What lies ahead for the Nylon Shopping Center?

By Lynn R. Parks

Terry Morris, manager of Matthews Hallmark in the Nylon Capital Shopping Center, is blunt. 'The shopping center is dying,' she said. 'We miss customers who used to just drop by when the shopping center was full.' Morris, whose store has been in the shopping center since the center opened in 1959, said that with the departure of Peebles several weeks ago, things have gotten even worse. "Many of our customers are loyal to Hallmark and come here just for that," she said. "But foot traffic out here is not the best. We don't get people who are just walking by."
The shopping center, which was expanded in the late 1970s, has 26 storefronts. Of those, eight, including those where anchors Peebles, Woolworth's and Rite-Aid were located, are vacant. Eight of those 18 remaining businesses are retail stores. Three are restaurants and the remaining seven include insurance companies, tax services, an employment agency and a church. "We are very disappointed with the shopping center," said city manager Dolores Slatcher. "There is a tremendous amount of interest from people who live on that side of the community. There is interest on the city's part. There are people who have a desire to set up business out there." Missing, she said, is a desire on the part of the center's owners to work with tenants and to improve the property.

The dominant center
"The Nylon Capital Shopping Center has been the dominant shopping center in Seaford for 30 years and it will remain so," said David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Company, Baltimore, and part owner of the Seaford Associates Limited Partnership, which owns the shopping center. In response to a request for an interview, Cordish gave a statement through his secretary. Cordish said that the reason for the center's success is its location. "It is located where the people live,' he said. "The population is not out on the north-south highway." And the 'heart and soul' of the center, he said, is "a very strong supermarket, the key to all shopping centers." That supermarket is the 24,000-square-foot Food City, which moved into the center from its previous location on Stein Highway in February 1999. According to Dan Geraty, vice president of retail sales for Camellia Foods, Norfolk, Va., which owns the store, business is good. "We are doing dramatically better than we did at our old location," he said. "We have seen a 30- to 40-percent improvement in sales since our move." But that does not mean that Camellia is happy with the situation at the shopping center. "As of late, stores have become vacant and that is always a concern," said Geraty. "We are hoping that that situation will be remedied."

Latest to leave
Latest to leave the shopping center is Ambassador Travel, which opened its new office at 639 Phillips St. last week. But owner Debbie Mitchell said that the company's move had nothing to do with the shopping center. "We had a good opportunity and we took it," she said. "This shopping center has potential; there is a future there. It is still very attractive and is in an excellent location." Mitchell added that the center's empty stores are filling up. "From [Olympic] sporting goods store around the block to the bowling alley, it is full now," she said. Newest tenant in that area is the Night Owl Books, Coins and Stamps, owned by Greg Able, who takes care of the books, and Roy Nichols, in charge of coins and stamps. Their previous store on High Street had become too small for their stock, said Nichols, prompting the move six weeks ago to the shopping center and to a store that is five times larger than the High Street spot. "Business is slow, but it is picking up," said Nichols. He said that what the center needs is an anchor store: a large store to draw customers. "We need a lot of people out here," he said. "I hear from a lot of people that they don't want to have to go all the way out to the other side of Seaford to go shopping." "We plan to reposition the center and will be bringing in a new department store," said Cordish. Plans also include a business that would provide some sort of entertainment. Cordish gave no specifics. "We have a number of smaller tenants that are vibrant and doing good business," he added. The success of those businesses will enable the center to attract a "very good tenant to fill the hole we lost with Peebles' move," he added.

Little foot traffic RadioShack is located in the newer part of the shopping center in a strip that used to contain six stores, including Rite-Aid and Fashion Bug. Now, it, discount store D. E. Jones and Rentway are the only three left. And Rentway plans to move to US 13, in a store being constructed behind the new Happy Harry's, this summer. In addition to the fact that the new store is larger, Rentway manager Mary Lou Hartnett said that the Nylon Capital Shopping Center 'draws very little traffic.' "That is a big reason for our moving," she added. RadioShack manager Wayne Morris said that his store is doing well, better, in fact, than at this time last year. He attributes that to the fact that it specializes in electronic items. "People know that when they need a certain item, they go to RadioShack," he said. But that does not mean that he is satisfied with the shopping center. "I would definitely like to see more foot traffic," he said. "When Fashion Bug was here, we had more lookers. Now people come here just for us." But, he added, the RadioShack corporation, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is making no plans to move the store. "They are satisfied with how we are doing," he said. Betty Parlier, manager at D. E. Jones, said that her business is slow. "Sometimes we go an hour and don't see anybody. And it's a shame, because we have a super store here." "There is a great opportunity for development there," said Slatcher. "All it needs is a solid marketing plan."