A couple of years ago, Hannibal’s Huck Finn Shopping Center was an unfortunate victim of circumstance. (More unfortunate than you know, from a selfish perspective, since it involved two of my favorite clothing stores.) In the span of a few months, two fairly new retailers at Huck Finn Shopping Center, Goody’s and Steve & Barry’s — which also had opened within seven months of each other — went bankrupt at the national level and closed their respective Hannibal outlets in the former Walmart. The spaces have sat untouched since then, their signage still visible on U.S. 61/McMasters Avenue.
So I was pretty excited for the shopping center when I heard that a Sears Hometown Store was coming soon to the former Steve & Barry’s space, the previous Sears store’s owner having given up the franchise to strike out on his own.
When I called shopping center owner Hauck Holdings to confirm that information, however, I gleaned even more potentially exciting information.
Harold Fry, Hauck’s vice president of leasing, tells me that Sears — which has yet to open — probably will occupy relatively little of the Steve & Barry’s space, depending on Sears’ own inclination. Instead, it may split the 41,000-square foot space with a soft goods retailer — that is, one selling textiles and related merchandise — that will occupy the bulk of the space. Fry didn’t identify the retailer but said Hauck is in lease negotiations with that company.
“It’s going to be partly up to (Sears), but we’re in negotiations with them as well,” Fry said. “But we have the right to, and we intend to, build a dividing wall.”
The former Goody’s space next door won’t be left out of the action, Fry added. Hauck is in lease negotiations with three different soft goods companies for that 25,000-square foot space. A pet supply company also is in the mix.
Heard the rumor that an indoor shooting range will occupy Goody’s? Fry would like to put that rumor to rest. “That did not happen and would not happen,” he said.
Fry emphasized that it wasn’t Hannibal’s fault that Goody’s and Steve & Barry’s closed. According to The Herald-Whig’s archives, Goody’s declared bankruptcy in June 2008 and shortly thereafter announced plans to close the Hannibal store it had opened in November 2005. A few months later, the adjacent Steve & Barry’s, newly bought out of bankruptcy itself, announced it would close more than a third of its stores, including its two-year-old Hannibal store (and the St. Louis store where I frequently stimulated the economy). Bankruptcy proceedings moved fast for both chains, and both were a memory as 2009 began. (Goody’s has since reopened several stores, including a Jacksonville, Ill. location, as part of the Stage Stores family, which also includes Stage Stores in Kirksville and Moberly, Mo., and a Peebles in Keokuk, Iowa.)
“We hit a couple of bumps in the road with Goody’s and Steve & Barry’s, but no fault of anybody,” Fry said. Of all the shopping centers Cincinnati-based Hauck owns in six primarily eastern states, “this was the only instance where we were affected side-by-side (by) two different companies from two different parts of the country.”
Although Hannibal is a bit off the beaten path for large chain retailers, Fry is satisfied with its steady traffic and likes its biggest shopping center’s chances of succeeding with the successors to Goody’s and Steve & Barry’s.
“There’s always been constant, continuous interest in that center,” Fry said, adding, “It’s a great town.”