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Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Co.'s move into the most upscale shopping mall in Western New York comes sooner than planned, all because of that big empty space with the "B. Altman" name on it.

AM&A's Wednesday announced that it will move this summer into the Walden Galleria mall, becoming the anchor tenant that replaces B. Altman, an upscale store that could not open in space designed for it because of the financial problems of its parent company, L.J. Hooker.

Keith Alford, president of AM&A's, said the new store will contain 150,000 square feet of space and employ about 250 workers. The new store is scheduled to open in early August about, one month after AM&A's closes its store in the nearby Thruway Mall.

AM&A's had made informal plans about two years ago to have an 80,000-square-foot building built at the Galleria, Alford said.

"We've been talking to the Pyramid Cos. about going into the mall in another location that was never built," Alford said. The Pyramid Cos. "would have done the exterior construction, we would have done the interior," he said.

Alford said he does not know what the costs would have been.

B. Altman was one of the Galleria's most-anticipated anchors when the Cheektowaga mall opened last May. But Pyramid Cos., which owns the Galleria, continues to negotiate with other outside retailers.

"We've been talking to a number of people over a period of time. Some of those discussions were driven by time and space constraints," said Ken Cannon, a partner at Pyramid.

He listed Dillard Department Stores Inc., Nordstrom Inc. and Macy's as some of the retailers who considered moving into B. Altman's space but didn't, either because the space had been left vacant too long, or because the size or shape of the store did not fit their needs.

However, Lord & Taylor is scheduled to open in 1991, while talks with other national retailers continue, Cannon said.

Another upscale store like Lord & Taylor is what the some Galleria retailers are looking for.

"I welcome AM&A's coming into the mall," said Harry Rosen, president of Harry Rosen Inc. an expensive men's store in the Galleria. "But naturally, I'm most hopeful that the landlord will be successful in bringing in a high-profile, high-end department store."

AM&A's move to the Galleria is another blow to the Thruway Mall. In the past year, Thruway has lost five
major stores and a couple smaller retailers.

The mall has about 87 stores, and about 15 percent of them are vacant. Sample Inc. held a final sale and closed its Thruway store last week.

"It makes strategic sense for AM&A's to move into the Galleria," said Arun K. Jain, marketing professor at the University at Buffalo. "But that will make it difficult for the other malls," he said referring mainly to the Thruway.

He said Thruway Mall "will have to change their product offering and go toward off-price merchandising. People are thinking about designer labels, but not everyone has the money for it," he said.

Thomas A. Ruffino, Thruway's general manager, declined to comment on AM&A's decision.

"They have not formally notified us," Ruffino said. "We have a lease until late 1991. At this point we have no further comment."

But Ruffino did speak about the string of closings and about Thruway's future.

The mall has gained two stores in recent months and three new tenants are planning to sign on, he said. Many of the existing stores will be bringing in the off-priced merchandise that Jain spoke of.

"We're built of strong stock," Ruffino said, referring to the mall's ability to survive. Many of the vacancies were caused by bankruptcies within certain companies and not by the mall's inability to keep up with stronger new competitors, Ruffino said.

But the Galleria has proven to be a tough competitor for other area malls and downtown retailers, Jain said. It is the perfect location for AM&A's, he added.

The move gives AM&A's a chance to move into a more attractive location and offer better returns to its owners and creditors, Jain said.

Bringing in AM&A's instead of a retailer from outside the region does not mean that the Galleria has missed an opportunity to attract additional sales, Jain said.

"Total spending dollars has not really increased," he said. Another store would not have added sales revenues, just increased competition, he said.

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