Dan Hood's Commentary

User submitted September 24, 2012

The history of this site can be traced back to the flagship location of Fortunoff (a local chain of department stores that sold things such as jewelry, housewares, and furniture), whose store opened in 1964.

Beginning in the 1980's, there were plans by Fortunoff to build a mall around their store to compete with the nearby Roosevelt Field Mall (which is less than a mile from the site), which was nowhere near its current size at the time. With Roosevelt Field receiving a massive expansion throughout the mid-1990's, this eventually evolved into The Mall At the Source- which was co-owned, managed, and developed by Simon Property Group- opened its doors in September 1997. Not even a year later, Simon became the owner of Roosevelt Field as well when they bought CPI.

The mall's design is unique; the first floor of the mall is largely taken up by various big-box stores, while the second floor is laid out like a traditional mall. There are then three courts- the Fortunoff Court, the Center Court, and the Off 5th Saks Court- in which there are three disconnected first floors that mainly serve as street-level entrances to the mall and to give the big box stores a mall entrance. The mall was primarily designed this way because there was a large demand for big box-type retail stores in the area at the time and not many places around to fulfill it.

When the mall opened, it was a hit; it attracted a Cheesecake Factory (the first of three on Long Island. plus a Grand Lux Cafe at Roosevelt Field), Ahyan's Shish Kebab, ABC Carpet & Home, Virgin Megastore, outlet stores for Saks Fifth Avenue (Saks Off 5th) and Nordstrom (Nordstrom Rack), a Circuit City, a Rainforest Cafe, an Old Navy (also Long Island's first of many), and many others that opened with the mall. Old Navy expanded into the space above it in 1999, making it Long Island's only two story Old Navy. P.F. Chang's, while not an original tenant of the mall, came not long after the mall opened (1999, to be specific). One of Datavision's few retail stores also opened in the mall in the 1990's, a space that was taken by Steve & Barry's along with the Loehmann's next door in the mid 2000's. However, the mall was subject to a lot of skepticism from the very beginning; skeptics warned that the mall may not be viable due to the retail in the area becoming increasingly over-saturated.

Rainforest Cafe closed in October 2000 for reasons unrelated to the mall; H&M quickly opened their first Long Island store in its place in early 2001. ABC also closed their store in early 2000 (which was predictable, seeing as Fortunoff was a major competitor); Jillian's (now Dave & Buster's) quickly took the spot, opening their doors in the Summer of 2000. Virgin Megastore was kicked out of the mall for unknown reasons in 2004 (something that Simon has been known to do), although it could possibly be related to Circuit City's store in the mall. The first floor of the Virgin Megastore was taken up by David's Bridal, although the second floor remains vacant.

The mall lost much of its 'destination value' as it aged; H&M opened a larger store in Roosevelt Field in 2003 (in addition to being in most area malls by this time), Old Navy was pretty much all over Long Island by this time, and Virgin Megastore was gone in 2004. By 2006, the main thing (arguably the only thing) drawing people to the mall was Fortunoff (and, to a lesser extent, the restaurants); the mall mainly relied on the people that came for Fortunoff and decided to pick something up that they needed in the mall while they were there. Simon was more focused on Roosevelt Field, so not much was done to attract more shoppers to the mall- the important thing to Simon was that people were still going to The Source and that the mall was still making money.

2009 was a very bad year for the mall. In January 2009, Steve & Barry's closed all of their stores after a Chapter 7 filing. Circuit City suffered the same fate in March. However, the most devastating blow to the mall was in April, when Fortunoff closed all of their stores, including their flagship store in the Mall at the Source. Now, due to a combination of the recession and bad luck, the mall has lost three of its largest tenants, including the main thing drawing people to the mall. Simon defaulted on their mortgage on the property in March 2009.

Things went downhill quickly at The Mall at the Source; due to the loss of foot traffic caused by Fortunoff's departure, tenants such as Starbucks and Forever 21 were pretty quick to pull out. Many other stores in the mall followed not too long after. The only good thing that seemed to happen to the mall since 2009 was the resurrected Fortunoff Backyard Store chain opening in the former Steve & Barry's in early 2010.

The main problem that the mall seemed to suffer from was the over-saturation of retail in the area; it's not that there was nobody that would move into this mall, it's that there was nobody to move into this mall. Just about every big box store imaginable already had a store nearby, and the same went for just about every department store that would take up the former Fortunoff. (Remember, Roosevelt Field is a mile away.) The small voids that the mall had any chance of filling were simply not sufficient to sustain the mall. If none of this were true, I'm sure that the mall could have survived. (It also didn't help matters that Simon didn't seem to make much of an effort to save the mall, as Roosevelt Field was doing very well and that was what they were most concerned with.)

By 2012, the mall was under 50% occupancy and still losing tenants. The only life left in the mall was in the restaurants (with the exception of Ahyan's Shish Kebab, which closed in 2010) and the center court (which contained the Fortunoff Backyard Store, Nordstrom Rack, and Old Navy- some of the only stores left that were still doing good business). The food court had all but cleared out, with McDonald's even deciding to pack their bags and leave. Much of the mall, particularly the lifeless Fortunoff Court, had fallen into a state of complete disrepair.

The final nail in the coffin for the mall was the building of a new shopping center nearby- The Gallery at Westbury Plaza. The Gallery is only a medium-sized outdoor center, but it was enough to kill The Mall at the Source. As soon as the plans for the center went through, the mall's only remaining large stores- Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, and Old Navy- announced plans to move. Saks Off 5th moved in August 2012, and Nordstrom Rack moved in early September. Old Navy has not yet announced a move date to my knowledge, but my guess would be sometime in late 2012/early 2013 (maybe in time for the holiday season?). In addition to these stores, The Gallery got a Trader Joe's, a Bloomingdale's Outlet, and a Container Store, and will be getting a Starbucks, an SA Elite (Sport's Authority's new high end concept), and Long Island's first Shake Shack (a very popular New York-based chain mainly known for their very good burgers and frozen custard).

The mall was put up on a foreclosure auction on August 28, 2012 with a starting price of $148 million- the outstanding debt on the property. Unsurprisingly, nobody was willing to buy the mall for that much; the most that anyone was willing to pay was a little over $20 million. Because of this, ownership of the mall was taken by lenders, and management went to Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

At this point, the mall seems to be beyond the point of no return. The design of the mall would make redevelopment difficult in the existing structure, so demolition/closure seems to be a likely fate for the mall, as well as Fortunoff. At this point, I highly doubt that the mall will see the end of 2013.

Links - My walkthrough of the mall (8/31/12)

Chris' Commentary

Posted July 27, 2009 (user submitted)

The Mall at the Source is a mid-1990s Simon mall, built as an addition to the then-freestanding flagship Fortunoff store. Plenty of A-list 1990s tenants joined the mall, with a mix of full-price and discount tenants: Virgin Megastore, The Cheesecake Factory, Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, Circuit City, Starbucks, Dave & Busters, the Rainforest Cafe, and more. The mall is L-shaped and has a lower level and an upper level, although the layout of each level differs. Surrounding the mall are plenty of A-list big box stores- Best Buy, Borders, Wal-Mart, California Pizza Kitchen, etc.

This mall seems to have performed well despite, or maybe because of the sea of big boxes and the massive Roosevelt Field Mall within a mile or two along Old Country Road; the area is a major retail destination. Well-kept middle-class neighborhoods line Old Country Road as well.

Unfortunately the mall has lost a few anchors, due to the economic turmoil in recent months: Circuit City, the flagship Fortunoff (a housewares and furniture store- think Macy's Cellar and furniture departments times 10), Steve & Barry's and Virgin Megastore all went bust and shut down.

A visit this past weekend shows the effects: most of the mall's stores are still there, but here and there in the mall, in-line tenants have closed: Starbucks, maybe a Gap or an Ann Taylor Outlet and a few others have closed. Crowds have really thinned out; perhaps the word on the street is that the mall is in trouble (such as news releases reporting that the mall's owners defaulted on its mortgage recently), and so people have just decided to drive the extra mile (literally- a 15-minute walk) to Roosevelt Field, sensing that the Source is going under, even though the Mall at the Source still has plenty of stores in it, so consumer psychology is what's hurting this mall's business.

Old Navy, H&M, Zales, Cheesecake Factory, Golf Galaxy, Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, The Children's Place, Coldstone Creamery and a shish kebab restaurant and plenty of others are still here, so don't be scared off.

Simon should do whatever it can to quickly fill the vacant Fortunoff- maybe Sears would move in? That would help keep this mall from going under, although if the crowds keep thinning, it could.

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