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More tenants leaving Northtown Plaza as Whole Foods prepares to open

When Whole Foods Markets opens its new store in the Northtown Plaza next month, less than a handful of stores will remain open in the high-profile Amherst shopping center.

Here's the latest developments there:

  • The 65-year-old Federal Meats shop closed on Saturday, with the store shifting its five full- and part-time workers to the chain's nine other locations.
  • Women's clothing store Mabel Danahy is moving just to the east and across the way on Sheridan Drive, likely by the end of September.
  • The Fantastic Sams hair salon also plans to move by Sept. 15 to a plaza on Niagara Falls Boulevard near Brighton Road.

The moves will leave just three tenants in Northtown Plaza – KeyBank, Dunn Tire and the Treats Unleashed pet store – and Dunn Tire already has made plans to move next year.

The Northtown Plaza has rapidly emptied out since WS Development bought the shopping center in 2015. The Massachusetts-based company hasn't revealed specifics but has broadly talked of ambitious plans to transform the plaza and attract high-end tenants. A Whole Foods Market now under construction is set to open there Sept. 15.

As Whole Foods gets closer, Northtown Plaza empties out

L.L. Bean is the only other tenant that has been publicly identified for the new-look plaza. But Ann McClain, president of Treats Unleashed, said Tuesday that she is in negotiations to stay at Northtown after WS clears out the rest of the plaza and begins work on the new center.

"It's going to be a great place to be," McClain said. WS would arrange a temporary lease for the pet store in another location for about 12 to 18 months during demolition and construction, she said.

Federal Meats was operating on a month-to-month lease and decided to close its shop because it didn't make sense to string it out much longer, said Tom Benzin, supervisor of stores for the chain. He said WS Development was a fair landlord and never raised the rent.

Federal Meats opted to close because it has stores in North Buffalo, the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst that can serve this location's customers, Benzin said.

"It's very sad," said Benzin, who recalled working as the store's manager years ago.

Mabel Danahy moved into Northtown in 1996. The store has signed a lease to move into Piccadilly Plaza at Sheridan and North Bailey Avenue, said Eric Recoon, Benderson Development Co.'s vice president of development and leasing. The move should take place by the end of September, said Mabel Danahy owner Liz Lennon.

Fantastic Sams accepted a buyout of its lease from WS Development to move to 1330 Niagara Falls Blvd., the Jasmine Thai plaza.

And Dunn Tire plans to close on the purchase of its new store, at 3424 Sheridan, by the end of this year, and start interior renovations to the building, now a Color-Tech Photo Lab, early in 2018, said David Simons, the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. The new Dunn Tire store should open next summer.

KeyBank has an outbuilding branch, a storefront bank branch and a drive-through in Northtown Plaza. KeyBank spokesman Matt Pitts said the bank had nothing to say about its plans for the plaza.

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