Empty storefronts at Westmoreland Mall are filling up quickly, with several new businesses slated to open this year.
Three stores — SpectroDolce Confectionery, Western Edge Seafood and Joseph Jacob Jewelers — are planning to open at the mall, officials with CBL Properties, the entity that owns Westmoreland and Monroeville malls,
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy opened in the Sears wing in February.
There are about 1,150 enclosed malls across the country, according to the New York Times. Green Street, a real estate analytics firm, says of the 1,000 U.S. malls it tracks, there are about 750 vacant anchor spaces that formerly were home to major chains such as Sears, which closed at Westmoreland Mall in 2019.
Last year, during the pandemic, more than 12,000 stores closed nationwide, according to CoStar Group, which tracks data for the real estate industry, the newspaper reported.
The welcome announcement of new stores at Westmoreland Mall comes after a flurry of closures plagued the Hempfield property for years, leaving several empty spaces throughout the mall.
SpectroDolce is expected to open in October in the former Gene and Boots Candies storefront. Located on the upper level of the mall in the Sears wing, SpectroDolce will offer fudge, Belgian waffles, gourmet desserts, ice cream and milkshakes. The store has a location in Monroeville and is part of Progress City, an autism employment network.
According to the SpectroDolce website, the store was created to help adults with autism have a safe place to gain work experience and job readiness skills.
“The opportunity to move into the mall location in a spot that used to be a candy store really was kind of appealing to us from the perspective of trying to get our brand out there and awareness of autism,” said Bryan Kiger, Progress City CEO. “I feel like Westmoreland County’s a really good opportunity to kind of expand all of our services.”
Kiger noted that hiring fairs will be scheduled.
Western Edge Seafood Outlet is expected to open its first Westmoreland County location this year in the Westmoreland Crossing plaza of the mall, said Shawn Cessna, general manager of the company’s outlet stores. An opening date has not yet been set, but Cessna said officials anticipate it will be before Christmas.
The company was founded in 1988 as an importer, servicing 47 national restaurant groups. During the covid-19 pandemic, however, the company suffered as restaurants sat idle. According to Cessna, Western Edge gave away about 6,000 pounds of fish to the public.
After observing the demand for seafood from the public, Western Edge officials opened their first outlet store in Washington County.
Simultaneously, a mobile outlet began traveling to several malls in the area, including Westmoreland Mall, selling seafood.
“It did very well at the Westmoreland Mall. So when we teased out that we might put a store out there, everybody freaked out,” Cessna said of the mobile outlet. “They were loving it. We were like we definitely have to do it there then.”
In addition to food-related stores, Joseph Jacob Jewelers is expected to open in the former Littman Jewelers location, which closed in February. The storefront is located between the former Sears wing and the wing housing Live! Casino Pittsburgh. Stacey Keating, spokeswoman for CBL Properties, said the jewelry store is expected to open in November.
Also located in the former Sears wing, Gracie Allegiance Jiu-Jitsu Academy opened in February, said Rebecca Blair, who owns the facility with her husband, Jeramy. The academy teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as self-defense classes for adults and kids. A women-only self-defense class also is offered at the facility.
This is the first academy opened by the couple, who decided to open in the mall after seeing another academy in Ohio make similar moves.
“One of our sister academies in Ohio, they’re in a mall, so it kind of gave us the idea because of the foot traffic coming in,” Blair said. “It’s kind of like free advertisement there. It just worked out really well to be the perfect location.”
The academy joins several nontraditional stores at Westmoreland Mall, including Valhalla Indoor Axe Throwing, Kingsman Billiards — which includes activities such as darts, shuffleboard, billiards, air hockey, poker and foosball — and Live! Casino Pittsburgh, which opened in the former Bon-Ton store last year.