Everett Mall gives 30-year tenant Carmel Corn the boot

EVERETT — The smell of freshly popped caramel corn wafting down the corridors of Everett Mall will be no more as of Jan. 1.

The Carmel Corn store that’s operated there for 30 years will close Dec. 31 as the mall makes room for a new anchor tenant, Burlington Coat Factory. The decision wasn’t up to owner Steve Jarvis.

“We weren’t offered a new space,” said Jarvis, who bought the store with his wife, Suna, from the original owner about 18 years ago.

Instead, the Carmel Corn location will be absorbed by Burlington Coat Factory later next year. The national retailer was rumored to be eyeing the Everett Mall. Jarvis said he and other tenants were given a five-week notice to vacate a few years ago to make space for the discount retailer. At that point, Jarvis said, the managers planned to relocate the Carmel Corn shop within Everett Mall.

But the Burlington Coat Factory move kept getting delayed, Jarvis said. And without retailers in that section of the mall, Carmel Corn’s sales have dropped.

Add in the mall construction that began a few weeks ago in preparation for the massive retailer and Jarvis has seen sales as low as $110 a day during what should be the busy holiday shopping season. Compare that with a couple of years ago, when Jarvis’ shop would take in as much as $2,000 a day during the holidays. It’s easy to see why Jarvis is upset.

“It’s been really tough to just break even,” he said.

Between fewer shoppers in Carmel Corn’s part of the mall and the construction, Jarvis’ store had higher sales in October than it has in December.

“The worse it looks, the less people want to come by,” he said.

A large section of the mall, bordering Regal Cinemas, near the mall’s center, is under construction. Several shops, including rue 21, BossWear and Payless Shoe Source, will move from existing locations to that center spot. Burlington Coat Factory will take over the area once occupied by Steve &Barry’s, as well as the area where Carmel Corn, rue21 and the shoe store are today.

The mall hasn’t been able to land an anchor store for that spot since Steve &Barry’s closed all its stores due to bankruptcy in 2009. The spot previously was occupied by Mervyn’s, which also closed due to bankruptcy.

When Jarvis first took over the Carmel Corn shop, that area of the mall had several popular stores, like Mervyn’s, a drug store and a pet store. The bus stop was nearby, so people would come in and buy caramel corn while they waited. But that’s all changed.

“In the early years, we made really good money,” Jarvis said. But last year, the store made only about half of what it did when Jarvis first bought it.

Still, the Jarvises were hoping to hold onto a slot at the mall until they could sell the store. The mall offered them a kiosk location. But that would force the couple into renting a kitchen elsewhere to pop the corn. And it would take away Jarvis’ No. 1 sales tool: the whiff of freshly popped caramel corn.

Neither A.J. Werfelmann, Everett Mall manager, nor Julie Tennyson, mall marketing manager, responded to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Burlington Coat Factory said the retailer will open its 70,000-square foot store next fall. The Burlington Coat Factory store is expected to employ 75 to 100 people.

The Jarvises are hoping to relocate their business to another mall, perhaps Northgate Mall in Seattle — or Cascade Mall in Burlington, of all places.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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