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JUDGE RULES AM & A'S CAN MOVE THRUWAY MALL ATTEMPTED TO BLOCK MOVE TO GALLERIA

A state judge Thursday refused to delay the Adam Meldrum & Anderson Co.'s proposed move next month from the Thruway Mall to the nearby Walden Galleria.

State Supreme Court Justice Norman E. Joslin ruled the dispute between the owner of the Thruway Mall and AM & A's, currently the anchor tenant of the 37-year-old shopping center, is over "economic damages" than can be settled at a trial.

Joslin declined to set a date for the trial. He ruled the mall's legal case against the proposed move lacked what he called the "essential elements" justifying an injunction.

Despite claims from the mall that AM & A's move could prove ruinous to the Thruway Mall's remaining 90 tenant businesses, Joslin said he didn't find evidence the move would irreparably injure the mall or that the mall has a "likelihood of success" in its battle to keep AM & A's from moving.

"To me, it's an economic issue" best left for a trial, Joslin said.

Joslin noted that he took into account "damage provisions" in AM & A's current Thruway Mall lease, which runs through October 1991 and provides for financial payments for lease changes.

Joslin's ruling keeps alive AM & A's current plans to close its 100,000-square-foot Thruway Mall store July 28 and open a 150,000-square-foot store in the Galleria, about a mile from the Thruway Mall on Aug. 9.

Court officials said Joslin's ruling permits AM & A's to both advertise its impending move and begin transferring goods between the two malls.

Keith Alford, AM & A's president and chief executive officer, said he was pleased with the court ruling.

"It allows us to go forward with our plans," he said.

William F. Savino, attorney for William Benton, owner of the Thruway Mall and Benton's TransAmerican Partners, said Benton's two-week-old breach-of-contract suit against AM & A's is "very much alive," even though plans for the move can continue "for the time being."

"The U.S. lost Pearl Harbor, but still won the war," Savino said.

Savino said he expects to decide within about a week whether to appeal Joslin's ruling, renew the push for a non-jury trial prior to the proposed move or sue Pyramid Co., operator of the Galleria, for allegedly interfering with its contract with AM & A's.

Benton still is seeking a permanent injunction barring the AM & A's move, Savino said.

Savino said it is "very unlikely" Benton will sue AM & A's itself for money damages because "we do not think a check is going to satisfy us."

The issue of keeping a major retail concern in the Thruway Mall "is very important to the other tenants" because it generally attracts customers, Savino said.

AM & A's, which announced plans for a Galleria store almost two years ago, has offered to buy out its current Thruway contract, which runs through Oct. 31, 1991, for about $300,000.

Savino said AM & A's current plan to abandon the Thruway Mall isn't based on economic concerns.

AM & A's Thruway Mall store "is having their best year ever," with projections calling for gross sales for the full year of $10 million, about 4 percent over 1989 figures, Savino said.

Alford said Savino's cost projections are inaccurate.

The AM & A's Thruway Mall store is experiencing a "slight" increase in sales this year, but is "not keeping pace" with sales figures at the company's nine other stores, Alford said.

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