Sports Center's closing on the location's rent "doubling."
Both Perry and Koehn acknowledged the rent is increasing, due to Sports Center reaching the end of its lease without a renewal option. As such, they said, they entered negotiations with Sports Center for a new lease at the location.
However, both denied that Sports Center's rent is doubling.
"We have a great amount of respect for what Sports Center has done over there," Perry said. "I agree with Mr. Craig that while he was there, he was a very good tenant. But that's just not what happened. We would never have jumped someone's rent up by double."
Perry and Koehn declined to provide documentation of Sports Center's lease offer.
Craig declined to comment further, saying he was awaiting written documentation.
He has indicated, as of now, he intends to close Sports Center by the end of February.
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