Eastland cuts hours starting next Thursday

In an effort to save money, Eastland Mall will reduce its weekday operating hours and close entirely on Sundays.

Mall managers handed out the notices Wednesday afternoon, setting off a flood of concern among store owners worried they will lose too much money to stay in business. The changes start next Thursday.

Eastland will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays – shaving off a total of 241/2 hours of shopping each week.

Mall anchors Sears, Dillard's and Burlington Coat Factory will continue to operate their normal hours, including staying open on Sundays. Individual stores within the mall, however, are required by lease to open during times set by mall management.

“Being closed on Sunday will affect us a lot because a lot of people come in after church around 1 p.m. to eat,” said D.K. Kennedy, owner of M&M Soul Food. “It's ridiculous … this is me and my mom's primary source of income.”

Eastland general manager Marvin Snyder said the mall hours were being changed because the owners felt it was “in the best interest” of the tenants and customers. Last month, the mall's owners announced they would no longer subsidize the mall, which has been losing money.

Columbus, Ohio-based Glimcher Realty Trust has been trying to sell the mall for three years.

“We're getting mixed feedback from the tenants,” Snyder said. “Some like the new hours and some don't.”

In particular, Snyder said many store owners like the changes to weekday hours. However, there are mixed feelings about changes to weekend hours.

Over the past two years, several major tenants have left Eastland, including Belk, Victoria's Secret and New York and Co.

Dillard's plans to close sometime next month.

Despite the departures, the mall still remains popular among neighborhood-area shoppers who patronize the nearly 100 local and regional businesses inside.

Owners of those businesses say the mall is primarily busy on the evenings and weekends, which is why they worry the reduced hours could worsen the mall's financial woes.

“Closing on Sunday is absolutely absurd, but the best thing we can do is just get the word out and make the community aware of the new hours,” said Latoya Haynes, owner of sunglass boutique Rayz of Fashion.

“I can only hope the word gets out there that we are still open.”

City Council member Nancy Carter, whose district includes the Eastland Mall area, said city officials and community leaders are doing everything they can to attract new businesses and development to the area. Carter said she hopes the businesses in the mall can find a way to stay open.

“Ever since I have been on the council, we have been planning for the best for Eastland,” she said.

“I am truly distressed for them.”