The owners of Warwick Mall have been taking chances for years, and they have paid off.
It was no different with Nordstrom Rack, which is expected to open a 37,360-square foot store, giving the mall nearly 1.1 million square feet of retail space, in the fall of 2012.
In order for the Rack to open in time for next year’s holiday shopping season, preliminary work, including the relocation of utilities, drainage and site preparation, had to start this year. But while the mall and Nordstrom were in negotiations and things looked favorable, an agreement hadn’t been signed.
Aram Garabedian, managing partner of the Warwick Mall, and his partners decided to take the chance anyway. A section of the parking lot was fenced off. Heavy equipment arrived at the scene and the digging started. There was no guarantee of a new tenant.
“We jumped the gun because there was technical stuff,” Garabedian said yesterday following the Nordstrom announcement at the mall center. “We took a shot and they came in.”
The Nordstrom agreement was signed last Friday. But then getting a head start on a nearly sure thing like Nordstrom was nothing like the gamble the mall took in the wake of the March 2010 flood that left all but a few of the outlying stores under three feet of Pawtuxet River waters. There were questions as to whether many of the anchor stores would return and to the level of investment mall owners would put into restoring the shopping center.
“At the time, we were wondering if we were even going to re-open,” mall partner Dan Bliss said yesterday. Bliss, who has worked there for 40 years, had his doubts.
“My brother-in-law [Garabedian] kept saying to me, ‘One day, you’re going to thank the Lord for the flood because it’s the only way we’ll get a new mall,” said Bliss. “I thought he was a little delirious but now I agree. I’m very thankful and there is more to come.”
But as time has shown, and Mayor Scott Avedisian remarked, the mall not only returned from the flood, it came back even better than before.
With last week’s opening of Jordan’s Furniture and now Nordstrom Rack, Avedisian said the Warwick Mall has become “a destination place.”
Nordstrom Rack, which will be the first to open in Rhode Island, will be located at the Target end of the mall and encompass one floor.
According to Kendall Ault, the spokesperson for Nordstrom, there are more than 100 Nordstrom Rack locations throughout the United States and the company is on track to open 10 to 15 new stores during the next few years.
“We’ve had a full-line store at Providence Place Mall for a decade and we’re fortunate to have a lot of customers in the area and we hope this gives us an opportunity to better serve them,” she said.
The Rack is an off-price retail division of Nordstrom, Inc., and carries a full-line of on-trend, of-season, as well as clearance merchandise for men, women and children from Nordstrom stores and Nordstrom.com at 50 to 60 percent off original prices.
Further, it also offers a selection of apparel, accessories and shoes from many designer brands available in Nordstrom stores purchased specially for Nordstrom Rack, with most at savings of 30 to 70 percent off. Ault said labels include but are not limited to BCBG, Vince, Tory Burch, Marc by Marc Jacob, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein.
Lisa Garabedian, Aram’s daughter, said the Warwick store is unusual because the locations are typically placed close to regional malls, while this Nordstrom Rack will be an anchor tenant in a mall.
She is excited not only about the future opening, but also to shop for cocktail dresses, scarves, handbags and shoes.
“It has a large selection of Nordstrom products and the level it begins at is higher than what you would see in other competitive off-price stores,” she said. “Each rack has a designer name on it so you’re not flipping through and saying, ‘What is this?’ It’s fabulous.”
With that, Garabedian said, “You can tell who the shoppers are.”
In attendance was Council President Bruce Place, as well as Avedisian.
“What an exciting new development here at the Warwick Mall,” said Avedisian. “The nearest locations are in Boston and New Jersey, so this opens us up to the Connecticut Valley and New York. It’s the perfect location for people to come to in order to shop. It’s a destination place and a great asset as to what’s going on in the city.”
Karen Jedson, director of Warwick’s Department of Tourism Culture and Development, agreed.
“Nordstrom’s Rack will certainly add a new dimension to the Warwick destination and further enhance the shopper’s experience,” she said via e-mail.
The opening not only creates shopping and economic excitement, it also creates 70 full-time retail jobs and a handful of part-time positions. Ault said applications could be found online at nordstrom.com/careers. Jobs will be filled in early autumn.
Currently, nearly 100 construction workers are renovating and removing buried utilities from the space. Some parking spaces will be lost due to expansion.
“If we created something at the Macy’s end, parking might have been a problem,” said Garabedian.
Ault said the average size of a Nordstrom Rack is roughly 35,000 square feet.
Warwick Mall features more than 80 newly designed retail locations, 12 restaurants and a 12-screen Showcase Cinema.
Nordstrom, Inc. is one of the nation’s leading fashion specialty retailers and was founded in 1901 as a shoe store in Seattle. Now, Nordstrom operates 225 stores in 30 states, including 117 full-line stores, 104 Nordstrom Racks, two Jeffrey boutiques, one treasure and bond store and one clearance store. Nordstrom also serves customers through Nordstrom.com and through its catalogs. Additionally, the company operates in the online private sale marketplace through its subsidiary, Haute Look. Nordstrom, Inc.’s common stock is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol JWN.