ELKTON — Almost two years after Kmart closed its doors in the Big Elk Mall, coupled with speculation over what would come next to the 80,000-square-foot anchor store, Mayor Rob Alt announced Wednesday that Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is the newest tenant.
“I do know the Ollie’s is coming,” Alt said in response to a question from the audience.
At the town meeting Wednesday night, Alt said he met with David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Companies that owns the Big Elk Mall. It was then that he learned that Ollie’s is nearing completion of all the paperwork to take over 36,000 square-feet of the now-empty storefront.
“I asked him how come the Ollie’s hasn’t come yet?,” Alt recalled, reporting that Cordish told him it was coming close to fruition.
The local Kmart store closed in September 2017, some 40 years after opening, amidst the collapse of the once-profitable chain of department stores. Kmart still holds the lease for the building, which is part of the settlement process, Alt said.
Breaking the building into separate stores has been a challenge, according to John Peters, construction director for retail operations for Cordish.
“There’s been a sizable amount of (demolition),” he said Thursday, noting new electric and bathrooms for each store had to be added.
According to Peters, the plan is for Ollie’s to open in the late spring of 2020.
“And we do have some interest in the other half of the Kmart building,” he added, but he was not at liberty to identify those parties yet.
Meanwhile, Alt said more changes are coming for the shopping center at the corner of U.S. Route 40 and Route 213.
“They are going to tear down the Comcast building and (Cordish) is soliciting for us for a Texas Roadhouse,” he said. “I’ve been begging for that steakhouse as everyone else has.”
However, Cordish told the mayor that his son would prefer something else.
“They own the franchise PBR, or Professional Bull Riding,” Alt said.
Cordish said his son would like to put something similar to his Xfinity Live! venue in Philadelphia in the other side of the building, Alt relayed.
“It’s country line dancing, live music, bull riding,” Alt said of the massive sport entertainment complex with six or seven bars. However, Cordish told the mayor that he would campaign for the restaurant.
Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration is expected to relocate to the mall in early December, Peters said.
“We had to add to the size of the building. They’re bigger now and have more employees,” Peters said.
SSA left that building in 2008 for the Chesapeake Corporate Center, citing lack of space at the Cordish location.
Meanwhile, Peters continues to shop for tenants for the former Payless Shoe Source store, which shuttered in April. It was part of a chain-wide closure of all North American stores.
“I reached out to every shoe company and nobody was interested,” he said.
At the same time, Peters said he is finding success in linking available retail space to medical offices. Case in point, the success of the ExpressCare Urgent Care Center in Northeast Plaza where Rite Aid once stood.