New business coming to Liberty Center as others make tough decisions

Coronavirus concerns aren’t stopping two local entrepreneurs from opening a new kind of business at Liberty Center.

The Frost Factory, which will offer craft, boozy slushies along with kid-friendly and alcohol-free options, is set to open in July courtesy of founders and co-owners Jamie Robinson and Sammi Wendt, who said they are excited to be closer to opening given the circumstances the past few months.

“Both Jamie and myself live in Liberty Twp. and love the atmosphere at Liberty Center and knew it was a perfect location for our business idea,” Wendt said.

The business will offer flights for those who wish to try three different flavors and the option to layer two flavors in Frost Factory’s full-size and fish bowls. It also will offer a selection of beer, wine and non-frozen cocktails and shots.

Customers will be able to walk around and imbibe their drink in Liberty Center’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area or grab a seat within the store itself.

“We will allow carry in food from within the Liberty Center, as we will not offer food and want to promote the restaurants within the center,” Wendt said.

Another business set to open sometime this summer is family entertainment center and restaurant In The Game.

The newbies to Liberty Center are in good company. The past 18 months have seen the openings of iFly Indoor Skydiving, Le Macaron French Pastries, Molly’s Cupcakes, Global Salon and Agave & Rye.

But Frost Factory and others also enter the $350 million mega retail center at a somewhat precarious time. While most of its retailers and restaurants have reopened, several others are operating on reduced hours and some have yet to reopen from their temporary closure including Cobb Luxury 25 & Cinebistro, Bar Del Mar, DavidsTea, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Qdoba Mexican Eats, Rodizio Grill and Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern, according to Liberty Center’s online listings.

Liberty Center also is looking to make up for the loss of several recent closures, which have been due to bankruptcy and/or national consolidations. Those closures include Ashcroft & Oak, Cantina Laredo, Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, GAP, Rogers Jewelers, Sorella Boutique and The Art of Shaving.

Despite that string of shutdowns and the aforementioned temporay closures, Liberty Center is 85 percent open, according to Elizabeth Thomas, director of marketing at Bayer Properties, which was awarded third-party management of the 1.2-million-square-foot mixed-use property last year.

Thomas reiterated what Bayer President Libby Lassiter said during her interview with Journal-News in January, namely that "struggling retailers closing at the site is caused by companies failing to adapt to a rapidly changing retail environment." COVID-19 has accelerated this process for brands that were already losing relevance or falling behind in technology upgrades, she said.

“When we were hired as property manager of Liberty Center in December 2019, we began rethinking the merchandising plan to meet changing consumer preferences, which have now shifted yet again due to COVID-19,” Thomas said. “We realize the importance of reevaluating our initial leasing strategy based on how COVID-19 will likely continue impacting the industry and consumer behaviors.”

For example, she said, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 stores could permanently close this year as retailers go out of business or file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, compared to the 9,800 stores that closed nationwide in 2019.

“Our team is continually monitoring the state of retail and working to stay nimble,” Thomas said.

A full list of Liberty Center’s operating tenants includes:

• Restaurants — Agave & Rye, Auntie’s Anne’s, Bibibop Asian Grill, Brio Tuscan Grille, Charley’s Grilled Subs, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Flip Side, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Great American Cookies, It’Sugar, Kona Grill, Le Macaron, Molly’s Cupcakes, Northstar Café, Pies & Pints, Smoochie’s Boba & Crepes, Starbucks, The Cheesecake Factory, Yihi Japan.

• Retail — American Eagle, Bath & Body Works, Buckle, Build-A-Bear, Burlap & Birch, Celebrate Local, Shop the Best of Ohio, Champs Sports, Claire’s, Dakota Watch Company, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dillard’s, Eddie Bauer, Express, Folchi’s Formal Wear, Foot Locker, Francesca’s, Hannoush Jewelers, Hollister, Hot Topic, J.Jill, Jaek’s Toggery, Journey’s, Journey’s Kidz, Kendra Scott, Kids Foot Locker, Lenscrafters, Lids, LUSH, Old Navy, Pacsun, Pandora, Rose & Remington, Silver Mountain Jewelry, Smari Designs, Soma Intimates, Spencer’s Gifts, Sunglass Hut, Talbots, Torrid, Victoria’s Secret, White Barn Candle, White House Black Market, Zales, Zumiez.

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