Struggling mall loses another department store

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The JCPenney store at the Gallery at Military Circle has closed its doors for good, sending another blow to the struggling mall.

After the company announced in January it would be closing 33 stores across the country, including the one at Military Circle, WAVY.com found logos are now down at the Norfolk JCPenney location and boards are clear of its name.

The under-performing mall lost a Sears department store two years ago and its location in the mall is still vacant. Now remaining businesses wonder if it’s a sign of what’s to come.

“A lot of people ask if this mall is going to close, and we don’t know the answer to these questions,” said Amer Sami, who owns Upscale Men’s Fashion at the mall. “The business was affected after Sears left and we expect the business to drop again after JCPenney goes too.”

Sami has run his business at Military Circle for seven years. He and a business partner also opened a store in Virginia Beach a year ago to help keep things afloat.

“When we invite them to see our new branch in Pembroke Mall, they say they are really glad because they don’t want to go [to Military Circle] anymore,” Sami said.

The mall has had a steady stream of issues that may be the cause. Right now fire investigators are asking for the public’s help locating a man suspected in a bomb threat to the mall. In February, another man was arrested in connection with a shooting inside the mall.

Bruce Vann who manages Gent’s said something has to be done.

“Now with JCPenney’s going down, the traffic has just gotten worse,” Vann said. “So I just hope they do something to kind of build the mall back up. Trying to make a worse situation better, it’s very frustrating extremely frustrating to be honest with you, but I want to try to make it better.”

Vann said they’ve had meetings and he’s just trying to remain positive that stores like his can survive.

For now, Military Circle still has Macy’s and the Cinemark movie theater. There’s been no indication that either business has plans to leave.

WAVY.com repeatedly called the mall’s administration and its parent company, Thor Equities, to comment on this story, but all calls went unanswered.

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