Leader Blues

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TOP STORY > > No Asian mall for Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

Despite a hoped-for sale of Jacksonville Shopping Center, the city’s oldest strip mall now sits half empty as plans to turn it into an Asian mall have fallen through.

Some long-time tenants were given non-renewal notices of their leases, while others said they chose to leave. At least one business closed.

“Some leases expired and others wanted to move,” Mike Wilson said. Wilson owns the 12-acre, 130,000-square-foot

Jacksonville Shopping Center with Jim Peacock and Jim O’Brien, under the real estate company MJMJ LLC.

Storefronts formerly occupied by Stroman’s Furniture, Abdin Jewelers, Crafton’s Furniture and Executive Cleaners are now vacant.

Sue Khoo — owner of Unique Furniture, which occupies the 638 section of the shopping center — had hoped to buy the shopping center by the end of January. Many tenants expected she would soon own the property, but for now, MJMJ LLC is still its owner.

“Right now, there are no plans to sell it,” Wilson said.

Business owners who occupied Jacksonville Shopping Center heard last summer that Khoo had announced plans to buy the strip mall. Some tenants did not receive official word that they would have to leave until last month.

They believed Khoo had plans to create an Asian-inspired shopping complex with restaurants and a grocery store.

Khoo had proposed buying the strip mall that occupies the entire 600 block of West Main Street. She now leases the 35,000-square-foot space for her business, in addition to three other businesses, from MJMJ LLC.

A “for rent” sign now sits in the lawn on Main Street in front of the shopping center. Wilson said a grocery store will rent one of the vacant spots.

Chamber’s Drug has occupied its space since the 50s. Owner Ron Lucas expected the store would remain in its longtime space when Khoo made her plans public.

“We’re not moving anywhere,” Lucas said this week.

A few doors down from Chamber’s, the store Abdin Jewelers occupied for 43 years is now empty.

Crafton’s and Abdin Jewelers have moved to 2126 N. First in the old Wal-Mart shopping center in Jacksonville.

Stroman’s also moved into its new space on the other side of Jacksonville this month, to 1811 N. First St., next to Payless Shoes.

That Little Flea Market was the first to receive notice. Jim Peacock gave owner Mary Little notice to vacate 632 W. Main last summer, she said.

Little leased her space in the Jacksonville Shopping Center for 15 years. After getting notice she would have to move, she now rents at 345 S. James St. in the Knight’s grocery store complex.

After five months in her new store, customers are still surprised to find she moved, she said.

“Some people still come over and say, ‘We found you!’” she said. “They done screwed up,” Little said about the shopping center owners. “I feel like it was nasty and ugly,” she said.

Referring to Khoo, she said, “They shouldn’t have made plans for her before they had everything straightened out.”

Little said her business was able to withstand the move. “I’m satisfied now, they can have it,” she said, referring to her old location.

Khoo now rents the space That Little Flea Market once occupied. She also leases the store that houses TS Beauty Supply at 640 W. Main, which has posted a notice on its door stating it will move to the space Stroman’s occupied for 10 years.

Khoo also leases the Unique Connection Center, in the former Jax movie theater building, occupied by Sun De Yao, a boxing and tai-chi teacher.