Glenbrook Square has sounded the death knell for a casket store that was supposed to open next week at the mall, according to the company's owner.
'Til We Meet Again, a new retail store selling custom-made, personalized caskets and urns for humans and pets, as well as jewelry designed to hold cremains, was to have its grand opening May 11 and 12.
The store is the brainchild of Nathan Smith, of Wichita, Kan., who opened the first 'Til We Meet Again store in a mall there in 2010. He said that store has been "extremely successful" – so successful he decided to franchise it.
Fort Wayne was considered a good market because it is similar to Wichita. Local franchisees, who didn't want to be identified, decided to take a chance on the store. A location was found at Glenbrook Square and a lease agreement was signed in February, Smith said. 'Til We Meet Again took possession two weeks ago and started remodeling. Smith said mall officials even helped the business get the building permit.
"Two weeks later they tell us they are revoking the lease and we've got five days to get out," Smith said.
He said he talked to Arleen Dalton, vice president, business development - northeast for General Growth Properties, Glenbrook's parent company. Smith said he asked her for an explanation of why the lease was cancelled and she told him, "Because we can. The lease allows that and we don't have to give a reason."
A call to Dalton was not returned. However David Keating, vice president of corporate communications for General Growth Properties, sent The News- Sentinel an email stating, "It's our policy that we don't provide information or comments regarding agreements between our company and licensees."
Smith said the franchisees are "devastated" by the mall's decision to revoke the lease, and he characterized it as a "huge disappointment."
Support has been overwhelming, he said, with people from this area calling and emailing, and asking 'Til We Meet Again not to give up on putting a store in this area.
However, the way the franchise is structured, Smith said, "we only want super regional malls that are enclosed." In this area, only Glenbrook fits that description.
Smith and his business partner, Traci Smith-Cone, are flying out here Wednesday to "see what options we have," Smith said.