Albemarle Square to Counter Vacancies with Renovation Plans

May 14, 2013

Changes could be coming to one local shopping center plagued by vacancies, but some of the businesses still in Albemarle Square question whether they can survive in that location until the changes come.

"We've always loved the fact that we've been in this very location since the day we've opened," said Carolyn Mucherino, president of Chandler's Bakery.

The bakery has been in the Albemarle Square location since it opened in 1995. Recently, with the vacancies, they've felt the effects.

"It is not what we would consider a thriving business anymore because what we are doing now is paying for square footage that we no longer need due to the fact that we're not producing as much product as we used to produce," Mucherino said.

The eastern strip of Albemarle Square currently has nine vacancies. Recently, the mainstay Northside Library announced plans to move out for a larger location.

"That has been devastating," Mucherino said in response to the library's pending move. "To hear the loss of the library is sort of the final blow to the things that our business has had to endure for the last several years."

Chandler's has traditionally relied on foot traffic to help keep them in business. But as its neighbors moved out over the years, especially since the Circuit City closure in December 2008, the bakery has continued to lose money.

"It's been very sad for many years now seeing the ugly façade of the building where the signs used to hang, and it's been very hard to stay positive," Mucherino said.

She said the addition of the Fresh Market in the former Circuit City location hasn't had too much of an effect on her business, neither positive nor negative.

On the northern end of Albemarle Square, a site with fewer vacancies, the owner of Cavalier Cards said he enjoys more foot traffic but is still concerned of the vacancies nearby.

"Our concern is the empty spaces," owner Don Prillaman said. "It doesn't seem like we're accomplishing anything of getting anything in."

Dumbarton Properties, Inc., the management company for Albemarle Square, released a statement to CBS19 saying renovation plans are in the works.

"A full-scale renovation and re-branding of Albemarle Square is planned between the library space and The Fresh Market," the statement read. "Lease discussion with national, regional and local retailers are ongoing."

With other new and renovated shopping centers springing up along Route 29, like Stonefield and 29th Place (formerly Shopper's World), is it too little too late?

"You wonder how management is bringing other business in to other locations instead of our location here," Prillaman said.

"I think I've remained optimistic as long as I've possibly can," Mucherino said. "For lack of other changes that we can make internally we've tried to do over the years, it's time to start thinking about maybe a more drastic step."

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