Rashid Minhas said he spent $25,000 last February moving all his vaping products and related merchandise into a spot inside the Crystal River Mall.
But Minhas, manager of XL Vape, said the mall manager told him Friday morning to find another location because within 90 days he will have to vacate the premises. Minhas said he was told to expect a formal letter to that effect next week.
Reluctantly, Minhas is looking for a new storefront somewhere in the county.
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Minhas said the scuttlebutt among the tenants is that there is a deal imminent with a developer to tear down the mall and build either apartments or a hotel. But he can’t get a straight answer out of the mall manager and it’s adding to the tension among store owners, he said.
“What are they hiding?” he asked. “Just let us know so we can prepare.”
Mall manager Millie Bresnahan would not comment beyond saying a deal has not yet been closed.
Crystal River City Manager Ken Frink said Friday morning a mall tenant reached out to him about a possible sale but he has not heard back from Bresnahan.
“We are excited from the city standpoint to work with the new owners and look forward to helping however we can and are appreciative of their investment,” Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek told the Chronicle Friday.
Delisa Dove, administrator at Citrus Sports & Apparel, said Bresnahan told them the mall was being sold and the tenant must be out by the end of August.
“She basically told us she can’t disclose any information on the actual sale,” Dove said.
None of the tenants contacted by the Chronicle are surprised by this development.
The Crystal River Mall fell on hard times after losing major tenants: Kmart closed in April 2018, Sears in 2012, JCPenney in 2013 and Belk in 2014.
A much-publicized mold problem in 2016 caused a drop-off of business and was a major public relations mess.
One reason cited for the mall’s attendance drop-off is the expected residential housing development and commercial growth north of the mall that never materialized. Instead, growth moved to the center of Crystal River.
The rise in online shopping has caused malls nationwide to either close or reinvent themselves.
Andrea Terlunen, manager of Coastal Creation, which opened four years ago inside the mall, said she too heard tenants will get the dreaded vacate letter but she understands they will only get 60 days to move out.
The owner of her shop owns three other stores at the mall.
“It’s sad,” Terlunen said. “We were hoping they would keep this open.”
Michael D. Bates is a staff writer with the Citrus County Chronicle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org