Two Washington Mall stores go out of business, economy blamed

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  • Photos by Glenn Tucker Calling it a day Joan Hollis (right) with her long-time employee, Ann Mitchell, are closing down A&J Sports Cards after 14 years.

  • Christian Book Store loctaed at the Washington Mall

Two small businesses in the Washington Mall are closing their doors as Bermuda’s struggling economy continues to hurt the retail industry.

A&J Sports Cards and The Christian Bookstore & Gift Centre, both located on the upper level, Phase I of the mall, are closing today, citing economic challenges.

The Body Shop, on the ground floor, vacated the premises this month as well.

According to Paul Slaughter of Washington Properties (Bermuda) Limited, they have “several interested parties” considering occupying the empty retail spaces.

However, he wouldn’t reveal their names as he said he was currently in the negotiations process. with them

When asked how business was going at the Washington Mall, he said: “We have a number of vacancies in the office floors, but there is still strong interest in retail premises.”

A&J, which sold a wide selection of sports memorabilia and collectable trading cards, including NASCAR, baseball and hockey as well as popular children’s items like Yu- Gi-Oh and Pokémon cards, had been a tenant in the Washington Mall for the last 14 years.

Joan Hollis started her business, which then included video rentals, 32 years ago out of her home.

She then moved the store several times within Hamilton before settling in their current spot across from WOW wireless cable.

The shop’s one part-time and one full-time employees will lose their jobs, including Ms Hollis’s long-time assistant, Ann Mitchell, who has worked for the shop since the beginning.

“It’s because of the economy,” said Ms Hollis. “We’ve lost our overseas customers the exempt company children and though the following we have from the children after school has been good, it doesn’t cover the rent.”.

Larger companies bringing in similar inventory and selling it at a lower price also hurt her business, she said.

“They can bring it in volume and can then price it cheaper,” said Ms Hollis, adding that individuals selling sports cards after youth football games has also took its toll.

Her NASCAR business went “kaplunk”, she said, as people started shopping online and overseas.

“A lot of our customers are disappointed because there’s nobody else that does what we do,” she said, explaining that she appraises her customer’s sports cards collections and memorabilia collections.

While no plans are afoot to relocate her business, Ms Hollis said: “I have been looking for quite a while and have a few options.

“It would be nice to find a smaller space so people could bring in their cards for us to value.”

The shop is set to officially close today, the end of the month, however, they are hoping to stay open another few days to sell off their inventory.

They are offering 50 percent off select items in the store, including the shop’s fixtures.

The Christian Bookstore & Gift Centre, located across from Jazzy Boutique, is also closing its doors for good today.

The business had been owned by George E.W. Smith and his wife Silvia since 1984 and relocated to the Washington Mall seven years ago.

Mrs Smith ran the day-to-day operations.

The 375-square-foot space sold spiritual books and music as well as religious-themed gifts.

“I see four reasons for the closing: economic downturn, folks downloading books and music from the Internet, the tucked away location and the waning interest in spiritual things,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Smith also works for the Heritage International Scholarship Trust Fund.

Mr Smith said he started seeing business slip three years ago but “in the last 18 months it has really accelerated.”

“Folks come in and say emphatically that they buy their things overseas when they go away, and I don’t think they really know the impact of that statement,” he said.

“Folks come in and say emphatically that they buy their things overseas when they go away, and I don’t think they really know the impact of that statement,” he said.

He added that while he thought the rent was high for the particular spot they were located at in the Washington Mall, their rent was never actually increased in those seven years.

“It was our declining sales.

“Everything that came in, went towards the rent,” he said.

“This Christmas was the first time all the Washington Mall merchants came together to do things to help market the Mall, but for us, I guess it was too little, too late.”

“I have no regrets,” he added.

“People came by to not only shop with us but used it as an oasis in the middle of the City of Hamilton for spiritual renewal and that’s what saddens me.

“The Lord knows we did what we could.”

The shop, which is now almost empty, has sold off most of their inventory and furnishings over the last few weeks with consignment businesses picking up the remainder of what was in the store.

Asked if they would reopen in another location he said no: “Unless the Lord really inspires me to do that.”

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Published Jan 31, 2012 at 6:40 am (Updated Jan 31, 2012 at 6:38 am)

Two Washington Mall stores go out of business, economy blamed

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