Eastland Center businesses, administrators see hope with new ownership

New businesses will include jazz-themed restaurant

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published February 11, 2019

 Mike Ansara works at the Eastland Jewel Box, which is  owned by his wife, Randa. The store has been located inside the  mall since 1997 and its owners have no plans on leaving.

Mike Ansara works at the Eastland Jewel Box, which is owned by his wife, Randa. The store has been located inside the mall since 1997 and its owners have no plans on leaving.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 After new owners bought the majority of Eastland Center in October, some new businesses, such as jazz-themed restaurant They Say, have already begun  moving into  the mall.

After new owners bought the majority of Eastland Center in October, some new businesses, such as jazz-themed restaurant They Say, have already begun moving into the mall.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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HARPER WOODS — To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

Despite gossip and reports stating otherwise, Eastland Center has not and will not be closing after its purchase in October by the Kohan Retail Investment Group.

The mall’s administrators say it will remain open despite many different options being considered for the future of the property.

“We don’t know what a lot of the changes being made will be,” said the mall’s marketing and leasing manager, Jean Tallent. “There are a lot of different plans currently being floated around for different areas of the property. Sears and Burlington Coat Factory have been asking for site plans and available square footage. The owners are talking about adding apartments … and we’re still talking with the city (of Harper Woods) about moving some of their facilities here.”

The mall opened in 1957, has been in debt since 2006 and entered financial receivership in 2015. It was put up for auction in 2018, when the Kohan Retail Investment Group purchased it.

Although the future of much of the mall’s property is still up in the air, some changes have already begun, with new businesses moving or being replaced.

“The Lady Footlocker will be replaced by a big and tall, the old GNC is becoming a Mommy and Me, and one of our perfume stores is being taken over by the owner of another perfume store in the mall. … A new store called ‘Dealz’ is opening up as well,” said Tallent. “We have a new jazz-themed restaurant opening called ‘They Say.’ They have another location in downtown Detroit, and this will be their second.”

Many of the mall’s businesses have stood fast through thick and thin and view the new owners as a chance for improvement.

“This beautiful mall has been here a long time, and we’ve been here too long to leave,” said Mike Ansara, a fixture at Eastland working at the Eastland Jewel Box, which is owned by his wife, Randa. “We keep hoping for things to get better. Everything sees ups and downs.”

The mall has seen many of its anchor stores leave in recent years, including Sears, Burlington Coat Factory, Macy’s and Target. The Kohan group stated that it plans on trying to attract more businesses back — something those who know the mall well say is a necessity.

“Our hope is (the new owners) bring in more stores, especially more big-box stores and chains,” said Ansara. “We need people to know the mall is not closed or closing; there are new owners and we need their support.”

Mydul Islam owned one perfume business in the mall, PerfumesEra, and expanded it to a second. He said he is cautious but hopeful that the new owners will mean new life for the mall.

“The new owner is very optimistic,” Islam said. “He’s taken malls that were dying and brought them back. I know he’s had some ups and downs, but so do all businesses. I think it means a lot that he’s willing to take that shot and go out on a limb to make this prosperous again.”

Islam is not only continuing his presence at Eastland Center, but is also expanding it. He says he still wants to ensure that people in the community have the services they want.

“I expanded my business here because I want to make sure people have access to buying perfume,” said Islam. “I’m getting a lot of customers thinking the mall is closing because of some bad coverage in the media, but we’re still open, we still have a lot of great businesses here and we are happy to serve you.”

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