Oklahoma City is eyeing an incentives package to bring upscale retailer Von Maur to Quail Springs Mall in the space that soon will be vacated by Sears.
Brent Bryant, the city's economic development coordinator, said details of an agreement being drafted with mall owner General Growth Properties will be presented Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Development Trust, which oversees the city's jobs and retail incentives programs.
The deal would, if successful, result in a 182,000-square-foot Von Maur store, the first in Oklahoma.
“General Growth acquired the Sears store in May, and it's set to close on Feb. 1,” Bryant said. “We've been in discussions about replacing Sears with a store to keep the mall vibrant and expand the city's tax base.”
Officials with General Growth and Von Maur could not be reached for comment Friday. Von Maur first opened in the late 1800s in Davenport, Iowa. It remained a single store operation until the 1960s, when it began an extended expansion that now includes 29 stores in 13 states.
Von Maur is known for creating an upscale shopping experience that includes antique furnishings as part of the decor, an in-store pianist during business hours and free year-round gift wrapping. The stores carry a variety of national and specialty brands, including Coach, Kate Spade, Free People, Eileen Fisher and Tommy Bahama.
Von Maur, unlike many of its competitors, is privately owned and is one of only two family-owned and run department store chains in the country. (The other one is Belk.)
In a February 2012 interview with the Des Moines Register, Chief Executive Officer Melody Westendorf confirmed her company was pursuing a “steady” and “disciplined” expansion.
“Our growth is based on it being the right opportunity,” Westendorf said. “We definitely take a good hard look at the mall, and we look at the stores in that market. And certainly we look demographics. What's the population? Is the city growing, or is it a city with a great industry that's stable?”
Von Maur was recently mentioned as a possible candidate for the Quail Springs space by commercial real estate analyst Jim Parrack, senior vice president of retail at Price Edwards & Co.
“If they're able to cut a deal with Von Maur, I think it would be very good for the mall,” Parrack said in a December interview with The Oklahoman.
“They're not here, and I consider (Von Maur) a step above Dillard's and a huge step above Sears. It would strengthen the mall,” he said.
Kurt Foreman, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said Friday that Von Maur is typical of the higher-end retailers being recruited to Oklahoma City.
“It adds a dimension to the higher end of retail in the market,” Foreman said. “It will be a nice option for women's items, home goods and clothing. They are well thought of in the other markets they are located in.”