National arts and crafts outlet Hobby Lobby has a banner hanging at the onetime Sears space in Santa Fe Place mall.
When the store will open on the city’s south side is not yet known, though a city building permit for interior renovations was issued Feb. 28.
Hobby Lobby corporate spokesmen did not respond to an interview request from The New Mexican. Officials from Spinoso Real Estate Group, which leases and manages Santa Fe Place, also did not return phone calls.
The 56,482-square-foot space has not had a permanent tenant since Sears closed in July 2017 after residing there since 1987.
Hobby Lobby has been in Santa Fe for 25 years, opening at its present College Plaza location, 2020 Cerrillos Road, in June 1994.
“It’s premature for me to talk about it,” said John Waterbury, principal at Waterbury Properties, the Walnut Creek, Calif., real estate investment, development and management company that owns and manages College Plaza.
Across the country, large retailers are more likely to leave malls or go out of business altogether. But mall officials frequently find alternative uses to fill onetime department store spaces.
“Off-price retail and fitness centers rush to fill vacant department store space,” according to a retail outlook report published by JLL, an international real estate and investment management firm. “Department store spaces are being taken by a wide range of tenant, including At Home, Whole Foods and H&M. Other retailers bidding for Toys “R” Us space include Aldi, Golf & Tennis Pro Shop and Hobby Lobby.”
Hobby Lobby, closed Sundays, has moved into more than 28 malls, according to MallSeeker.com, an online compendium of mall data. But the listing doesn’t include Hobby Lobby stores in the last year opening at the Cottonwood Mall in Albuquerque, the White Sands Mall in Alamogordo and the Rio West Mall in Gallup.
“Hobby Lobby is definitely opening in malls and big box spaces,” said Keisha Virtue, a JLL senior research analyst. “Malls will be offering very affordable packages for tenants.”
Hobby Lobby, based in Oklahoma City, expects to open 65 new stores in 2019 and relocate 19 stores, such as the Santa Fe store, according to the Hobby Lobby website. Hobby Lobby has more than 840 stores, including nine in New Mexico.
For Santa Fe Place, Hobby Lobby fills an anchor space. The mall has had success with filling a former Regal Cinema with Bed Bath & Beyond and Cost Plus World Market in 2016. H&M arrived in September 2017, but an anchor vacancy remains.
Malls have always seen stores come and go. Retail stalwart Payless ShoeSource is closing all its stores, including the one at Santa Fe Place.
JCPenney will close 18 stores this year, though no list has been announced, and Victoria’s Secret has 53 stores on the chopping block, but a closure list not been released. Both companies have stores at Santa Fe Place.