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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Apr. 7, 2015 4 years ago

Winter Garden shopping center losing Barnes & Noble

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by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

WINTER GARDEN — Despite an online petition that has garnered more than 4,000 signatures in just one day, bookseller Barnes & Noble is leaving the Winter Garden Village.

"The lease at our Winter Garden location will expire at the end of July 2015 as a result of negotiations with the property owner," said David Deason, vice president of development for Barnes & Noble. "We will work diligently to find another location in the Winter Garden area as soon as possible. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve our valued customers at the nearby Plaza Venezia, Florida Mall and Colonial locations, and online at BN.com."

Matt Schuler, senior director of communications with DDR Corp., which owns the Winter Garden Village, said the agreements for the bookstore to vacate and the new tenant to occupy this space have been fully executed. Barnes & Noble was not kicked out of its space.

“We regularly meet with our retail partners to review existing store locations across our portfolio, and the decision to vacate was mutually agreed upon between Barnes & Noble and DDR,” Schuler said.

After hearing from Barnes & Noble employees that the bookstore is leaving the Winter Garden Village at Fowler Groves, Windermere resident Cindy Zhao and her friend, Winter Garden resident Sandy McFarland, started the online petition on the website change.org to protest the change. The electronic petition went online Monday, and by noon Tuesday, there were nearly to 4,000 signatures from residents pleading for the bookstore to stay.

On the website, a letter was posted to shopping center management that read, in part: "This is the only bookstore to tens of thousands of households in the surrounding area. The management of the mall is going to terminate the lease with Barnes & Noble on June 3, 2015, in favor of another clothing store, which will pay three times the rent. While I understand the short-term business motivation for this, it fails to look at the bigger picture. Barnes and Noble is a main attraction to the Winter Garden Village mall. … This bookstore is a cornerstone of our local community. … We need it much more than we need another clothing store! We have supported the mall. It’s time for the mall management to support its customers.”

It has been speculated that the clothing store Forever 21 would occupy the space, but Schuler would not verify that claim. He also would not make any comment regarding specific rent amounts.

“These new retailers are unique and exciting concepts that will further enhance the merchandise offering at Winter Garden Village,” he said.

Winter Garden resident Pamm Stewart argued that the community needs Barnes & Noble.

“A bookstore serving a municipal population of 47,000 residents in Winter Garden alone — not to mention all of West Orange County — is a cultural necessity for a well-rounded shopping venue,” she wrote in the petition comments. “The city of Winter Garden took great pains in negotiations with Sembler Corporation to ensure that the center would have an upper-class mix of offerings within the center to serve the community and assure continuing quality. Losing a bookstore — a completely unique retailer with no equitable replacement — really does violate the careful intent of the city to have a first-class shopping venue.”

With this departure, the closest chain bookstore is the Barnes & Noble on West Sand Lake Road, more than 12 miles from the Winter Garden Village, or at the Florida Mall and Colonial Plaza Market, 18 miles away.

Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected]

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