Jonesboro retailers Gamble Home Furnishings and Gearhead Outfitters are the new owners of what local commercial real estate broker Joshua Brown called the "single most important retail building in the history of our city," the 82,000-SF Sears building at Highland Drive and Caraway Road.
Gamble Home and Gearhead plan to create a locally owned and operated shopping complex at the cornerstone of the old Indian Mall. Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate & Development of Jonesboro handled the deal and has been involved in at least $35 million worth of redevelopment in the area over the past several years.
"This was the retail hub for our entire trade area, the place where the first mall was built," said Joshua Brown of Haag Brown.
Gamble and Gearhead will renovate the building and move their retail operations there next year from Jonesboro's Mall at Turtle Creek, which was ravaged by a March 28 tornado. They bought the building for an undisclosed prize from Memphis investor Martin Belz's Highland Street Group LLC.
"They're teaming up and purchasing and renovating this historic retail building that's been vacant for years now," Brown said. "I think it fits a trend of local businesses coming in and occupying vacant retail spaces, particularly in mall settings."
Stonebridge Construction of Jonesboro has signed on as general contractor for the renovation, Brown said.
Gamble Home Furnishings, led by Chris Gamble, said the project will also include a greenspace and food truck area on the property, and that the entire endeavor is part of Gamble and Gearhead's commitment to community giveback programs.
"We are two local businesses focused on making our city better and growing with it," Gamble said in a statement. "It just makes sense to expand with Gearhead Outfitters into midtown Jonesboro. We are excited to continue to provide an uncompromising shopping experience here by developing a lifestyle shopping center for our whole community to use."
Sears staked its claim at Highland and Caraway more than a half-century ago, and the rest of Indian Mall followed, opening in 1968. After years as a retail and cultural mecca, the mall began a slow decline and was closed in February 2008. Most of it was torn down in 2012. The Mall at Turtle Creek opened in 2006, notably the only enclosed mall to open in the nation that year. This year, Sears closed its final Arkansas store.
But Haag Brown has focused on commercial redevelopment in the former Indian Mall area, including a 125,000-SF Kroger Marketplace and a 90,000-SF former Kmart location now housing the discount retailer Ross Stores, Tuesday Morning and other newer shops.
"The Sears building has been vacant for years now, but we've renovated and redeveloped that whole property in this theme of businesses looking to come in and occupying vacant buildings," Brown said.
Gearhead Outfitters, founded by owner Ted Herget in Jonesboro in 1997, sells gear and apparel for outdoor and active lifestyles, including running shoes, backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.
It has eight stores in Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Oklahoma, and on Wednesday, it announced plans to roll out its brand in Wisconsin and Illinois, including the Chicagoland area. The brand expansion springs from its acquisition last year of Uncle Dan's Outdoor Store.