Foot Locker takes walk at Berkshire Mall; few retailers remain

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LANESBOROUGH — Foot Locker staff at the Berkshire Mall are packing up sneakers and other apparel after selling their last merchandise Wednesday, joining a long flight of stores.

The Foot Locker closing appears to leave just one remaining national brand store at the 30-year-old Lanesborough mall, Bath & Body Works. Target and Regal Cinemas both own their locations.

A request for comment from the Foot Locker, a publicly traded company with more than 3,000 stores in 27 countries, is pending.

Employees could be seen boxing up inventory around 6 p.m. Wednesday. An employee said work to dismantle the store would continue until Tuesday.

Though an online directory lists at least 19 stores, The Eagle counted only four remaining retailers open Wednesday during the center's official hours — Journeys, A Dollar, Lee Nails Spa & Wax, and the body works store.

Though no food outlets were staffed Wednesday evening, both Regal Cinemas and the nearby Cyberstation games arcade were open.

In a recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Foot Locker noted the risk it faces from failing malls.

"We are affected by mall traffic and our ability to secure suitable store locations," according to a passage in the report. "Many of our stores, especially in North America, are located primarily in enclosed regional and neighborhood malls. Our sales are affected, in part, by the volume of mall traffic. Mall traffic may be adversely affected by, among other factors, economic downturns, the closing or continued decline of anchor department stores and/or specialty stores, and a decline in the popularity of mall shopping among our target customers."

Since acquiring the Berkshire Mall for $3.5 million in September 2016, the Kohan Retail Investment Group has lost both anchor tenants and small retailers. Since 2015, Best Buy, Macy's, J.C. Penney, Sears and Payless Shoe Source have closed. Also gone are Kay Jewelers and Hannoush Jewelers, along with Eastern Mountain Sports, MasterCuts, GNC, The Children's Place and Victoria's Secret, among other stores.

The departures leave cavernous empty spaces dominating the 720,000-square-foot mall. That number of square feet of retail space is the equivalent of 16.5 acres of land.

Mall owner Mike Kohan missed a May 1 payment date to submit his fourth quarterly tax payment for the current fiscal year, after not paying the previous three, The Eagle has reported. Kohan faced a deadline of Thursday to pay, based on a demand notice sent by the town of Lanesborough. If that is not paid, Kohan will be sent a legal notice of delinquency and have seven days to respond.

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If the tax bill isn't settled, the mall can be placed in "tax title" status with a lien filed on the property. It takes another year, under state law, before foreclosure proceedings against a property in tax title can begin. The Baker Hill Road District has legal jurisdiction over the mall property.

Shoppers' laments

Today, the mall, when open, is populated mostly by people walking its halls for exercise or shopping remaining stores.

At one end of the mall near the former Sears, far from the handful of active stores, Truly Independent Wrestling continues to market itself as an entertainment destination.

On social media, former mall patrons continue to marvel over its long, slow demise.

"It's like watching a dying animal suffering. They should tear down the entire building except for Target and the movie theater," Andrew Arace posted a few months ago. "Or rent the space out to filmmakers for some kind of post apocalyptic Mad-Max-In-A-Mall movie."

People are also adding laments about the mall on Google reviews.

"It's true ... don't waste your time going there," a man posted after a visit April 19. "The whole thing is empty. Target and a couple of other stores are open, but it's not worth the trip. If you are learning how to drive, and you have your learner's permit, the parking lot [is] a great place to practice."

"If you're like me and enjoy visiting sad, empty and eerie places, I would highly recommend you stop by here," a Google user named "Steveg" wrote. "There is something haunting about this place that I wasn't able to put my finger on."

"A sad sight to see," a woman posted. Levon Hilling added: "Avoid this place if you don't like feeling sad."

Eagle staff writer Tony Dobrowolski contributed to this report.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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