News

Syms Departs City of F.C., Moves Just Up the Street

The major New Jersey-based discount clothing retailer Syms, a City of Falls Church business landmark since 1978, finalized its departure from city limits earlier this month when the retailer moved to its new location in the Seven Corners shopping center.Syms62931091

The major New Jersey-based discount clothing retailer Syms, a City of Falls Church business landmark since 1978, finalized its departure from city limits earlier this month when the retailer moved to its new location in the Seven Corners shopping center.

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THE NEW SYMS LOCATION in Seven Corners (top) offers consumers broader retail choices and is only blocks away from its former Falls Church location. (Photo: Courtesy Margaret Collord)

Syms, which recently acquired another major discount clothing chain, Filene’s Basement, operates 31 stores nationwide, including six in the D.C. Metro area.

In the wake of Syms’ move, the 134,487-square-foot lot and 46,000 square foot, two-story building on West Broad, assessed near $10 million in property value, now lies dormant.

A combination of reasons, from the former property’s location to the details of the lease, led to the departure, according to officials from both the City and Syms.

“They wanted to move to a more populated area rather than be in a standalone location,” Falls Church Chamber of Commerce President Sally D. Cole told the News-Press in an e-mail.

Syms President and CEO Marcy Syms attended the new store’s opening on Aug. 13 in Seven Corners, only a few blocks from the old location, but in Fairfax County. The new center, which filled the void left by Best Buy’s vacancy, is “one level, 47,000 square feet, fantastic, and exactly what we needed,” Syms said.

“I hadn’t realized we changed jurisdictions,” explained Ms. Syms regarding the store’s departure from the city. “The 30-year lease at our old location was coming up, and the building needed critical improvements. They were wonderful landlords, but it was simply a matter of improvements to the property. We knew the work would interfere with the business operation.”

As a result, Syms said, “About 22 months ago or so, we decided we wanted to stay in the area to allow customers to find us easily, as well as include a younger market for our new departments. Seven Corners has a much more diverse customer base, and it’s surrounded by stores like Barnes and Noble, Home Depot, Broadway Shoes. It’s a really good fit.”

At the new location, Ms. Syms said the store has added new departments to attract a wider “hip” crowd.

“You can see the changes in presentation, including European designers,” she said. “We’ve created a juniors department, and a new collection for men, a coordinated collection of suits and accessories. There is also an expanded shoe department and accessories for women, and a new active life section for men.”

Mark Lynn, the current manager of the Seven Corners Syms location, agreed. The new spot provides “more visibility” and “access to a younger crowd that shops at the center,” said Lynn, who had managed the Falls Church location as of March this year.

“The old store had a following,” he continued. “One of the big departments was men’s tailored suits. At the new location, we have more walk-in traffic and a lot more female customers.”

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Comparing the former to the new location, this map depicts the move east and out of the City of Falls Church. The new Syms store is located in Seven Corners center. (News-Press Graphic)

The move, however, tore one of the city’s largest commercial establishments from the City’s tax base.

According to Falls Church Commissioner of Revenue Tom Clinton, Syms joined Giant and Staples as among the city’s largest retail businesses. No other clothing chain store of the same magnitude exists in the city.

The city’s Business Development Manager, Becky Witsman, said that city officials “frequently touch base” with the former Syms property’s brokers, Mike Pratt and Jennifer Price of the D.C. area Madison Retail Group.

Witsman told the News-Press that in recent conversations with the brokers “they felt they were ‘making progress with two potential users’ and assured us they’d let us know when they are closer to signing a lease.

The City itself has also been courting potential clients for the space, Witsman said in an e-mail to the News-Press.

The city, she said, has “long thought that the Syms property has great redevelopment potential – location, size, visibility, etc. – but the current owners do not want to sell the property.” The property’s current owners are Eakin Properties, a national commercial real estate firm based in Nashville, Tenn.

“We have had interest in redeveloping the site,” Witsman continued. “Even developers who, despite our telling them that the owners have indicated to us that they do not want to sell, have also contacted the owners directly, only to be told the same thing.”

She indicated “serious progress is being made on a lease for the [old Syms property], but sometimes those negotiations can be lengthy.”

Neither Pratt nor Price could be reached for comment.