WILKES-BARRE TWP. — With several chain stores leaving the Wyoming Valley Mall, some local businesses see an opportunity to move in to the empty spaces.
Jim Ford, 46, of Wyoming, was excited when he signed his one-year lease to move Ford Family Auctions from his prior location in Luzerne to a spot in a mall secondary building in early July.
But after two years of planning and finally starting to make the move, the auction firm was booted from its new digs before even opening to the public.
Ford received notice this week that his lease for 105 Wyoming Valley Mall, a 10,000 square-foot location, had been terminated because Ashley Furniture HomeStore signed a multi-year lease.
“I got a call at 9:15 Tuesday morning,” said Ford. “A person involved with the mall told me with tears in her eyes that Ashley Furniture has signed a multi-year lease for 50,000 square feet and that my lease with the mall has been terminated.”
Ford and his business now have until Sept. 1 to vacate the space.
Ashley Furniture, 251 Mundy St., was looking for a new outlet after suffering significant damage from the EF-2 tornado that rocked Wilkes-Barre Township on June 13.
Ford mentioned that two Ashley representatives came to his store with blueprints and measurement devices about an hour after he received the terrible news.
“I told them to leave my store,” Ford angrily said. “The Wyoming Valley Mall had to have known that Ashley Furniture was going to take over my space. I don’t know how they had blueprints drawn up overnight like that.”
He cannot believe his successful business founded in 2016 would find itself homeless.
“My business moved to the mall because we outgrew my old location in Luzerne,” he said. “This space has about 4,000 square feet more and plenty of parking.”
He had been grateful he moved when he did because of the many stores in the Arena Hub Plaza that were displaced by the tornado.
But that’s no longer the case.
“Those stores were destroyed by an act of God,” he said. “My business is being destroyed by commerce.”
He continued: “I understand that Ashley Furniture staying in the area is a good thing and that they will employ more people than me. But they are throwing a monkey wrench into my life and my business.”
“I’m just upset that no one from Ashley Furniture told me their intentions or attempted to help me defray the costs of trying to relocate.”
Ford has already invested a significant amount of money in his relocation.
“I spent money on business cards, advertisements, building improvements and I’m not going to get that back.”
Besides Ford’s spot, Ashley’s move will reportedly occupy space that includes the former H.H. Gregg property, the current Wilkes-Barre Beauty Supply shop, and a vacant store.
Representatives from mall owner PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) and Ashley Furniture did not return a call before press time.
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes