Emphasis on entertainment could be hurting Bell Tower Shops’ retail business

Bill and Reba McKernan say they love dining at the Bell Tower Shops.

“Once and a while, occasionally, we go there and we’ve found that the restaurants they’ve got are quite nice,” said Bill McKernan.

Since the mall’s redevelopment last year, they’ve made more room for entertainment centers and restaurants. The goal: a focus on retail and dining.

The food part is a big draw for the McKernans.

“We’ve also been to Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and Blue Point Oyster,” said McKernan.

Cyndie McNamus has also noticed a new theme.

“I have gone to the movies. I think the movie theater is wonderful and to go for a cocktail or dinner, it’s fun,” she said.

But she says with an emphasis on the entertainment, it’s caused less people to go into the stores, including her.

“I don’t see it as a shopping experience. I see it as an entertaining experience,” said McNamus.

We walked through the mall Tuesday afternoon and noticed six empty storefronts and a lack of shoppers.

McNamus says she’s still figuring out the plaza’s identity.

“Is it meant for shopping, or is it meant for after 6? Is it a daytime place or a nighttime place? And that’s where the identity gets a little confusing for me,” she said.

With the holidays approaching, it has some people wondering if the stores will be able to keep up.

The Bell Tower Shops released the following statement in regards to the recent changes:

As Bell Tower continues to introduce our newly renovated center, we are focused on becoming an 18-hour-a-day destination that attracts an eclectic mix of distinctive restaurants, boutiques, fine retailers and locally owned businesses. We recently welcomed Ice Spot, G’s Bridal & Haute Couture, “pop-up” coffee shop Narrative Coffee Roasters and Ocean View & 7th. Our newest restaurant, Burntwood Tavern, is completing renovations with plans to open later this year. Additionally, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and United Way have both opened new community outreach centers.

We can also share that our newest tenant, Matinique Bakery Café, will soon be bringing its fresh-baked pastries, environmentally sourced foods and tongue-in-cheek “coffeeology” to patrons of Bell Tower. Matinique will serve a full breakfast menu that features made-to-order crepes, French toast, pancakes, bagels, pastries, eggs, skillets, platters and fresh fruit. Lunch and dinner options will include a variety of gourmet soups, handcrafted sandwiches and deluxe salads. Matinique expects to open this winter.

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
Writer:Briana Harvath
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