Business & Finance

Ups, Downs and Uncertainties in Roxbury's Retail Scene

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Signs on the Ledgewood Pizza Hut's doors announce closure and thank customers 
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Jersey Mike's Subs opens Wednesday in Roxbury Mall
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Sports Authority in Ledgewood Mall
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ROXBURY, NJ - Already a shadow of its former self, Ledgewood Mall on Monday seemeded dangerously close to attaining deeper Ghost Town status, thanks to a widely-shared Forbes story that said Sports Authority is closing all its stores, including the one in Roxbury.

But today came a Wall Street Journal article. In it, a Sports Authority lawyer is quoted as telling a different story. "Contrary to rumors and certain press reports, the debtors are not liquidating today,” said lawyer Robert Klyman, according to the Journal.

Over at the store today, a manager insisted there were no plans for closure. A "Now Hiring" sign in the front door appeared to prove it. Sports Authority's Ledgewood outpost was among those spared when the chain announced in March it was closing about 140 of its installations as part of a reorganization effort. 

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Talk about store closures are not what Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee wants to hear as he and other town officials continue an effort to promote the town. A closure of the Sports Authority store would come on the heels of the recent shut-down of the nearby Ledgewood Pizza Hut, which suddenly went out of business about two weeks ago.

But Rilee remains optimistic. “I think it’s promising,” said the mayor. “I spoke with the Ledgewood Mall owners last week and, while nothing is finalized, there are some key dates coming up in the next month or so that would help them define some of the possibilities for the site.”

In truth, all is not gloomy on the Roxbury retail front.

A Jersey Mike’s Subs store is opening tomorrow in the nearby Roxbury Mall. A banner hung in the window of the adjacent storefront heralds that a California Tortilla store is coming soon. Legends Ale House & Grill will soon be opening around the corner, in the former Bensi restaurant space. In Landing, the defunct Pathmark has a new owner. Plans are in the works for the township's first QuickChek.

“I think the makeup of retail is changing,” said Rilee, who is the wines from Italy and spirits purchaser for Bottle King. “As was told to me by the Ledgewood Mall owners, the scale of brick and mortar that’s going to be done will evolve over time as it’s always done, quite frankly. While purchases via the Web will be a strong component of all retail, I still think there’s a huge need for the brick and mortar aspect. There are a lot of things people want to touch and handle before they make their decisions. There’s a shopping aspect to it that people prefer over online.”

Rilee and other town officials are expected to be at the new Jersey Mike’s Subs shop in the morning for a ribbon cutting.

The store’s opening was mentioned by Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic at Monday night’s Roxbury School Board meeting. That’s because the restaurant will be offering, between tomorrow and Sunday, free sub sandwiches to those who donate at least $2 to Roxbury schools and show up with one of 7,500 coupons it recently distributed throughout the township.

“Opening in Roxbury as an operating partner is amazing because we are not only able to serve authentic sub sandwiches, but we are also able to partner with Roxbury Public Schools,” said the restaurant’s operating partner, Jay Cook, in a press release. “Partnering with the schools is a great way to support the community and show this town what Jersey Mike’s is all about.”

ADFP Management Inc., the operator of the former Pizza Hut, did not immediately return a call today, but the restaurant’s former manager, Bill Shaw, said Roxbury residents can still get Pizza Hut products.

“The place (in Ledgewood) did close up, and all their calls are being forwarded to our Flanders restaurant for carry-out and delivery,” said Shaw. “The Randolph store, on Salem Street off of Route 10, is also doing delivery, carry-out and dine-in.”

Reached yesterday, Nadine Golis, a spokesperson for Advance Realty, one of the companies in a partnership planning to resurrect Ledgewood Mall and change its name to The Shops at Ledgewood Commons, did not immediately offer a comment about the Sports Authority situation.

Golis did stress that the former Pizza Hut is not part of the Ledgewood Mall site.

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