'It's a shame!': Six businesses vacating Bethlehem's Westgate Mall amid redevelopment | Eat, Sip, Shop

‘It’s a shame!’: Six businesses vacating Bethlehem’s Westgate Mall amid redevelopment | Eat, Sip, Shop

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – One Westgate Mall enterprise has closed and about a half dozen others are planning to shutter or relocate within the coming months amid the Bethlehem purchasing heart’s ongoing redevelopment.

Salon chain Holiday Hair closed Wednesday, whereas Amateur Athlete, Fashion Nails, Hawk Music, Subway and Westgate Jewelers and Repairs are readying to vacate the Schoenersville Road purchasing heart throughout the subsequent few months.

The enterprise’ house owners acquired notifications to vacate their areas from mall proprietor Onyx Equities, which is planning to raze about 50,000 sq. ft of the purchasing heart’s inside with a purpose to assemble about 8,000 sq. ft of recent retail buildings.

Westgate Mall

Amateur Athlete on the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem

An Onyx Equities consultant didn’t instantly return a message in search of touch upon the vacating tenants.

The Holiday Hair outpost, which has operated on the mall because the Seventies, merged with a close by location about three miles away within the Pointe North purchasing heart, 5510 Crawford Drive, Hanover Township, Northampton County.

“All of our stylists went to Pointe North,” supervisor Sue Repsher mentioned. “It’s actually unhappy as a result of we have been one of many first businesses in Westgate. And it is the individuals who dwell on this rapid space who I actually really feel sorry for. A number of them drive right here to get their hair achieved after which they go grocery purchasing. When I inform them that there is one other salon six minutes away, they are saying, ‘I am unable to drive that far!'”

Another longtime tenant, Hawk Music, has been on the mall since its debut in 1973.

The retailer, providing gross sales of drums, guitars and different musical devices together with instrument leases and repairs, operates on the northernmost a part of the mall’s inside. However, its longtime house was on the heart of the mall (at the moment house to Sky Zone Trampoline Park), co-owner Pat Paulus mentioned. 

Paulus and her brother, Phil Hawk, function the music enterprise that their late father, Bill Hawk, began 50 years in the past.

Paulus mentioned her brother could proceed to function Hawk Music at one other location, however she’s planning to retire after the Westgate store closes.

“I’ve been right here because the starting, and I’m prepared to observe the grandkids now,” Paulus mentioned. “My brother is 5 years youthful, and he is the one who’s actually into music. That’s his life. He performs guitar and bass professionally and might repair any instrument that you just carry to him.”

Paulus mentioned the mall’s administration workforce ordered them to vacate the property “throughout the subsequent couple of months,” and the siblings have enlisted a lawyer to attempt have that deadline prolonged.

“We are hoping to increase our time right here for simply a little longer as a result of we’ve a lot of stuff that we nonetheless should promote,” Paulus mentioned. “It’s unhappy as a result of this has been my life for therefore lengthy, and I actually really feel like us and different mom-and-pops listed here are simply being pushed out of the mall.”

Just a few doorways down from Hawk Music, Westgate Jewelers and Repairs proprietor Laurel Difelice careworn that the enterprise shouldn’t be closing and he or she shouldn’t be retiring.

Instead, the enterprise that has been in her household for generations will relocate to a different, yet-to-be-announced location in Bethlehem.

“We’re persevering with sturdy in enterprise, and we’re persevering with to serve the neighborhood like we at all times have,” Difelice mentioned. “We’re wanting ahead to a easy transition, and we are going to make very public notices and bulletins on radio stations, social media and different retailers once we’re able to disclose our new location.”

Difelice could not present a precise timeframe for the enterprise’ final day at Westgate, however she famous that it’s going to keep open in its present house for no less than a couple of extra months.

The jewellery retailer has turn out to be identified for its huge sidewalk gross sales, sometimes held thrice a yr, and the enterprise will maintain its remaining sidewalk sale at Westgate starting Feb. 19, Difelice mentioned.

The sale, lasting a few weeks, options hundreds of steeply discounted items, together with many priced at $1.

“We’re identified for our tremendous jewellery and watches, and we even have one of the distinctive collections of property jewellery within the Lehigh Valley,” Difelice mentioned. “We supply jewellery restore – batteries, bands and so forth, and we are going to proceed all of those companies at our new location. People additionally will be capable of make appointments to revamp their items, with a private jeweler at their fingertips. We supply this service now, however we will likely be increasing it sooner or later.”

Westgate sign

Westgate Mall in Bethlehem

Across from Westgate Jewelers and Repairs, a employee at sandwich chain Subway mentioned the eatery will maintain its remaining day of enterprise in April.

And subsequent door, Fashion Nails proprietor Cuong Nguyen mentioned the salon is predicted to vacate in March – “in all probability March 20.” 

Fashion Nails, providing manicures and pedicures, has been working on the mall for about eight years.

“I do not know what I’m going to do,” Nguyen mentioned. “I’m looking for a new house, however I have never discovered something but.”

Across from Fashion Nails, Joseph Yoo, proprietor of longtime tenant Amateur Athlete, is also scrambling to seek out a new house for his enterprise.

Yoo mentioned he acquired a letter final Friday notifying him that he needed to be out of the mall in 90 days.

“By my calculations, I believe April 20 will likely be my final day right here,” Yoo mentioned.

Amateur Athlete, promoting skateboards, longboards, informal put on, swimwear, footwear and equipment like sun shades, has been a fixture at Westgate for 38 years.

Yoo mentioned he was blindsided by the letter ordering him to vacate. He knew of the mall proprietor’s plans to redevelop a portion of the middle’s inside, however he mentioned was led to imagine that it will not have an effect on his retailer.

“During the course of the previous yr, whereas the entire renovations have been happening, I used to be at all times led to imagine that the shop was secure and that we would not have to maneuver,” Yoo mentioned. “I’ve referred to as the mall’s administration workforce a number of occasions – about a new retailer signal and different points – and by no means at any level did they offer me any inkling that this was going to occur.”

Yoo mentioned he inquired about working out of one other storefront at Westgate, however no definitive reply was given to him. He mentioned the mall’s administration workforce mentioned they might talk about the matter later, however no house can be out there on the time he needed to vacate.

“I actually do not know what I’m going to do when I’ve to go away,” he mentioned.

Brie Chambers, a buyer who was purchasing at Amateur Athlete on Thursday, sympathized with Yoo.

“It’s completely ridiculous that the mall is forcing out small businesses to place in a Starbucks,” Chambers mentioned. “There’s a Starbucks a half mile up the highway. And this enterprise has been right here for about 40 years. It’s a disgrace!”

Westgate Mall

Westgate Mall in Bethlehem

Onyx Equities, a New Jersey actual property funding and property companies agency, bought Westgate in 2018, with a number of rounds of renovations happening over the following years.

The newest phases of redevelopment embody the demolition of a part of the mall’s inside and the development of two new buildings: a freestanding financial institution with a drive-thru (subsequent to relocated Weis Markets) and a strip mall that will likely be house to Jersey Mike’s Subs, QDOBA Mexican Eats and Starbucks eating places together with a yet-to-be-announced retailer. A drive-thru is deliberate for the Starbucks.

One of the middle’s largest adjustments occurred in 2021, when Weis moved from its 32,000-square-foot retailer close to the center of the middle to a transformed, 63,000-square-foot retailer in a part of the previous Bon-Ton division retailer on the north finish of the purchasing heart.

Other latest adjustments embody Lehigh Valley Health Network opening a 27,000-square-foot medical gear processing facility behind the previous Bon-Ton; California-based instruments and {hardware} chain Harbor Freight Tools opening in a part of the previous Weis house (neighboring house is but to be leased); and an Oak Street Health main care medical facility planning to open in a portion of the previous Rite Aid house on the south finish of the middle.

Westgate Dempsey's

The website of a former Dempsey’s restaurant has been vacant for a few years on the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem.

Additionally, a Fine Wine & Good Spirits retailer is working out of a non permanent location subsequent to Amateur Athlete whereas its authentic location is being expanded close to the south finish of the middle.

Other deliberate additions embody a world quick-service hamburger chain on the northern finish of the middle (in entrance of Weis) and a monetary establishment on the website of the previous Dempsey’s restaurant on the south finish of the middle.

Built in 1973, Westgate Mall has been house to many businesses through the years, together with distinguished former tenants like Art & Drafting Connection, Beef House, Hourglass Hallmark, McCrory and Toy Tunnel.

More than a dozen businesses proceed to function on the mall, together with Country Rose Florist, Grand China Buffet & Grill, Johnny’s Bagels & Deli, Outlooks for Hair and Panda Cleaners, amongst others.