Eastview Mall and Destiny USA adjust to new normal

Here's what shoppers can expect

Mary Chao Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Eastview Mall reopens after shutdown.

VICTOR — The Finger Lakes region's two destination malls are beginning to see an uptick of shoppers, more than a month after reopening.

Eastview Mall in Victor and Destiny USA in Syracuse are back to drawing visitors to the region, and a visit to both this month reveals a new normal for shopping at an indoor mall in person.

Here's what you can expect.

Eastview Mall

While traffic is slightly down, Mike Kauffman, general manager of Eastview, said retail sales are close to meeting numbers from a year ago and are improving every week.

"Shoppers seem comfortable when they visit and pleased with the efforts we have made to maintain standards of cleanliness," Kauffman said. "Our hope is to soon get state approval to allow our tables and chairs in the food court and common area to be used, as shoppers are anxious to have a place to sit, relax and eat."

While the food court dining area is closed, the eateries are open for takeout. There are also restaurants at the main entrance such as P.F. Chang's.

Many of the stores at Eastview are unique to the market, which expands the trade area, Kauffman said, explaining that people are willing to travel from both the Buffalo and Syracuse areas. In many cases, when a retailer is looking to enter the upstate market, they choose Eastview as the first location, he said.

Eastview is considered a destination site, and demographic profiles bear that out, Kauffman said. There are similarities to other large malls in the region such as Destiny USA and Walden Galleria, also the dominant shopping centers in their region. The two malls in Syracuse and Buffalo have an edge in overall population within a 5- and 10-mile radius.

Eastview's advantage is in the average household income and discretionary income of people in the area, Kauffman said.

But changes at Eastview have occurred. Twelve stores will not be reopening due to lease expiration and bankruptcies. Oriental Rug Mart moved into the former Pottery Barn Kids site. There are no new stores, but deals are in the works for fall 2020 and spring 2021 openings, Kauffman said.

"Retailers were hesitant to sign deals during the pandemic, but as business is beginning to return to normal, leasing activity is picking up," he said.

Lord & Taylor will be closing at Eastview Mall. Another anchor store at Eastview, Sears, which closed at the mall last November, will house a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.

The Apple store is often the busiest spot at the mall, with a socially distanced line. In 2018, Apple made an investment in the mall at the former Rite Aid site. The new store is more than double the size of the previous site, located in the same wing of the mall near Starbucks. Other upscale retailers in that wing include lululemon and Michael Kors. Stores that are specific to Eastview Mall include Pottery Barn, J. Jill and Vera Bradley.

Destiny USA

Destiny USA in Syracuse is New York’s largest shopping, dining and entertainment destination and the sixth largest shopping center in the U.S.

Owned and operated by Pyramid Management Group, it draws visitors from a four-hour radius and attracts tourists from all 50 states, Canada and worldwide. It is a mix of shopping, dining, outlet offerings and entertainment with a hotel on site.

Since its reopening in July, traffic has been steady, said Nikita Jankowski, director of marketing for Destiny USA.

"We can say we are encouraged by the conversations we’re having with our tenants and the pent-up demand we’re seeing in our markets," Jankowski said.

Traffic continues to ramp up toward pre-pandemic levels. This is even more encouraging as the Canadian border remains closed, and most entertainment, movie theaters and gyms have not been open but will soon be coming back, Jankowski said.

"Make no mistake, we have been well ahead of the curve, particularly at Destiny USA, and are confident that we will continue to adapt, evolve and embrace change," she said.

The cavernous mall features 2.4 million square feet of retail space. The outlet area is separate from the retail area. One of the new outlets is the Armani Outlet.

The Uniform Outlet recently opened with scrubs, uniforms and accessories. Trollbeads is new at the mall, with over 600 different types of beads.

Closing at the mall is J.C. Penney, which is in the midst of a going-out-of-business sale. New York and Company also is closing.

The mall features a hybrid lululemon. The high-end athleisure apparel store is an outlet and a retail store. The back area has a large off-price selection.

Urban Outfitters is newer at the mall and attracts a youth crowd favoring a boho look. The food court area at Destiny USA is open for dine-in, unlike at Eastview Mall.

The mall is evolving to meet the demands of shoppers and adapting to the future for enclosed malls, Jankowski said.

"People have the need to have physical interaction," she said.

Seating remains closed off at Eastview Mall.