By Ethan Ruh
Regency Square Mall has served as a popular shopping destination in the West End of Richmond since 1975. Over the years, the mall has remained relatively unchanged, except for the addition of the food court in 1987. Regency Square has faced competition from newer malls, such as Short Pump Town Center and Stony Point Fashion Park, which both opened in 2003. Due to the rise in competition and the increase of online shopping, Regency Square Mall has been suffering lately. They have experienced less foot traffic and a decline in overall sales.
In 2015, Regency Square Mall was purchased by the joint venture of Chesterfield-based Rebkee Company and the Henrico-based Thalhimer Realty Partners, Inc. for $13 million. They are planning to invest up to $35 million dollars into the struggling mall. Renovations to the mall are planned, and construction has already begun. The flyover entrance off of Quioccasin Road is being closed down, to be replaced with store entrances facing Quioccasin. These road-front stores are expected to open by the end of 2017, and a replacement for the Quioccasin Road entrance will be added in 2018.
Regency Square lost both of their Macy’s department stores in 2016 due to the nationwide closing of 40 Macy’s stores. In September, the Sears store also closed down, leaving J.C. Penney as the only large anchor in the mall. The spaces vacated by the Macy’s and Sears stores are being implemented in the new renovations. The owners of the mall stated that more that 15 national retailers are interested in occupying the space. This extra space will also make room for the addition of Regal Cinemas as a tenant. The planned theater is expected to be completed in the spring of 2019. Case Lawrence, CEO of Jumpology, has expressed interest in building a trampoline park in Regency Square Mall. Lawrence said, “we are in serious discussion with Regency,” but they are also considering other venues.
Regency will still primarily be an indoor shopping venue, but they also plan to incorporate outdoor amenities. The renovations to Regency Square will create an additional 44,000 square-feet of retail space and more opportunity for outdoor dining and entertainment. New pedestrian-friendly sidewalks will be added surrounding the mall.
Steven Bonneville, general manager of Regency Square Mall, said, “customers will see major changes over the next couple of years, including interior renovations that allow more natural light into the mall to create an open-air feel.”
The owners of the struggling mall have been doing all they can to increase foot traffic at Regency Mall. Events are planned throughout the year to attract customers. The third Thursday of every month features a Kids Club, where children under the age of eight can come in and play on the indoor playground. Also, VCU offers a monthly free community series at the Regency food court. The VCU Office of Continuing and Professional Education presents a different topic of discussion each month. Regency also offers a mall walkers program every weekday. People are encouraged to walk around the covered mall as a way to exercise. Weekly blood pressure checks are provided every Tuesday in the food court.
The massive parking lot surrounding the indoor mall is almost never full. The large, dark, and ominous parking decks are always barely scattered with cars. Regency Square is a massive 820,000 square-foot building, but the only section of the mall that is ever busy is the food-court during meal times. The food court seems to be the most prominent attraction, with restaurants like Cheezilla, Knockout Cheesesteak, and Legend Potato. “I like to sit at the food court, read a good book, and talk to strangers,” said Ted Phillips (’18).
The food court also has a Chick-fil-A, even though there is an actual Chick-fil-A restaurant a minute down the road with substantially lower prices. The difference in prices is due to the higher rent payments for a restaurant in the food court.
In my experience, it is rare to see people actually shopping at Regency, and the majority of the mall stores infrequently have many customers. The Peedmont, a new satirical publication in the style of The Onion (but focused on Richmond), recently poked fun at this concept with their satirical article “Area Dad Sole Patron Of Regency Square Mall Sears.” The stores have lots of store space, and typically they carry lots of inventory to show off their products. Due to the severe lack of foot traffic in these shops, store employees are always able to give the shoppers plenty of assistance and attention.
Recently, when I entered Spencer’s Gifts, I was greeted by a smiling employee who asked if I needed any assistance finding anything in particular. At the time I was the only customer in the gift shop, and I would not have received this attention in a bigger or more crowded store. This excellent customer service is valued among shoppers. Regency Square Mall definitely has personality.