Westchester Square gets its anchor store

For Westchester Square shoppers, it’s anchors away.

ABC Super Stores, a 10-store regional discount chain selling clothing, as well as furniture, will be expanding into the property at 34 Westchester Square that Foot Locker recently vacated. It should be the anchor store that merchants have clamored for.

The store’s appeal should be akin to the draw that Woolworth’s once had at the same location in the Square, with discount men’s clothing, women’s clothing, shoes, and furniture.

The 18,000-square-foot store is in the heart of the Square and had been vacant since the spring. The Westchester Square Merchants Association, Senator Jeff Klein’s office, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation and community leaders have been working for months on bringing in an anchor store that could draw customers and create foot traffic for other stores.

According to John Bonizio, a business owner and part of the effort to form a Westchester Square BID, the merchants and community worked with the landlord to bring in ABC Super Stores.

“We expressed to the landlord that we were looking for a multi-product retailer,” Bonizio said. “We wanted something that would be like Woolworth’s was in its heyday. We also needed something that would not be for just men or women.”

Bonizio said that a lease has now been signed between the landlord and ABC Super Stores for the property, and he expects the store to open shortly. He believes the store will offer something for everyone, and would appeal to families with young children and people of all ages.

According to a recent study, 120,000 people pass through the Square every day. The merchants association made its case to the landlord, who could have subdivided the property, but to the relief of merchants, he did not.

“A big problem that we encountered is that given the political climate in the Bronx right now, with the big debacle at the Kingsbridge Armory, many national retailers are hesitant to invest in the Bronx,” Bonizio said. “Also, when you look at retailers coming into a location like the Gateway Mall, they are hesitant to invest in a single store.”

Westchester Square Merchants Association president Greg Perry said that he believes the timing is right for ABC Super Stores to come into the Square. If the store opens in October, he said, it should do well in the holiday shopping season.

“The store should be completed and open by the Christmas shopping season, and that should give them a good idea of what their sales will be year-round,” Perry said. “We want to support them every way possible in order to make the store known to our community. We hope it will help increase foot traffic and I definitely see spillover for the bakeries, fish markets, and vegetable stores, to name a few.”

Perry said he hopes that shoppers will come into the area to purchase furniture and clothing, and then see what the other merchants have to offer.

He also believes the new store would be a good member of the Business Improvement District merchants are hoping to put together, which may become a legal entity recognized by the city in 2012.

“This store,” Perry predicted, “will help us accomplish our strategic efforts for the development of the Square.”

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