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What’s next for Edgewater Mall after Sears closes?

Sears at Edgewater Mall in Biloxi is on the latest list of stores the company is closing. Mall management is working on a plan for other opportunities at the mall.
Sears at Edgewater Mall in Biloxi is on the latest list of stores the company is closing. Mall management is working on a plan for other opportunities at the mall.

Tuesday’s announcement that Sears at Edgewater Mall is closing wasn’t really unexpected from the department store chain that just 28 years ago was the largest retailer in the country.

The list published by Business Insider shows 16 Sears stores, 49 Kmart stores and seven auto centers are included in this round of closings. This comes on top of about 180 store closings already announced this year.

Sears Auto Center on U.S. 90 outside Edgewater Mall, and the Kmart on U.S. 49 in Gulfport, weren’t on Tuesday’s list and are safe for now.

“I didn’t just find out yesterday that this was going to happen,” said Terry Powell, manager of Edgewater Mall. He’s known for awhile that Sears didn’t intend to renew its lease, he said.

He expects it to take about 90 days for Sears to wrap it up operations there.

“We’re working on a plan now,” Powell said. “We’re looking outside the box for opportunities,” but he said it’s too soon to release any details or make any announcements.

“Our goal here is to improve Edgewater Mall overall,” he said.

Already the mall is evolving, adding new stores and more things for families and kids to do. A train now travels the halls, taking shoppers to the stores, the climbing wall, the carousel and new arcades and games. The recently-opened Play Live Nation social game attraction lets adults and kids play solo or compete with the Live Nation worldwide and the new Games Inc. has a combination drone cage and obstacle course.

Powell said a new Filipino restaurant will open in the food court later this summer. Ocean Springs-based Chandeleur Outfitters opened a month ago at the mall and he said, “It has been a huge hit.”

This year’s sand sculpture — By Sand Tennial — comes to the center of the mall June 20 and follows the theme of Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration. Edgewater Mall already had a personal appearance by Wonder Woman, and Spiderman is the next of the cartoon characters coming to the mall on July 8.

Edgewater Mall anchor stores Belk, Dillards and JC Penney are doing well in Biloxi, he said.

More than anything, Sears’ closing is about people the people who work there, he said, some of them for many years. “This puts a lot of stress on them,” he said.

Nationwide the last few years have seen retail stores closing by hundreds at a time as shoppers cut back on purchases and shop online.

“It’s a challenge, especially in a smaller market like Biloxi,” Powell said. And changes are coming quickly.

In 2008 after Hurricane Katrina, the Sears at Edgewater Mall was thriving. “This store was one of the top performers in the company,” he said.

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