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NorthTown’s new look: a walking-friendly north side and shops along Queen Ave.

Some of the work involved in NorthTown Mall's north side renovation started becoming obvious this week. Earlier this year, owner General Growth Partners began tearing out the inner shops lining the north corridor.

Yesterday work crews  from Bayley Construction, of Seattle, began tearing down the north wall that separates the two anchor tenants on that side, Kohl's on the east and Macy's on the west. They are on the side facing Queen Avenue.

This Google map view shows the section of the wall that's being torn out. It is marked by the solid red line. In its place will be a new configuration. See the rendering below, by architects DLR, to get the full effect.

That work won't be ready for new tenants until around mid-2015, said NorthTown Senior General Manager John Shasky.

Trial begins in NorthTown Mall molestation case

A Spokane jury will likely decide this week whether a 56-year-old man with a criminal history of indecent acts with minors will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The trial of Richard Payne, accused of inappropriately touching and exposing himself to a five-year-old girl at a NorthTown Mall arcade in June 2012, began today with jury selection in Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor's courtroom. The proceedings, expected to last a week or less, have been delayed multiple times by defense motions seeking to suppress comments Payne made to investigators and keep some details of his criminal history from jurors.

To read more about this item, go inside the blog.

NorthTown Mall adds a mural saluting region’s natural beauty

Rumors keep floating that some major renovations are planned for NorthTown Mall.

Well, we can't nail anything down.

We did learn that the mall added a big ol' bright mural on the second level across from the Earthbound Trading Company. That's a short distance from the food court.

Shown here, the work is a salute to the natural beauty of the Spokane region, done by local artist Peggy Best.

The mural started in August after several months of discussions between mall managers and Best.

“We had this wonderful wall space that was being under-utilized,” said John Shasky, the mall's GM.

“We started talking about what we could do and the discussions always seemed to focus on some type of public art and Spokane’s rich heritage.  Bringing Peggy on board with her fresh ideas and incredible talent brought it full circle," he said, in a release.

Saad’s Shoe Repair leaves NorthTown Mall, relocates to nearby office building

Saad’s Shoe Repair, one of the first businesses to move into the NorthTown Mall, is moving out.

Current owner Larry Alfano said he's relocating the shoe business to the nearby Northtown Office Building at 4407 N. Division St.

Saad's has been in the mall since it opened its doors in 1956.

He said the move will be more convenient for store employees and customers. It's prompted by major renovations being planned by the mall owners.

“We’ll have more and easier parking in the new space. And since we’ll leave the mall, we won’t need to stay open until 9 p.m.,” he said.

He took over the business in 1985 from the Saad family. The new store will open July 1.

“I’m a little scared. We had to close our downtown store last year due to the deaths of two employees. Now we’re moving from a spot we’ve been in for decades,” he said.

“But I think it will work out,” he added.

Survival rumors for NorthTown Mall Wholesale Sports not true, manager says

March 10 seems to be a firm closing date for the two area equipment retailer Wholesale Sports locations in Spokane and in Coeur d'Alene.

An OfficeHours post last month clarified and summarized the strange set of facts behind the decision. In brief, the Canadian owner of 14 U.S. Wholesales Sports locations recently sold them to two U.S. firms. One firm, Alama Group, acquired four of the 14 and plans to close them all.  Two of those four are the ones we have here.

Rumors erupted recently that someone might find a way to resurrect or extend the stay of Wholesale Sports at NorthTown Mall. 

A store manager said don't trust the rumors. "We will close on March 10. That is our last working day," the manager said.

Former Edo owner opens two Miso Fresh Asian locations in malls

Jay Underwood has gone from Edo to Miso. Actually, his two new eateries are named Miso Fresh Asian.

Underwood opened the first Miso Fresh Asian last week at NorthTown Mall. This Friday he opens one in the food court at River Park Square. Both take the spots of the former Edos he ran in those two malls.

He describes the cuisine as Southeast Asian street vendor food. He also likes the idea of having all ingredients visible by customers. He incorporated a trait he thinks Subway has used well — giving customers a full selection and view of fresh ingredients.

Edo Japan was a franchise connected to a Canadian parent firm. Last year the parent firm decided not to renew many of its U.S. deals, Underwood said. That led him to strike out on his own, with Miso.

Underwood gives the menu's culinary credit to Chef Curtis Smith. The stores were designed by Paint Room Studios, owned by Dawn Kiki and Catherine Boles. 

They incorporated recycled glass countertops, and selected tile that resembles wood and cork. Each store has a striking glass mosaic that wraps the stove hood.

And no, the cooks there don't use woks. In keeping with an agreement with mall managers, Miso can't use a "wok," because another eatery established itself as the sole "wok-based" business inside the mall

Underwood said the solution was to use stir-fry pans. "In fact, that's the name for what we use, 'stir-fry pans,' " he said.

River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns and publishes The Spokesman-Review and Spokesman.com.

What happened? Why did Wholesale Sports close its area retail stores?

Is this the Cabela's effect?

The new owner of the Wholesale Sports outdoor and sporting equipment outlets in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene will close those two stores in mid-March.

Employees at the stores said company officers informed them on Feb. 21 that their stores’ final day will be March 10.

The announcement was a sudden reversal, following last week’s announcement that Wholesale Sports was selling 14 U.S. stores back to Sportsman’s Warehouse, a Utah company, and a partner, Alamo Group.

That announcement came from Calgary-based UFA Co-operative Ltd., which had purchased the 14 U.S. Sportsman’s Warehouse stores for roughly $800 million in 2008.

After the purchase, UFA rebranded the stores as Wholesale Sports, the name it uses for outdoor equipment stores it operates across Canada.

Last week’s announcement said the sale was part of UFA’s refocusing solely on its Canadian retail businesses.

Canadian newspapers reported that Sportsman’s Warehouse plans to operate 10 of the reacquired stores, but that Alamo Group, which bought four stores, was closing them in March.

It’s unclear which two other stores will be closed.

Alamo Group, based in California, is described as a real estate investment company.

The Spokane store moved last summer from Spokane Valley Mall to NorthTown Mall. It took a 30,000-square-foot space in the mall formerly used by Emporium.

The NorthTown store employs roughly 40 workers. The Coeur d’Alene store, at 3534 N. Government Way, employs about 35 workers.

CenturyLink opens north Spokane, Valley stores after exiting malls

CenturyLink has opened two new Spokane stores, replacing ones it formerly operated in NorthTown and Spokane Valley malls.

The north side new location is at 6704 N. Nevada.

The Spokane Valley store is at 506 N. Sullivan.

Store hours are Monday through Saturday,  8 a.m.– 7 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The company provides a range of data and phone services, including DirecTV paid television and Verizon Wireless options.

Wholesale Sports store in NorthTown Mall opens on July 20

Friends and outdoorsmen, you can plan your July 20 around the opening of the new Wholesale Sports Outdoors Outfitters stores in NorthTown Mall.

The retailer of  fishing, hunting and camping gear opens its doors at 9 a.m. on that date.

The Calgary-based retailer recently closed its Spokane Valley Mall location to prepare for the relocation.

We will keep an eye on Spokane Valley Mall to see which new tenants might be moving into the vacant space there.

NorthTown Mall sex offender arraigned

A Spokane sex offender out of jail on $250,000 bond pleaded not guilty today to charges related to an alleged incident with a 5-year-old girl at the NorthTown Mall last month.

 Richard Michael Payne, 55, faces a potential life sentence if convicted of indecent exposure and two counts of first-degree child molestation after a girl and her 11-year-old sister told their mother he'd exposed himself in an arcade area at the mall June 21 while rubbing the younger girl's back. The girls' mother said in an email that the girl's 19-year-old brother was in the arcade at the time, too. She said the family was vacationing in Spokane.

Police obtained surveillance video of the incident and identified Payne as a suspect through the sex offender registry. He was arrested June 26 and left jail June 27 after posting the bond through Smith Family Bail Bonds.

Owner Chris Smith attended today's arraignment before Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque. Payne is represented by lawyer David Hearrean.

He's wearing a GPS ankle monitor through the bond company that tracks his movements and is prohibited from contacting children or visiting places where the gather, including the NorthTown Mall.

Payne is a level 3 sex offender who served about 3 1/2 years in prison for grabbing a 9-year-old girl's crotch and buttocks while at a North Division Street store in 2001.

He also has two convictions for fourth-degree assault that stem from child molestation claims, as well as a public indecency in Oregon in 1985 for fondling himself at a Sears store. He has no further criminal history in Washington state.

Payne left the Spokane County Courthouse today without speaking to media. Hearrean has said he's worried citizens may seek vigilante justice and his client may not get a fair trial.

Suspect In Mall Attack Bails Out

A Spokane sex offender facing a potential life sentence for allegedly molesting a girl at the NorthTown Mall is out of jail. Richard Michael Payne, 55, posted $250,000 bond through a bonding company and was released from Spokane County Jail about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Payne is under court orders not to contact children or visit places where children gather. He's also wearing an ankle monitor that tracks his movements, said his lawyer, David Hearrean. “I just don't want people to go out and try to take the law into their own hands,” Hearrean said. “What happened to innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?”/Meghann Cuniff, Sirens & Gavels. More here.

Question: Would you let this guy back out of jail?

Sex offender released on $250k bond

A Spokane sex offender facing a potential life sentence for allegedly molesting a girl at the NorthTown Mall is out of jail.

Richard Michael Payne, 55, posted $250,000 bond through a bonding company and was released from Spokane County Jail about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Payne is under court orders not to contact children or visit places where children gather. He's also wearing an ankle monitor that tracks his movements, said his lawyer, David Hearrean.

"I just don't want people to go out and try to take the law into their own hands," Hearrean said. "What happened to innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?"

Payne posted the bond through Smith Family Bail Bonds. Owner Chris Smith said he requires customers to pay 10 percent of the bond in cash and rarely allows extended payment plans. He declined to discuss the details of Payne's payment but said Payne is being mointored by a GPS tracker.

"We can actually see where he is within two meters at all times," Smith said.

Hearrean said Payne is entitled to a reasonable bond.

"I just assure you he's under close monitoring. Not only by the bond company but by the court and others, including me," Hearrean said. "He's not gong to violate any release conditions."

Smith said he also is worried citizens may seek "vigilante justice."

"As a professional bondsman, I understand when people in the community are considered when people in cases like this post a bond," Smith said. "It is our job to keep that community risk as low as absolutely possible."

Payne is to be back in court on July 5 for an arraignment.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese cited Payne's danger to the community when she approved the $250,000 bond requested by the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office Wednesday afternoon.

One court official said it's the highest bond he's ever seen for a non-murder case.

Payne is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He served 3 1/2 years in prison for grabbing a 9-year-old girl's crotch and buttocks while at a North Division Street store in 2001. He also has two convictions for fourth-degree assault that stem from child molestation claims, as well as a public indecency in Oregon in 1985 for fondling himself at a Sears store.

He has no further criminal history in Washington state.

Payne was arrested Tuesday after a Spokane police detective identified him as the man who touched a 5-year-old girl's  back, buttocks and upper thighs while exposing himself at Bumpers Family Fun Center in the mall on June 21. The girl's 11-year-old sister saw the incident, and the girls ran to tell their mother, who was shopping in another part of the mall.

Police obtained surveillance video of the incident and identified Payne through the sex offender registry.

He faces a charge of first-degree child molestation. He could stay in prison for the rest of his life if convicted. State law requires that sex offenders undergo risk assessments before being considered for release from prison.

Hearrean declined to discuss how Payne was able to come up with the bond money.

He said he fears his client won't be able to get a fair trial.

"Everybody deserves a fair trial," Hearrean said.

Cops: Sex offender molested girl at mall

UPDATE: Payne bonded out of jail last night. Look for a follow up later.

A child molester with a history of sex crimes in public places could be jailed for life after he was arrested for exposing himself to a girl at the NorthTown Mall in Spokane.

Richard Michael Payne, 55, is accused of molesting a 5-year-old girl June 21 as she and her 11-year-old sister were playing in Bumpers Family Fun Center while their mother shopped.

Read the rest of my story here.

Wholesale Sports relocating from Spokane Valley Mall to NorthTown in July

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Wholesale Sports is relocating its only Spokane store to NorthTown Mall. The Calgary-based outdoor equipment retailer recently closed a store in Spokane Valley Mall and will open its North Spokane location in July, company marketing vice president Jimm Holland said.

It’s moving into about 30,000 square feet on the first floor of the mall last used by Steve & Barry. The original tenant was Emporium.

Wholesale Sports has 14 locations in Washington, Montana and Idaho and 11 stores in western Canada.

Holland said all employees at the Spokane Valley store were offered jobs at the new location.   The Spokane store was formerly Sportsman's Warehouse until the Canadian company acquired the firm's Western U.S. locations.

Marshalls to open its first Spokane store this Thursday

Long-awaited Marshalls will open its new Spokane location this Thursday, March 8.

The company is one of the country's larger off-price retailers, offering a variety of clothing for men and women. The Spokane store will fill 26,300 square feet in NorthTown Mall, last used by the NorthTown Rack.

This will be the first Marshalls store in the Spokane area.

Grand opening hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Store hours are 9;30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. -8 p.m. Sundays.

The store will hire about 60 full- and part-time workers.

Word leaks out: Spokane’s Marshalls store to open in March at NorthTown

Last year people at NorthTown Mall noted that Marshalls, a popular women's clothing retailer, will move there this year. Our previous story said Marshalls will go into the spot vacated by the Nordstrom Rack.

We've been contacted by a spokesperson from the company, saying it will open the store in Spokane in March. This will be the first Marshalls in the Spokane area. 

The company is remodeling the 25,000-square foot location, spending about $700,000. The parent company of Marshalls and TJ Maxx is TJX Companies of Framingham, Mass.

Photo:  Seattle's Marshalls store at Southcenter.

Mall robbery suspect arrested at Costco

Police say a man who stole a pair of shoes at knifepoint from the Northtown Mall on Wednesday had asked the store employee for help with his out-of-gas car just before the robbery.

 The employee helped the man pushed his Red Dodge Ram pickup into a parking spot, only to be threatened 30 minutes later after confronting him for stealing a pair of shoes from Champs Sports, police say.

Police identified Jason M. Giles, 33, (pictured) as a suspect on Thursday after he was arrested in a similar robbery at Costco, 7619 N. Division St.

A Costco employee confronted Giles about 4:45 p.m. after observing him hide merchandise in his coat and try to leave the store. Giles punched the employee and bit another employee before pulling a knife and trying to stab another, according to court documents prepared by police.

Giles was arrested on charges of first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and possession of methamphetamine. Detectives met with him at the jail and booked him on an additional robbery charge for the Champs Sports incident.

Giles appeared in Spokane County Superior Court via video from the jail, where he remains on $50,000 bond and a probation hold. He has a previous conviction for second-degree assault for a shooting in 2009.

Theft turns to robbery at Northtown Mall

Police are looking for a man who pulled a knife on a shoe store employee Tuesday night at the Northtown Mall.

The manager at Champs Sports told officers the man tried on a pair of shoes, then left without paying and threatened the manager with a knife when confronted, according to the Spokane Police Department. No one was injured.

The man ran through the mall and exited on the east side, then continued running east.

A K-9 track was unsuccessful. The robber is described as a white man, 20 to 30 years old, 6-feet tall and 180 pounds. He wore a blue coat over a dark hoodie and a stocking cap.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Marshalls will open a store in NorthTown Mall this winter

Clothing retailer Marshalls will move into the vacated NorthTown Mall location last used by the Nordstrom Rack.

A Spokane city building permit notes that Marshalls, a division of TJX Companies of Framingham, Mass., will remodel the 25,000-square-foot location and open this winter.

It will spend about $700,000 on the new project, according to the city permit.

TJX also owns and operates T.J. Maxx stores nationwide and across Canada.

This would be the first Marshall’s location in Spokane. Ten Marshalls stores operate in the Puget Sound area.

A Marshalls company brochure says it offers brand-name family apparel, home fashions and other merchandise including toys.

The company calls itself an “off-price retailer,” meaning its product prices fall below those of better-known brands.

TJX Companies’ investor information noted it’s opening more than 100 T.J. Maxx or Marshalls stores in the North America and Europe this year alone.  

The chart here, found at the TJX investor relations page, is a snapshot of the giant company's current store locations and a look ahead to where it sees future growth.  ENLARGE the graphic by double-clicking on it.

The top grouping is for the entire United States. That top bar includes the Marshalls stores and the far more numerous T.J. Maxx stores. The fifth bar is out of date; it shows no Marshalls stores in Canada, but the company has opened five or more there already. In fact, the Spokane store may well be part of the play to get more business with its fans in British Columbia.

The bottom line (literally) on this chart is the projection that TJX thinks it can add more than 4,000 new stores in the U.S., Canada and overseas. 

That's a lot of confidence…

Beauty shop operator arrested for rape

The operator of a beauty shop in the NorthTown Mall in Spokane is in jail on rape charges involving two of his teenage employees.

Thomas C. Rohn, 37, is accused of sexually assaulting the 18- and 19-year-old women on separate occasions at his apartment in Airway Heights after they were hired to work at the mall beauty and spa kiosk.

Rohn operates the business with his roommate, Kirk Willis, who said Wednesday that he doesn’t know what happened but added that he doesn’t condone the alleged acts.

Read the rest of my story here.

Robbery suspects were wannabe roomies

Three teenagers accused of robbing women in north Spokane parking lots say they planned to use the money to get an apartment together, according to court documents.

Now Donovan T. Johnson, 18; Keona A. Crossley, 19; and Logan R. Sims, 18, are sharing space at Spokane County's crossbar motel.

The suspects were arrested Saturday after a standoff at Crossley's home at 1903 E. Decatur. Police found suspect Logan R. Sims, 18, in a nearby yard.

Johnson told detectives that two days befor the hesits, he and the other suspects discussed getting an apartment.

"Keona Crossley said they needed to do some licks to get money," according to a probable cause affidavit. "Crossley talked about finding women and taking their purses from them. Sims said he could get a gun to help them do the robberies."

Johnson said Crossley got a shutgun from a friend, but Sims used a black handgun to commit the first robbery at the North Colton Street Wal-Mart. The victim said Sims punched her in the face after she told him she didn't have any money, according to the affidavit.

Johnson said he didn't see Sims point the gun at the second victim outside Northtown Mall, but that he did have the gun on him during the robbery, police said.

A witness then reported occupants of a tan vehicle were dropping credit cards and receipts into the roadway near North Napa Street and East Central Avenue.

The cards belonged to the Northtown robbery victim, police said.

Police arrived at Crossley's home after locating a Cadillac matching the description of the car used in the robberies

All remain in jail on $75,000 bond after Judge Michael Price deemed them significant risks to the community.

Sims and Johnson are scheduled to graduate from high school next week.

Ben Bridge jewelers to move into River Park Square this summer

Ben Bridge Jeweler, the well-known retailer of rings, gems and pendants, will open a store in River Park Square this summer.

RPS is managed by the Cowles Co., which also owns and operates The Spokesman-Review.

A release Thursday noted Ben Bridge will move into the first-level space occupied by The Walking Company, the footwear retailer.

Walking Company will take over the second-level location last used by Sunglass Hut. Sunglass Hut has already moved into a new second-level kiosk due west of the escalators.

Demolition work is underway on the Sunglass Hut shop just off the escalator.

Ben Bridge, founded about 100 years ago, operates locations across the country. It has one other Spokane store in NorthTown Mall.

Other options to feed your Godiva sweet tooth

Godiva Chocolatier last week closed its downtown Spokane kiosk in River Park Square. And just in time for Valentine's!

We decided to hunt down other retailers who carry the well-liked Godiva brand.

We found these three:

  • Barnes & Noble Booksellers, both the north Division shop and in the Spokane Valley Mall.
  • Chocolate Apothecary in the Flour Mill, in downtown Spokane.
  • And Macy's, in the Spokane Valley Mall.

If we missed any other retailers, please let us know.

Nordstrom offers shoppers an online Rack experience

North Spokane residents who are disappointed that the Nordstrom Rack store moved last month from NorthTown to Spokane Valley Mall can now do their Rack-shopping online.

Last month, the Seattle retailer launched an online section to Nordstrom.com that features some of the items sold at its off-price, discount Rack store.

Nordstrom has been opening new Rack stores around the country, including one not long ago in the middle of Manhattan.  The online expansion is a sign that the company realizes many of its customers are more mindful than ever of the option of shopping for price.

The company now has 86 Rack stores in 23 states.  In its SEC documents, the company has noted that, while monthly sales at Nordstrom stores declined from mid-2008 to late 2009, the Rack division has posted growth in the low- to mid-single digits.

Nordstrom Rack kicks off next week with $2,000 shopping spree

For fans of high-end discount shopping, the news is Nordstrom’s Rack will reopen on Oct. 28 at 10 a.m., at the Spokane Valley Plaza. It’s filling 30,000 square feet next to Old Navy (in the building due west of the west side entrance to Spokane Valley Mall).

The retailer will close the NorthTown Rack store on Tuesday and spend all day Wednesday making the final move of equipment, supplies and inventory.  The new store will have roughly 70 workers.

On Wednesday Oct. 27 we’ll do a short story and give people a heads-up on getting ready for the $2,000 Run through the Rack Contest. An explanation is offered here. But our story will give you some clues on what to do, if you’re the winner, of the $2,000 or 90-second shopping spree.

The Nordstrom Rack is the company’s wide-selection unit devoted to discounted items and overstock.

Nordstrom Rack likes the Spokane Valley, leaves NorthTown Mall

Nordstrom Rack is moving east, to be closer to the highway and closer to North Idaho. Those are the reasons given by the Seattle-based clothing retailer for leaving the NorthTown Mall and taking up a 30,000-square-foot space in the Spokane Valley Plaza.

It expects the Rack, Valley version, will open in October. It’s taking space last used by Linens ‘n Things, in a triplex flanked by Sportsman’s Warehouse and Old Navy, west of the Spokane Valley Mall.

The Rack is the off-price division of Nordstrom that offers merchandise from other stores at significant discounts.

The new store will offer more retail space and is closer to Interstate 90, offering easier access for more customers along the Spokane-Idaho corridor, a Nordstrom press release noted