Sales for Local Businesses Break Records

By Jeanny Lavache

Local retail stores have seen a strong gain in revenue during the last month. According to The Associated Press, The International Council of Shopping Centers Index of 28 retailers rose 4.2 percent compared with the same month last year.

The JCPenney in The Oaks Mall saw higher sales in men’s clothing, home decorating items and luggage.

“We followed national trends of higher sales per store,” said Sara Oldere, JCPenney local manager.

Victoria’s Secret saw the best sales on record for its annual “2-4-1” intimate apparel sale according to store manager Virginia Brown. Overall the store sales were up 12 percent from last year, and with the economy doing better women seem to be more willing to buy their line, said Brown.

Representatives from Macy’s and Dillard’s would not give specific numbers, but said sales for last month were definitely higher than those from last year.

Receipts from the mall food court were also higher. Mall Information Assistant Jane Whitmoore said overall food sales are totaled each month by the mall, and sales were up 9 percent.

“All the spaces are filled in the food court, and business has been very strong, especially in the early dinner hours of 4 to 6 in the afternoon,” Whitmoore said.

For retailers outside of The Oaks Mall, business is still doing well. Target Regional Manger Ira Goldstein said sales at the local store were up 8 percent from a year ago for the same month despite closing the outdoor gardening area, which is now used to expand the food items.

Target made some big improvements in departments such as children’s clothes, home and food.

Sales also seem to be doing well for local Walmart stores.

“Sales last month from Walmart stores continued to rise compared to a year ago,” said Ira Goldberg, regional manager. “We estimate an increase of 5.5 percent in sales despite our continued effort to serve our customers with lower prices on many items.”

Gainesville has also benefitted from the remolding of the Archer Road store and the opening of the new super Walmart on Northwest 34th Street, Goldberg said. The new store replaced a 35-year-old one on Northwest 13th Street.

“The new look has made the Archer store more attractive on the outside and easier to find items on the inside,” Goldberg said. “We think that made a difference.”

The local Kohl’s store sales is estimated to be up 8 to 9 percent from a year ago for the month, said Sallie Anderson, manager of the local Kohl’s store said.

“We are pleasantly surprised with last month’s sales,” Anderson said.

According to The Associated Press the positive economic news isn’t dispelling worries about rising prices. Analysts say more price shocks could scare consumers, especially low-and middle-income people, into pulling back on spending.

“The underlying (spending) trend is quite good,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer affairs for Moody’s. “But increasing costs on basic necessities (are) a growing constraint on household budgets. Question we don’t know is: By how much?

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Locals Protest the Demolition of Beloved Theater

By Jeanny Lavache

After being open for 56 years, Ada Smith and over a hundred locals are grief stricken to see The Palace Theater die.

The Palace Theater, in Cross City in Dixie County, opened in 1960 and has become a local landmark.

The theater has been sold by its owner, Carmike Cinemas, to Community National Bank of Zephyrhills. The theater is closed and will be demolished with plans to open the new bank early next year. Demolition begins Monday.

Locals protested the demolition of the beloved theater, but the last showing, Tower Heist, was at 9:30 on Thursday night.

Rodney Foonman, city manager, relayed a message from the Zephyrhills Bank to theater supports saying a last ditch effort to save the building would cost nearly $700,000. Foonman said the city would not be part of the purchase effort.

“This would all involve private parties,” Foonman said.

Foonman praised the efforts of the save the-theater movement and “the spirit they showed in battling to the end.”

Eileen Herman, a leader in the fight to save the building, conceded the price put it out of reach.

Ada Smith, theater manager, has been working at The Palace Theater since 1976. Her son, Randell Smith, practically grew up at the theater where she toted the now 33-year old around her hip while she ran the concession stands.

Smith let the neon array of lights along the building’s façade burn all night long after the crowd had left. The neon marquis outside glowed reading “closed.” Patrons had snapped “farewell” pictures in front of the building on Thursday.

On the night of the final showing the projector clicked promptly at 9:30 with previews for films that would never come to The Palace Theater. After the movie ended City Commissioner, Scott Black, and his wife Laura were among the last to leave. They left in silence and the next day he said the moment was too powerful for him to talk about at the time.

“That’s always been our night out,” Black said. “I just don’t want to keep losing the things that make Cross City home, the kinds of things that make us special.”

James Marow had orders from Smith to sweep the floor. He cleaned up the last of the soda cups and popcorn boxes, the same job he had been doing for 25 years even though it obviously didn’t matter. Still Marow didn’t argue with his longtime boss.

“Miss Ada told me to,” Marow said.

The last of the moviegoers filtered out of the small lobby by 12:00 a.m., and Smith and her crew cleaned out the last of the remaining bits of memorabilia and emptied the candy counter.

“It shouldn’t be business as usual,” said resident Paul Wadlinger. “I’ve got two grandsons I bring here, they’ve had that taken away from them.”

Wadlinger was one of the 108 people at the last show.

Someone anonymously posted neon colored posters around town overnight after the theater closed urging residence to come to the theater parking lot at 12 p.m. today to show support for the theater. The flyers also urges people to avoid using the new bank if the theater comes down.

For locals like Melinda McCabe Norman, 47, the theater was more than just a place to go to watch a movie, it was a place that held valuable memories.

Norman taped a handwritten note to the wind of the women’s restroom addressed to the “Demolition People” saying: “I would really love to have the windows out of the women’s restroom. Thirty years ago I snuck out of this window.  I don’t have a million dollars to spend. Only a million dollars in memories.”

Norman said in the late 80s she would sneak out of the movies through the women’s restroom windows and meet up with friends in the parking lot or head over to the Royal Castle and drink root beer and smoke cigarettes. The Royal Castle across the street is also gone.

For the locals who tried so hard to keep the Palace alive seeing it go is a heart-breaking sight.

“Oh it’s sad to see all this end,” Smith said. “I just hate seeing it close, having to close it.”