By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — A tenant has been found at Times Square Mall to fill the vacancy left by the closing of Sears.
Officials of Sansone Group, the mall owners, in cooperation with Pine Tree Commercial Realty announced on Wednesday the location of a Hobby Lobby store in the former Sears location. Hobby Lobby reportedly will be taking a portion of the former Sears space, according to a Facebook posting. A rumor has been prevalent for several months that Hobby Lobby would be locating in Mt. Vernon, although company officials would not confirm the reports.
"Kicking off with Hobby Lobby puts our leasing of the soon to be vacant areas of the center in fast gear," stated Pine Tree Executive Vice President Bruce Boruszak. "We expect to announce additional major leases in the coming weeks." Hobby Lobby is anticipated to be open here in the first quarter of 2014, he added.
According to information on its web site, Hobby Lobby is considered a leader in the arts and crafts industry. The company has 557 retail outlets in 45 states that average 55,000 square feet and offer more than 67,000 crafting and home decor products.
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is based in Oklahoma City. It started as an extension of Greco Products, a miniature picture frames company founded in a garage by David Green in 1970. Hobby Lobby officially began operation in August 1972 with a mere 300 square feet of retail space. Green is the company's CEO and founder.
"We feel the market is underserved and that we can bring a very unique shopping experience to the area. We are looking forward to becoming part of the community," stated Hobby Lobby spokesman Vincent Parker. "We are now the go-to location for families looking for everything from furniture and vases to clocks, birdhouses and arts and crafts supplies."
After Hobby Lobby trains a store manager and co-manager at another store, they will relocate them to the Mt. Vernon location. They are expected to hire anywhere from 30 to 50 employees. According to Hobby Lobby, positions will range from cashiers, stockers, custom picture framers, an office manager, floral designer and department heads for the different areas of the store including floral, fabric, needlework, art, hobbies, wearables, jewelry, crafts, cards, party, scrape booking, seasonal and home accents.
"We're absolutely happy to welcome Hobby Lobby to our city," said Mayor Mary Jane Chesley. "Pine Tree and its partners have really been instrumental in establishing a relationship with a national retailer that is a perfect fit for our community."
The Sears store in Mt. Vernon will close on Sept. 8. A company official confirmed in mid-June the retailer made a decision to not renew its lease with Sansone Group.
The Sears store opened in September 1980 and the closure will affect 68 employees, information states. Those individuals will be given an opportunity to apply for positions at other Kmart and Sears stores, according to an statement from company officials.
Sansone Group purchased the mall in April 2012 and are "currently renovating the mall to accommodate larger junior anchors," the Facebook posting stated. JC Penney, Dunham Sports and Peebles anchor the center, which is further complimented by national retailers GNC, Maurices, Claire's, Bath & Body Works, Hallmark, Glik's, Shoe Sensation, Subway and Wendy's.
Sansone and Wanxlang America Real Estate Group is the managing partner overseeing the mall's operation and leasing.
Hobby Lobby has store locations in Carbondale and Fairview Heights.