Blue Ridge losing more outlets

June 01, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Business woes continue to mount for the Blue Ridge Outlet Center in Martinsburg.

Polo Ralph Lauren is closing the doors on its Blue Ridge store on Saturday and Nautica has informed customers it will follow suit on June 8.

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A third store in the outlet center has told employees it plans to leave Blue Ridge next month.

The Corning Revere Factory Store told its employees last week that July 18 will be the final day for its Martinsburg store, Corning worker Cara Maphis said.

The stores bring to 10 the number of stores at Blue Ridge that have left or announced plans to leave Martinsburg since mid-February.


Banister Shoes, Dansk, Hap-E-Toys, Linen Barn Outlet Store, Pete's Sweets, Royce Hosiery and Wallet Works by Amity have all closed their Blue Ridge stores, leaving 19 stores and a restaurant in an outlet center that once boasted more than 50 stores.

In a customer letter posted in the window of its store in the Dunn Building on Stephen Street, Nautica stated it was closing its Martinsburg location due to the openings of outlet centers in Hagerstown and Leesburg, Va.

Of the stores that have left or announced plans to leave Blue Ridge since February, Corning, Polo, Nautica and Royce Hosiery all have locations at Prime Outlets in Hagerstown.

Royce Hosiery closed its Blue Ridge location in April due to lack of business, said an assistant manager at Royce's Hagerstown store at Prime Outlets.

"Now we're doing pretty good business," Amy Long said.

Corning and Polo representatives did not return calls for comment.

The decreasing number of stores at the Blue Ridge Outlet Center is cause for concern for the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, Chamber President Max Oates said.

Oates said troubles at Blue Ridge are an added reason for the Martinsburg City Council to reconsider its plan to raise the city's business-and-occupation tax.

Blue Ridge developer Moncure Chatfield-Taylor is among the area business owners who believe the tax hike will hurt the city's business climate, Oates said.

"Increasing taxes is going to make it even more difficult for Moncure to attract businesses to the Blue Ridge," Oates said.

Chatfield-Taylor did not return calls for comment.

In comments made in March after Dansk announced it was closing its Blue Ridge store in April, Chatfield-Taylor told The Morning Herald he expected to lose more tenants and said he was in negotiations with potential new clients.

Chatfield-Taylor also said in March that he had no plans to close the outlet center.

Despite the closing of stores around him, Hawkins Leather owner John Brock said business is great for him at Blue Ridge and he has no plans to leave.

"I might have the largest parking lot in the state for a leather store, but I'm not going anywhere," Brock said.

Eight companies still have stores at both Blue Ridge and Prime Outlets in Hagerstown: The Paper Factory, Big Dog Sportswear, Factory Brand Shoes, Van Heusen, L'eggs-Hanes-Bali-Playtex, S & K Menswear, Pfaltzgraff and Tommy Hilfiger.

Nine companies have stores at both Blue Ridge and the outlet center in Leesburg, Va.: Big Dog Sportswear, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, Etienne Aigner, Factory Brand Shoes, L'eggs-Hanes-Bali-Playtex, Leather Loft, Pfaltzgraff and The Paper Factory.

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