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Medford Emporium to close

A lease negotiation impasse between Medford Center owners and Troutman's Emporium will soon result in the closure of the department store's 35,000-square-foot retail outlet.

The vacancy will leave a significant hole in the tenant lineup at the retail mall, which has been slow to fill storefronts since Tinseltown opened its 15-screen complex there in late 1997.

Emporium announced the pending closure of its Medford store Monday but plans to operate through the holiday season.

Emporium President and Chief Executive Officer Ron Schiff confirmed the closure is directly related to failed lease negotiations and said plans are under way to find an alternate Medford location.

We love the Medford market, Schiff said. It's just that we couldn't make the deal we wanted to in that shopping center.

The closure affects about 45 employees who will be offered positions at one of the company's 31 stores in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California.

Emporium will begin liquidating inventory later this month.

Medford Center's commercial lease broker, Bill Leever of Pulver and Leever Real Estate Co., said Emporium's decision resulted from a failure to establish a mutually agreeable long-term lease.

It was Emporium's decision to vacate, Leever said. They weren't willing to sign a long-term commitment. It was a business decision on their part.

Emporium's departure doesn't worry Leever, who maintains he is confident the Medford Center will soon have a full complement of retail stores. Center Trust of Manhattan Beach, Calif., the shopping center's owners, had hoped to be at full capacity by the end of 1999.

We've been extremely pleased with the leasing effort and with what we've been able to accomplish, Leever said. We have added a tremendous lifestyle dimension to the Medford Center.

Leever added that tenants have been selected to fill vacancies with an eye toward local business rather than an exclusive lineup of national name retailers.

Now, the search will be on to find a retailer to fill the gaping vacancy left by Emporium.

Medford Center Manager Paul Farmer said shoppers won't be kept waiting long. A number of retailers already have expressed interest in the Emporium slot.

We're basically ready to start remodeling the day after Emporium vacates, Farmer said.

The Medford Center came under scrutiny following a two-year dry spell of vacant storefronts when managers signed on 24 Hour Fitness as one the center's prime anchor slots.

Although the fitness center is currently undergoing extensive construction and has yet to prove its worth, Leever maintains the selection of the business fits well within the intended character of the marketing plan.

The departure of Emporium will mean the Medford Center still needs to fill four of 16 empty retail storefronts. Leever said things will soon change for the better, likely by the end of the year.

With the addition of the Emporium space, the Medford Center has 44,000 square feet out of a total 424,186 to fill before claiming a no-vacancy triumph.

Emporium has been a great enhancement to the center over the years, Farmer said. Now we have a chance to put in something even more exciting with a better fit.

The Medford Center was built in 1957, with Sears and Safeway anchoring the early strip mall. Payless and J.J. Newberry Co. were added soon after. The open-air design was improved with canopy coverings and then structural roofing and glass ends in 1986 in order to compete with newly completed Rogue Valley Mall.

Troutman's Emporium opened its doors to Medford Center shoppers in 1986.

Reach reporter at 776-4463, or e-mail