Sears closing leaves customers frustrated, east side mall operator ‘surprised’

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By Russ McQuaid

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 30, 2014)-- The announced closing of Sears at Washington Square left the east side mall's operator "surprised."

Adrian Lewis of Jones Lang Lasalle said the operator remained "Committed to providing the best opportunity" to its remaining shoppers despite the loss of a longtime retail anchor.

Washington Square Mall has a 40 percent vacancy rate, which worries neighbors and customers.

"We do patronize Sears and we have noticed in the past few years the products that they are offering are not significant enough to maintain the interest of the public," said Norm Pace, president of the Far Eastside Neighborhood Association. "We go to Warren Township businesses first and if they don't have the product there then we are forced to go somewhere else but the priority is this is our place."

Sears Holding also announced that it was closing Kmart stores in the 2700 block of Madison Avenue and the 7400 block of East Washington Street where it is a community center for the neighborhood said one resident.

"I see all of my friends over here and it's one of the closest grocery stores that we have and its good for clothes, too'" said Breonna Workman. "A lot of people are probably going to move and go somewhere else."

"They won't be able to get the medicine that they need or the food that they need," said Workman.

Though Target, Burlington Coat Factory and Dick's Sporting Goods remain at Washington Square Mall, the rest of East Washington Street is dotted with closed retailers and large furniture stores.

"The east side seems to have taken a larger hit with some of its loss in its retail businesses," said Pace. "We don't like it and we're disappointed in it. We think that there's businesses and there's people out here that have an interest in this being successful."

"It's not like we don't have the patronage. We have the residences. We have the people and the school system is thriving," said Pace.

Approximately 360 workers at the three stores will lose their jobs at the height of the Christmas shopping season when other retailers may be hiring temporary help.