By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — A national cell phone retailer ended its lease this month with The Orchards Mall, after more than a decade of serving in that location.
Orchards Mall manager Cindy Christians said she received the keys to the retailer’s store Monday, citing consolidation as a reason.
“I called corporate because if there was a problem in the mall I wanted to see if they would give me 30 days to fix it,” Christians said. “Corporate said they were consolidating down to one store within a 10-mile radius. They also have a stand-alone building in St. Joseph. Since they own that building, ending their lease with us was a little easier.”
The store Christians referred to is at 1021 Main St. in St. Joseph – 4 miles west of Orchards.
Christians found out near the beginning of August when cleaning crews first arrived. Employees were given a 30-day notice.
Originally, the lease for the 1,484-square-foot space started in July 2001, only then it was through Centennial Wireless. Once Centennial Wireless was bought out by AT&T, the company absorbed the spot in Orchards.
AT&T spokeswoman Teresa Mask said there is a new AT&T store at 1359 Mall Drive in Benton Harbor. Mask said she did not know if the new store would be absorbing the previous store’s employees.
“We constantly review our store distribution to ensure we are in the best location to serve our customers,” Mask said. “This location was at the end of its lease and a new retail store was open nearby.”
Mask said the major difference between the two stores will be the new AT&T store is at an authorized location – as opposed to the one in the mall, which was a corporate-owned store. This means the new store is part of a franchise and will be owned by a local dealer.
At the moment, Christians said there is no imminent replacement for the vacant space at the mall, but said Orchards is looking at getting Verizon Wireless or Metro PCS.
“It’s saddening, but we’re not going to let this discourage us,” Christians said. “We hate to see them go but just like any good relationship, I want to see them strive.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 25, 2015)