SEMINOLE — Telly's Restaurant, a longtime fixture at Seminole Mall, has closed, a victim of a dying shopping center, the owner says.
"The mall is going down," Telly Komninos said Monday. "We cannot afford to stay open."
Komninos closed his restaurant Sunday after about 34 years there. When the mall was flourishing, the restaurant did well. But now that few stores remain, foot traffic is virtually nonexistent, he said, and the restaurant has struggled especially hard for the past couple of years.
Telly's closure did not surprise Seminole officials.
"I'm surprised they lasted this long," Mayor Leslie Waters said. Waters said she walked through the mall last week and found it vacant of foot traffic.
Telly's closing is the latest loss for a mall that is taking its time to die.
Built in the mid 1960s, the 425,292-square-foot mall at the northeast corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street N was the center of activity in Seminole and came to be considered the city's "downtown." That's when its anchors, Kmart, Publix, Bealls, Stein Mart and Ross, and other smaller stores, did a brisk business.
Smaller stores were the first to go. Then the larger stores started leaving. Publix left in 2009, moving across the street to a former Albertsons. A bank holding company foreclosed on the mall's mortgage in 2011. Kmart left last year. Bealls, Ross and Stein Mart are still there. Seminole council member Jim Quinn said Stein Mart has a banner out weekly advertising goods at 50 percent off to attract business.
Owners are issuing leases for only 90 days, Quinn and Komninos said. Quinn said it is unrealistic to expect a business to locate with a guarantee of only three months' tenancy.
Quinn said he imagines the short-term leases are part of a strategy to clear the way for redevelopment.
Any possibility of that lies with Seminole Mall LP, a Delaware limited partnership that bought the mall last year for $14.6 million, about 59 percent less than the $35.7 million the previous owner, Downtown Seminole, paid in December 2006.
Seminole Mall LP is run out of the Palm Beach office of North American Development Group, a multinational corporation that specializes in the, development, redevelopment and management of shopping centers.
Representatives from that company and its partner, Primerica Group One Inc. and Primerica Developments Inc., a Tampa-based company whose primary focus is on the development or redevelopment of shopping centers, have met with city officials a few times since the purchase. The most recent meeting was last week, City Manager Frank Edmunds said. But Edmunds said he's unable to provide any details about the mall's future because the discussions have been vague and general.
Dale Johnson of Primerica declined to comment, saying," We keep going through site plan iterations."
When something is settled, Johnson said, the company will share its plans with the community.
Quinn said he's looking forward to a revitalized mall.
"I would love to see it rebuilt," Quinn said. "My hope is when it is redeveloped, it will become the center of the city."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.