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Retail Roundup: Some Melville Mall tenants may delay opening

The base and exteriors of the new building

The base and exteriors of the new building were completed this month, but the tenants still must build the interiors. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Five businesses have signed leases to move into a new building in Melville Mall by fall but some are modifying their plans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive orders announced this week to curb the spread of the virus include a ban on restaurants’ dine-in eating, mandated closings of gyms, and limiting social and recreational gatherings to no more than 50 people.  Also, he directed local governments to reduce their overall workforce by 50% and allow nonessential employees to work from home, which will impact how and when towns issue permits and conduct inspections for new construction.

That will mean delayed openings and/or modified operations for at least some of the five businesses — Gregorys Coffee, Tex-Mex restaurant Lucharitos, fast-casual Asian eatery Yaaas Tea Café, an AT&T Store and a Club Pilates — that plan to move into a new, 15,000-square-foot building, which will be adjacent to the existing, larger retail building at Melville Mall, in the 800 block of Walt Whitman Road.

The base and exteriors of the new building were completed this month, but the tenants are responsible for their interior buildouts, said a spokeswoman for Federal Realty Investment Trust, the Rockville, Maryland-based owner of the shopping center.

Melville Mall’s older building  is about 250,000 square feet, and its tenants include off-price department stores Macy’s Backstage and Marshalls, grocer Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace and Dick’s Sporting Goods. 

When the new businesses open, whenever that may be, they will be a strong draw and complement to the existing tenants, Federal said Friday.

“This new group of tenants creates a compelling community destination for daily needs,” Mark Brennan, vice president of regional development at Federal Realty Investment Trust, said in a statement March 11.  “We are looking forward to bringing such highly desirable offerings to our loyal shopper base and enticing new visitors to see all that we have to offer.”

Here is the rundown on the new tenants planned for Melville Mall and how they are responding to the pandemic:

AT&T Store: The store will occupy about 2,500 square feet of the new building, and sell cellphones, as well as wireless and DirecTV services.  But on Wednesday, AT&T began closing 40% of its company-owned stores, excluding authorized dealers, due to the pandemic.  Stores that remain open are operating at reduced hours — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. —and are closed Sundays.  Dallas-based AT&T Inc. did not immediately respond to my inquiry about whether plans for the Melville store will be affected.

Club Pilates: The fitness studio was supposed to open in May in a 1,753-square-foot space but that is being delayed, said franchisee David Wolk, 44.

“The construction of the studio is sort of at a halt because of the fact that we can’t get the town (of Huntington) to award us permits and inspections due to, obviously, the coronavirus,” said Wolk, a Dix Hills resident.

His two Club Pilates locations in Woodbury and Commack are closed temporarily because of Cuomo's mandates.

Gregorys Coffee: The 1,742-square-foot Melville shop will be Gregorys’ first location on Long Island and the chain’s first suburban location. But the Manhattan-based chain closed all 31 of its shops Thursday because of the coronavirus, according to a Facebook post.  Gregorys did not respond to requests for comment about the planned Melville location.

Founded in 2006, the chain sells coffee, pastries and packaged food at its 31 shops in New York City; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C. 

Lucharitos: The eatery, which already has two other Long Island locations, focuses on tacos and tequila.  Most of the food is cooked to order, said Riverhead resident Marc LaMaina, 39, who opened his first Lucharitos in Greenport in 2012 and a smaller version, Little Lucharitos, in Aquebogue in 2018.

“It’s super fresh and super friendly,” he said.

LaMaina has a partner in the planned Melville location, Kevin Mannix, and hopes to open the new restaurant in six months. 

If the bans on in-restaurant dining are still in place by the time the restaurant opens, it will offer only delivery and takeout, as his other two locations do now,  LaMaina said.

“We continue to do well even with the change of model. ... We transitioned all of our front-of-the house people to delivery drivers," he said.

Also, he is planning to open two other Lucharitos this year — in Center Moriches in three to four months and in Mattituck in 30 days — but says the openings might be delayed because he has been unable to get building and inspection permits from town offices because they are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Yaaas Tea Café: The fast-casual Asian restaurant will sell Yaaas Tea, which includes bubble tea and a tea-based drink mixed with fresh, seasonal fruits that is made to order and already sold in three other Long Island eateries, said Kelly Zhou, who will co-own the café with Yaaas Tea co-owner Evan Chen. 

“This particular location will be also like a flagship store of our franchise brand, which is Yaaas Tea,” Zhou said.

The 3,124-square-foot Yaaas Tea Café also will sell chicken teriyaki, acai bowls, salads and other items, she said.

The partners planned to open the Melville café in July but expect that to be delayed now because of the pandemic, Zhou said

"I don’t know how long it will be delayed," she said.

Yaaas Tea is already sold at Station Market in Farmingdale, a small, casual eatery that Zhou owns and is converting to a Yaaas Tea Café this year.

The tea also is sold at Potasia Hotpot & Noodle Bar in Hicksville and T.O.A. restaurants in Huntington, Farmingdale and Sayville, which are co-owned by Chen and other partners.

Retail Roundup is a column about major retail news on Long Island — store openings, closings, expansions, acquisitions, etc. — that is published online and in the Monday paper. To read more of these columns, click here. If you have news to share, please send an email to Newsday reporter Tory N. Parrish at tory.parrish@newsday.com.

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