WEST COBB — Several establishments at the Avenue West Cobb shopping center are on their way out, but what may be coming in remains in question as officials with the center have been mum on the future of the site.
Aspen’s Signature Steaks, which occupies a prime corner space of the shopping center on Dallas Highway, west of Due West Road, will be open for its final days Friday and Saturday nights, from 5 to 11 p.m., according to the restaurant’s general manager, John Lumpkin. Walk-ins will be welcomed, he said, and in past weeks have been steady since announcing their impending closure to staff, regular customers and members of the west Cobb community.
Meanwhile, signs in the windows of Pier 1 Imports on Wednesday advertised a store closing sale. While the retail chain’s location remained on the directory page of The Avenue’s website Thursday, phone calls to the store Thursday afternoon went unanswered, while the store was not listed among the Georgia locations on Pier 1’s website.
The national retailer announced the closure of dozens of stores this year, and as part of the company’s first-quarter financial results report in late June, interim CEO Cheryl Bachelder said the company’s plan in the fiscal year was to “reset our operating model and rebuild our business for the future.”
“Pier 1 is now closing, but Pier 1 nationally is closing stores, so it’s not really surprising that Pier 1 is going,” said Cobb Commissioner Keli Gambrill, who represents the area. “Aspen’s is closing, but when I talked to a Poag (Shopping Centers) representative back in May, they knew Aspen’s was closing then.”
Gambrill says she had been scheduled to attend a meeting Monday with Poag management, which operates The Avenue, as well as with leaders of People Looking After Neighborhoods, a community group which focuses on the management of growth in west Cobb. But the commissioner said the meeting was abruptly canceled in the days prior, despite PLAN’s Facebook page advertising the meeting as focusing on “the recent closing of several retailers” and the center’s plans for the future.
“I was going to be at the meeting, but I was originally told it was between PLAN, The Avenue and myself, and I was led to believe they were having a hard time coming to agreement on new signage for The Avenues. So you can only imagine my surprise when I see on social media that it’s now open to the community and the commissioner was going to be there,” Gambrill said. “That was never how that was originally supposed to unfold.”
Gambrill said she was unhappy over Poag’s handling of the situation “because then, of course, the rumor mill started to fly, and they had another one of their reps talking to people, and it was getting out that ‘The Avenue was closing.’
“I was getting phone calls all throughout the weekend (saying) I needed to ‘subsidize The Avenues because we can’t let it close,’ and I needed to ‘bring business in,’ and I needed to ‘control the rent.’ And I’m like, ‘I can’t do any of that.’ The only thing I can control is the brick and the mortar, and the hours. The rest of it is up to them,” Gambrill added. “By Friday night, it had really spun out of control, and they realized they couldn’t have the number of people that they had stirred up where they wanted to have it” in a vacant storefront in the shopping center.
Marline Elkins, who serves as treasurer for PLAN, said the group has no direct knowledge of any tenants the shopping center is working to attract but is working with the management to attract quality stores to fill the center and keep it viable.
Poag representatives did not respond Wednesday or Thursday to multiple phone messages and contact information delivered in person by the MDJ.
GAMBRILL: CENTER COULD ATTRACT GYM, OFFICE, MEDICAL USES
Described on its website as an “open-air lifestyle shopping center in Marietta,” The Avenue West Cobb listed 47 establishments on its site Thursday, touting the “now open” Shining Smiles dental office.
“Basically, it just sounds like they’re trying to change their identity of what they want to bring in, and I’m not sure if that’s really what the people of west Cobb (want),” Lumpkin said. “It’s almost as if they’re making changes without giving the people of west Cobb a voice on the changes, or caring to see, ‘Hey, we’re going to take out Pier 1 and The Gap, and we’re going to put in, like, a dentist’s office, so does that sound cool?’ Whereas the opinion we seem to be hearing is, ‘No, that’s not cool.’ It’s unfortunate that The Avenue is, in my opinion, making some choices that aren’t reflective to what the people of west Cobb want, but that’s their call.”
The Avenue’s website did not, however, list the presence of a Spirit Halloween store, which is operating near the Barnes & Noble, which appears to have the largest space among all tenants.
While Poag officials did not respond to messages inquiring on potential future tenants, Gambrill said her discussions with those involved with the shopping center have brought up several potential uses.
“Where I.O. Metro and Charming Charlie’s used to be and Simply Mac is — those are the three that will essentially be knocked down and they’re going to build a 3,400-square-foot building in its place for a fitness center,” Gambrill said, adding that she does not know the fitness center’s possible operator, though such a facility would be allowed under The Avenue’s current county zoning.
Simply Mac, Gambrill added, is expected to relocate elsewhere in the shopping center.
The center’s far western section, Gambrill said, could be turned into low-intensity medical offices — establishments such as dental offices or chiropractic offices and not facilities similar to a hospitals — while she has also heard talk of some spots being turned into office space.
“Again, that is allowable, but it’s very low intensity,” she said, but noted that west Cobb already has low-rise office space that is unoccupied.
Operators of The Avenue could confirm or dispel the possible uses in the coming days, as Gambrill said Poag officials expect to reschedule its community meeting for sometime in early September, but as of Thursday had not set a date or time.