Hurricane Grill & Wings Coming to Hagerstown Kmart Plaza

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. — Hurricane Grill & Wings will be blowing into Hagerstown soon from Florida.

The website for Valley Plaza’s owners show the wings, burgers and beer restaurant will be coming to the former Cinqo de Mayo restaurant in front of Kmart and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. The shopping center also has a Tractor Supply Co., store. (The plaza is now actively trying to find a replacement for the aptly named Hard Times Cafe, too.)

Originally built as a Ground Round (oh, I feel old now), the new Hurricane Grill space has been a revolving door for over a decade.

Hurricane Grill & Wings is based in Fort Piece, Florida, which is on the Atlantic coast halfway between Cocoa Beach and West Palm Beach. I’ve dined at their Sarasota location that also went in a revolving space for restaurants at the Westfield Sarasota Square mall. It didn’t last long and closed only after. I ate at the Sarasota location and liked the outdoor element that could only work in Florida and the ambience matched the name and location. Will I feel like I’m in Florida there, sipping on a margarita in Maryland?

The big question is how long will this location survive? Not only did the Sarasota location close, but after I moved from Sarasota, Hurricane Grill opened in a former LeRoy Selmon’s in Bradenton, Fla. It had a kitchen fire and never reopened. It also had a construction lien placed against it.

Its Laurel, Md., location is already closed. However, the Elkton, Md., location is still open.

A 2015 restaurant news release said the Hagerstown franchise is owned by father and son Steve and Chris Girard:

“The Hurricane Grill & Wings brand is on the move, and we are proud that Steve and Chris Girard want to be a part of this exciting time for the brand,” said Martin O’Dowd, president of Hurricane Grill & Wings. “Hurricane Grill & Wings is growing rapidly, and the Western Maryland market is an area that we’ve long targeted for franchised growth.”

“With our vast experience in the franchise industry as multi-unit franchisees for other restaurant concepts, we knew that Hurricane Grill & Wings would be the best brand to add to our portfolio for their superior product and core values,” said Chris Girard, franchisee of Hurricane Grill & Wings. “We look forward to inviting the Hagerstown community to Live with Flavor® at Hurricane Grill & Wings.”

Hopefully the Girard family figures out how to avoid the issues (and a fire) that the other locations encountered.

— Charles Schelle

Belk Slated For Valley Mall in Hagerstown

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Look very closely in the second column: Belk Opening 2018

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. — Scroll too fast and you’ll miss it on the new Valley Mall brochure: Belk.

Belk’s name is tucked away on the second page of the new Valley Mall leasing brochure on the website of the mall’s owner, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. Thanks to a reader for alerting me to the change.

The brochure simply says “Opening 2018.” Belk’s logo isn’t on the brochure, but it’s likely it could go in the former Macy’s space, but it’s still very possible it could go to Sears.

The smallest Belk is around 100,000 square feet. The shuttered Macy’s was around 120,000 square feet. Sears is 123,400 square feet. Last year, a leasing brochure showed that about half the space, or 52,325 square feet, would be available for lease.

The Washington County Board of Elections wants 20,000 square feet carved out of Macy’s for office space, leaving 100,000 square feet for Belk if the department store wants to open there. That seems easy enough. Good luck figuring out how to carve that space out if that happens.

Also, it is a coincidence that PREIT purchased the Macy’s space in April and now this brochure shows up a month later? Not really. In between, the International Council of Shopping Centers Retail Real Estate Convention (ReCon) was held in Las Vegas where stores, real estate developers and mall owners tried to make some deals.

Plenty of intrigue remains.

That brochure detailing that a store could lease half of Sears has disappeared from KLNB Retail’s website. However, Seritage’s quarterly reports show it still has rights to recapture half, but has not announced any plans for that space. The initial reports was that Sears wanted to test a smaller format. We haven’t seen that happen yet in Hagerstown.

Nothing has been filed under land records showing a sell or otherwise for Seritage in Hagerstown since it bought the Sears building.

Earlier this year, PREIT announced it would recapture three Sears locations and simultaneously announced retailers to replace those spaces. Hagerstown wasn’t one of those. Likely, because that Sears is not owned by PREIT. It’s owned by Seritage, who is leasing space back to Sears. That’s the company who found and brought BJ’s Brewhouse to the former Sears Auto Center. Seritage’s latest filing shows that BJ’s should be coming in the fourth quarter of this year.

The Baltimore Sun reported on April 1 that there wasn’t any new information on the Hagerstown Sears space. (However, that report overlooked the company’s quarterly report that showed the Cockeysville Sears will be partially replaced by a HomeGoods plus junior tenants and restaurants with most work done by the second quarter of 2018. The Bowie Sears Auto Center will also get a BJ’s Brewhouse.)

Here’s another issue for Belk: TownMall in Westminster. Belk only has two Maryland stores—the other in California, Md. TownMall was put into receivership, according to the Carroll County Times. That means a bank is in control of the mall, not a professional mall management company like PREIT, Simon, Westfield or Taubman. The court-appointed receiver, The Woodmont Co., is there to just keep things going until everything is settled. Woodmont’s website says it’s a receiver for 23 properties.

I’ve seen the after effects of malls placed in receivership and it’s not pretty. Some anchors and tenants have out clauses that can allow them to leave penalty free if certain actions happen (receivership, loss of X number of other anchors or if leasing falls below a certain percentage). Still, a store could close regardless of any penalty. If receivership drags on, I wouldn’t be surprised if Belk decides to close in Westminster if sales decline from a drop in foot traffic at the mall if other stores leave.

In fairness, while a store like Dillard’s left DeSoto Square mall in Bradenton, Fla., Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s stayed on through ownership changes and when the mall lost several national retailers. Macy’s would later close because a new store opened at The Mall at University Town Center. Closer to home, it’s a similar story at the Chambersburg Mall in Pennsylvania where certain anchors are able to hold on while the rest of the mall looks ghostly.

A Belk spokesman told the CCT on Thursday they’re not looking to leave Westminster:

Belk, another large department store that anchors TownMall, is similarly well situated, according to Andy Izquierdo, vice president of communications and community relations for Belk Inc.

“The Belk store in the TownMall of Westminster is doing well, so it is business as usual,” he said. “We have no plans to exit the Westminster market.”

No retailer or spokesman will say anything that could hurt sales and nobody announces closures until they actually close or legally have to announce a layoff. Still, I’d have to believe that store should do well regardless of what happens with the in-line tenants.

No building permits are on record for the Hagerstown Belk, yet. Stay tuned.

— Charles Schelle

This post has been updated.

Hagerstown Macy’s Building Sold To Valley Mall Owner

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. — The owner of the Valley Mall outside of Hagerstown, Md., has purchased the former Macy’s building.

A landholding company for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust called PR Valley Anchor M- Limited Partnership, bought the shuttered Macy’s building attached to the Valley Mall for $2.5 million on April 7, according to a deed filed in Washington County.

The building was originally a Hecht’s department store that opened in 1999. Hecht’s was a Baltimore born retailer later owned by May Department Stores. Hecht’s and May Department Stores was acquired by Macy’s parent Federated Department Stores in 2005. The following year, Macy’s replaced Hecht’s name on its buildings, as it did with many other department stores it acquired.

The move gives the mall operator direct control over what goes into that space by being the sole owner. Sometimes malls can have messy relationships with shuttered anchors, with the anchors preferring to sell and market the property themselves to recapture some profit. That could cause a multi-year vacancy.

In March, the Washington County Board of Elections received approval from the Washington County Commissioners for a 20,000 square-foot space in the 120,000-square-foot building, according to a Herald-Mail report. That also shows that the former Macy’s will likely be carved out into multiple spaces for stores, offices and other uses.

 

Getting Your Steps In For Pics

Some days we al need a little extra motivation.

Fortunately my Fitbit tells me I need to get off my duff and do some walking. It’s also a good reminder that I need to go outside and take some photos students around campus.

There are only a handful of days when you can get those great marketable shots because of how the semester falls here in Western Maryland. The trees don’t bloom until a couple weeks before classes end. By that time, the April showers are in full effect.

The summertime turns the campus into a ghost town. A handful of classes are held with a couple providing opportunities for shots, typically off campus. Otherwise, FSU is your summer camp headquarters for anything from basketball, marching band, STEM students and orchestra.

In the fall, you have to hope the leaves turn and stay before the wind gusts blow away your chances of autumn shots. In the winter, finding a day where there’s enough snow on the ground for students to play in without having classes canceled is a game of chance. Too much snow means employees, including myself, can’t come to work.

Last week, we had a few good days. One perfect day happened to be the final day of classes. Our Upper Quad had just about everything I was looking for: a sleeping student and the university’s Rock Climbing Club finding new ways to exercise. Topped it off with two students relaxing with Starbucks at the Echo Circle and I called it a day.

 

College Engineering Project Opens, Closes Windows With 3D Printers

It’s best to have students to share their work in their own words when possible.

Just the way they talk, their presence and what they do can resonate a lot more than a feature story or a video narrated by someone else.

One mechanical engineering student at Frostburg State, Levi Hartsock, clearly explained his team’s creation — an automatic power window for the home with rain or wind detection.  They even came up with a name: Window Wizard! While the invention itself is rad, the highlight is that components were made using 3D printers at the university.

Levi needed minimal coaching on what to explain, but he did so with charisma and ease. It’s a treat doing these types of videos. All I do is tell the student what chunk to explain next and then stop. It helps prevent rambling and makes editing easier, too.

It also showed that we should do more videos with mechanical engineering majors. They work using CAD programs that can animate their design. One student spent nine hours animating an entire home with this CAD program to show all windows closing on their own. I took his video and popped it in AfterEffects to add rainfall to drive the point across, too.

Personally, I’d like this personal prototype window for my apartment right now. I can’t tell you how many times I leave the windows up for air while I leave for work and a surprise rain storm decides to water my floors.

Torrid, NTB File Building Permits for Valley Mall

160520_logoWASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. — Trendy full-figure clothing store Torrid and car repair shop NTB have both filed building permits for new stores at the Valley Mall in Hagerstown, Md.

Torrid’s permit shows the store expects to have 10 employees and will go into the former CJ Banks space in the JC Penney wing. CJ Banks transformed into a Christopher and Banks a few doors down last year.

An opening date has not been announced. The store’s careers website shows Torrid is accepting applications for a manager, a full-time assistant manager, a part-time assistant manager and store associates.

Also, NTB has filed a site plan for a location along Valley Mall Road and Massey Boulevard for a spot beside Chuck-E-Cheese and Burger King.National_Tire_and_Battery_Logo.jpg

NTB, formerly known as National Tire and Battery, helps replace the shuttered Sears Auto Center where a BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse will be built. Job openings have not been posted for the Hagerstown location.

Both store openings were first reported on this blog in May 2016.

More Harry Potter Magic at Frostburg State (Video)

Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Centre has a trifecta of major community events for children.

I’ve covered Pirate’s Ahoy in the summer, Storybook Holiday in December and in February, it’s Harry Potter Book Night.

This year was the first time I had the chance to cover the Harry Potter event and it’s taught me to really come ready to shoot out of the gate next year. Unlike the other events, Harry Potter Book Night only lasts a few hours but Everything.Is.Happening.At.Once.

So for next time, while I’ll lose some ambience behind the people being interviewed, the interviews have to be done after the event because I missed a few areas I wanted b-roll from. Still, the students do a tremendous job telling the story of Harry Potter Book Night in their own words.

The first video is a fun story on exchange student Harry Buchan playing Harry Potter. The guy is from England and is a huge fan. It doesn’t get any better than this! (Our News and Media intern Melani Finney provides the voice for my script.)

The second video tells what the night is about and what it entails through the words of graduate student Chenoa Zais from the CLC:

PennTex Closed on Sale of Hafer Chapel of the Hills Funeral Home in LaVale

ALLEGANY COUNTY, Md.—Developer PennTex Ventures is closer to starting up a long awaited retail/food strip center on land of a shuttered funeral home in LaVale.

PennTex finalized its purchase of the Hafer Chapel of the Hills Funeral Home at  1302 National Highway on Dec. 16, according to a deed filed with the Allegany County Clerk.

PennTex, through its subsidiary PTV Capital Partners LaVale Route 40, paid $700,000 and also took out a $1.76 million mortgage from First National Bank of Pennsylvania, according to the mortgage filed by the clerk’s office.

The mortgage likely signifies money being spent for improvements to the land to prep it for development. As of Feb. 21, the funeral home still stands and fencing has been going up to secure the area for pending demolition.

It’s been a long time coming just to get to this point. It’s surprising that a sign has been up for months in front of the funeral home advertising a future retail development from PennTex before a deal closed. Maybe it was a way to see if they’d get any prospects to finalize a deal, which isn’t unheard of, but still risky.

Typically what you would see is a deal set in place upon approval of plans by local government.

I last wrote a bit on this property in May 2016 before taking a break from writing on this blog and haven’t followed up since now. (Turns out no one else has either in medialand.)

No leases are popping up for the places yet, and probably won’t until the shell is completed.

—Charles Schelle

 

Noble Battle Fought in the Small Business Revolution


In December, the City of Frostburg’s Main Street organization FrostburgFirst received word that the city was a semi-finalist for Deluxe Corp.’s Small Business Revolution.

The city didn’t move on, but not for a lack of trying. It’s clear that the other cities had stronger media markets that would be beneficial for the firm running the contest, which included a Hulu Web series. (Winners are to be announced Thursday, Feb. 22.) Still, the Small Business Revolution feature plans to share video on Facebook and maybe even other platforms from Frostburg (as well as other cities who didn’t make it—Marietta, Ohio and Woodland Park, Colo.) during the spring or summer while they prep for filming the new season in the winning town.

On the local level, it helped businesses and organizations and FSU to work together. Heck, this helped me work with other people at FSU even more.

One item I helped with was making a video at commencement that showed the appreciation students have for our businesses. The initial announcement was poor timing for us as students were wrapping up exams and commencement was around the corner. It just forces you to be more inventive.

The reason I’m including this video isn’t about what the students are saying, but instead the packaging. I wanted this to have Frostburg First’s branding.

I received the Illustrator file logo (which was created by a FSU student!) and cleaned it up so I could split the buildings and letters into individual layers. This allowed me to bring it from Photoshop to PremierePro and do the simple motion you see in the intro.  A nice royalty free jingle rounds out the bumper to make it complete. I provided FrostburgFirst will all of the files if they wish to use it for future videos.

Storybook Holiday Creates Magic for Frostburg Business Community

The story about Frostburg State’s economic impact on the community needs to be told. It’s something that’s said in the community about how FSU benefits the community through spending, but it’s important to show that it’s not just from its employees spending money. The university has many programs it provides and produces for the community, creating sales spurred by tourism. Storybook Holiday is just one of many events that you can see how much FSU helps the area.

Originally published: 12/13/2016

When Storybook Holiday is unwrapped each December in Frostburg, it’s a gift that keeps on giving for downtown businesses.storybook

The event, coordinated by Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Centre, completed its 13th year where an event that inspires reading for children also inspires purchases in local shops and brings out a festive spirit from merchants to make the event successful.

“One of the biggest reasons that CLC Director Bill Bingman and I started this was to get people to come and see why we love this town so much,” said Dr. Barbara Ornstein, associate director of the Children’s Literature Centre. “It’s such a great place for kids but we wanted them to see our little shops, good places and great restaurants.”

Storybook Shopping

Main Street Books is one of the busiest businesses during the event, thanks to the literacy theme. Owner Fred Powell says children and their parents flood the store for a solid three hours, buying up children’s books during the day. The day is his second busiest Saturday of the year behind Small Business Saturday.

“This is the benchmark for the holiday season in Frostburg,” Powell said.

More than 2,000 people – about 700 children and their families – show up to the annual celebration that is tied in to a winter-themed book selected by the Children’s Literature Centre, and includes a visit and interaction with the author or illustrator. Powell credits the more than 250 student and alumni volunteers in making the event so large and successful.

“It wouldn’t have happened without all of these people to do it,” Powell added.

Ornstein and Bingman knew that part of the event’s success means getting the kids to go into the stores with their parents, so they developed a bookmark in which participating businesses give out holiday stickers to fill up the bookmark. After five stickers, children can show their bookmarks to Grammy’s Attic, Lorenzo’s Bakery and McFarland Candies to receive a free treat.

“Even if they don’t buy anything then, they go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this existed,’” Ornstein said.

This year, 22 businesses participated as sticker stops and at least 35 businesses donated space or supplies, FrostburgFirst Main Street Manager Jessica Palumbo said.

“It brings a whole new level to the meaning of community that they’re so involved,” said Palumbo, an FSU alumnus.

Community Spirit

The day is not just about sales and exposure, as some businesses donate supplies or food or use their space to make the event successful. Armstrong Insurance Agency closes its office for the Saturday event so the building can serve as elf headquarters for the volunteers. FSU Educational Professions instructor Sarah O’Neal coordinates with local elementary schools to decorate storefronts for the season. She has decorated Main Street Books’ storefront for the last 11 years. Volunteer groups make wreaths for the city’s lamp posts, too.

“Thousands of cars drive through here each week, and what a sight to drive through and what a statement to make to have pretty much every business you see as you come through town with their windows decorated,” Palumbo said.

P.S. Hair Designs certainly makes a statement, transforming Peggy Atkinson’s salon into Santa’s House.

Atkinson works up until noon the day before the event, then takes all of her retail products off the shelves and shoves anything that looks like it belongs in a salon into her storage room. All Friday night, her family and friends transform her business into the North Pole. Outside, she has wooden panels painted like Santa’s House, swallowing her storefront.

“I never dreamed when we started this that it would be this magical,” said Atkinson, who goes by Momma Frost during Storybook Holiday. (Her son, Rick Stevenson ’04, volunteered at Storybook Holiday when he was an education major at FSU and has been involved ever since. He has portrayed Jack Frost for many years now.)

Atkinson knows she won’t make a dime on Storybook Holiday, but every smile she sees on kids’ faces is worth it.

“I don’t even do it thinking somebody will come back,” she said. “I do it because we love Storybook Holiday.”

The sparkling atmosphere of Storybook Holiday continues inside City Place, where educational professions majors make snowflakes to hang from the ceiling and other student volunteers acting as Santa’s helpers run activities. Back on Main Street, before the parade begins, students from Mountain City Center for the Arts sing holiday tunes to preview the troupe’s annual Christmastime shows.

“Everywhere you look there’s some reminder that it’s winter and the holidays are coming,” Ornstein said. “Storybook Holiday turns Frostburg into a little winter wonderland.”

Storybook Holiday sponsors also include the city of Frostburg, FrostburgFirst and PNC Bank.

Tourist Elves

The love for the holiday event is turning into a driver for tourism, too. Dorothea Lay and her daughter Toni Lay, 14, of Bethesda, drove up to Frostburg with Toni’s childhood friend Meredith Blanchard, 13, who came from Connecticut. Toni remembered how much she loved the event when they were 5 years old and invited her friend Meredith to help celebrate Toni’s 14th birthday.

“Everyone in Frostburg is so into it, which I love,” Toni said.

The girls fully embraced Storybook Holiday by dressing as elves, helping to hand out bookmarks while walking in the parade and winning the people’s choice award for their lemon bar cookies (dubbed “So a Lemon Walked Into a Bar”) in the cookie contest.

As much as Meredith and Toni enjoyed the event, they got a bigger thrill making the littler kids smile at their elf outfits.

“One little kid came up to me and asked me if I was a real elf,” Toni said. “It was fun seeing all the little kids be so excited about everything.”

It was as if they were keeping an eye on all the little ones for Santa.

“If you gave them a wink, they whispered to their parents, ‘Oh my gosh, the elves just winked at me!’” Meredith said. “It was pretty neat to see them do what I would have done when I was really little.”

Part of why Meredith and Toni could still enjoy Storybook Holiday is because the event has grown to a full-day festival that’s great for all ages. Powell is encouraged by the buy-in of everyone involved with Storybook Holiday, seeing it grow from an event attended by a hundred people to well over 2,000.

“Everybody’s been touched by some sort of success by it,” Powell said. “If nothing else, it just makes you feel good.”

For more information about the Children’s Literature Centre, call 301-687-3133 or visit www.frostburg.edu/clc.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.