Best Buy to close Berkshire Mall store Oct. 31

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LANESBOROUGH — Best Buy will be closing its store in the Berkshire Mall at the end of October, a company spokeswoman said on Monday.

The national electronics chain has decided not to renew its lease with the mall's management company, according to Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson.

Charlson said the Best Buy in the mall will remain open until the current lease expires, which will be at the close of business on Saturday, Oct. 31.

Best Buy has also decided not to renew the lease for its store in the Hampshire Mall in Hadley. That store will close on the same day as Lanesborough's, Charlson said. The Berkshire and Hampshire malls are owned by different companies.

The company has some 63 total employees at the Lanesborough store, 28 of them full-time, Charlson said. They will be given the opportunity to seek employment at another Best Buy outlet, or be given a severance package, she added. Employees in Lanesborough were notified of Best Buy's decision on Sunday, Charlson said. A store manager declined to comment on the store's closing when reached by telephone on Monday.

Best Buy is one of the Berkshire Mall's five anchor stores along with JCPenney, Macy's, Sears and Target. Target owns its own store. Best Buy has been located at the Berkshire Mall since 2002. Several national retailers have closed their stores in the mall in recent years, but Best Buy is the first anchor store to do so.

Charlson declined to say why Best Buy had declined to renew its lease with the mall's management company.

"I can't get into specifics," she said.

But she said Best Buy normally takes three factors into consideration when deciding not to renew a lease: increasing lease costs, declining sales and the overall strength of the retail center.

"I think we take any decision like this very seriously," Charlson said.

Berkshire Mall General Manager Joseph Scelsi said he was unaware that Best Buy had decided not to renew its lease and declined to comment.

He also would not comment on how the closure of one of its anchor stores would effect the mall in general.

One local resident said she would miss Best Buy.

"So sad to hear of the closing," stated Mary Reilly via email. "I really appreciated their service, knowledge and helpfulness with computer issues.

"The mall should rethink and regroup and try to save and encourage businesses," Reilly said, "rather than let them slip away. We need stores such as Best Buy available locally. Driving to Springfield or Albany is a real inconvenience."

The Lanesborough Best Buy is the only store in the chain's Berkshire-Albany, N.Y. market that is closing, Charlson said. The Lanesborough and Hadley stores are the chain's only outlets in Massachusetts that are closing. Best Buy also operates two stores in Albany, N.Y., and one in Holyoke.

The Berkshire Mall's current owner, COMM 2005-FL10 Berkshire Mall LLC of Dallas, Texas, is a real estate holding company, according to documents filed with the secretary of state's office. The Texas-based firm took ownership of the property in June 2014 after the retail center's previous owner, mall developer Pyramid Companies of Syracuse, N.Y., failed to keep up with the payments on the property's $36.9 million mortgage.

Pyramid, which also owns the Hampshire Mall, had previously struggled with meeting its mortgage payments on the Berkshire Mall in both 2010 and 1999. The Berkshire Mall opened in 1988.

The mall's current owners hired Strategic Asset Services to hold the property, and CBL & Associates Properties of Chattanooga, Tenn. to manage it.

Jim Smajda, CBL's leasing agent for the Berkshire Mall, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

CBL owns in whole or in part, or manages, 150 properties, including 90 regional malls or open air shopping centers in 30 states.

Best Buy is the second store in the mall to announce that it will close this year. Radio Shack closed its Berkshire Mall store in January.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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