ATLANTIC CITY — Tourists strolling through Tanger Outlets The Walk are seeing some changes in the retail district during the unofficial start of the summer vacation season this Memorial Day weekend.

On the positive side, new stores, outside live events and growing cooperation among businesses will make the outdoor shopping mall a more vibrant spot.

But the changes are needed as empty storefronts were still visible on a recent visit, although some advertised a new store will move into the space soon.

Several blocks within The Walk on Atlantic Avenue between Michigan and Missouri avenues used to house Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Ruby Tuesday, Longhorn Steakhouse, the Melting Pot and AC Diner restaurants. Only Ruth’s Chris remains.

When Tanger Factory Outlet Centers purchased The Walk retail outlets from the Cordish Co. in 2011, there were nearly 100 outlet stores in the area of Atlantic, Baltic, Michigan and Arkansas avenues, Tanger announced.

Currently, there are 72 businesses in operation within The Walk.

Donna J. Danielson, general manager, Tanger Outlets, The Walk, said that in the past year, nine retailers were chosen to open or reopen specifically to benefit the resort’s market.

These retailers include Forever 21, Hanes, Express Factory Store, Nautica Factory Store, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store and Vans Outlet.

“In addition to these in-demand brand name and designer retailers, Tanger Outlets The Walk is excited to welcome Palace Diamonds this summer,” Danielson said.

Some of the closures The Walk could do nothing about as entire chains have gone out of business, including Toys R Us, Payless ShoeSource and the clothing retail company Charlotte Russe. The women’s clothing chain Dressbarn announced Tuesday it will be going out of the business. Its location in The Walk will close by the end of next month.

During the first quarter of this year, the softline brick-and-mortar industry, such as clothing retailers, lost 3,125 stores, according to a report this month by Jay Sole, an analyst at the investment firm USB.

“Softline stores are increasingly succumbing to the pressure of falling store traffic and profit margins due to the rise of e-commerce,” Sole wrote.

This Memorial Day, visitors who do come to The Walk to shop can expect to find the season’s top items at value prices with both traditional Memorial Day sales and its sidewalk sale, Danielson said.

A block party was held Saturday and included a DJ, photo booth, games and Tanger Outlets prizes, Danielson said.

From July 4 through Aug. 29, Thursday nights will feature a Live@5 event series that will include live music and activities, Danielson said.

“This is a new program,” Danielson said.

The Tun Tavern Restaurant & Brewery in the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center hotel is located just outside of The Walk but across the street from Wingcraft Kitchen & Beer Bar, which is in The Walk.

There is a synergy between the Tun Tavern and the three Walk eateries located in the western part of the retail center on or near Baltic Avenue — Wingcraft, Applebee’s and the Cavo Crepe Cafe — said Monty Dahm, the Tun Tavern owner.

“They are great places to eat as well,” said Dahm, who added The Walk brings customers to the Tun Tavern area who normally would not be there.

“If they (shoppers) are going to eat at one place one time, then they will eat at another place another time.”

Restaurants on the western side of The Walk have advantage over those on the eastern side for parking.

Tun Tavern and Applebee’s have their own parking lots, and The Wave parking garage at Mississippi and Fairmount avenues is visible from those restaurants. The Sheraton has its own parking garage, and there is at least one private lot for The Walk patrons.

Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant & Bar on Atlantic Avenue is located one block outside of The Walk between Michigan and Ohio avenues.

The Mexican-and-vegan-inspired fusion restaurant has faced all the challenges The Walk restaurants on Atlantic Avenue have dealt with, including a lack of parking, the Great Recession, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the casino closings that took place between 2014 and 2016.

“You have to have a certain amount of fear to keep you motivated to look out there and try to come up with a way to do it better, or to interest the customers more, to take care of your employees, to make sure your employees are focused,” said Curtis Taylor Sr., the Los Amigos owner, whose restaurant celebrates its 40th anniversary next month.

City Council President Marty Small, Sr. said his family shops at The Walk. He has seen some empty storefronts.

“Because the storefronts are empty, that doesn’t mean they are not under contract or closed for renovation or working out a new lease with a new tenant,” Small said.

Small, who added both locals and tourists shop at The Walk, said he trusts Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, the real estate investment trust headquartered Greensboro, North Carolina, that owns The Walk.

“It’s a nationally renowned organization, and I’m sure that people are bullish on Atlantic City, and they will do the right thing to get those vacant stores up and running in time for the summer season,” Small said.

Contact: 609-272-7202 VJackson@pressofac.com

Twitter@ACPressJackson

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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