Saturday, December 27, 2014

C’mon, Let's Play... But Not in Tucker

Venerable toy store exiting Northlake market.

Wayne, New Jersey-based Toys Я Us is closing its Northlake (Tower) Festival store in Tucker.  The store began liquidation sales today and will close for good on January 25th.  As far as I know, Toys Я Us is an original tenant, dating back to the center's opening in 1984.
Stock photo of  the classic Toys Я Us storefront pre late 90s renovation 
The Northlake Toys Я Us was quite possibly one of the first in Georgia for the popular toy store.  Signs at the store directed customers to "nearby" Toys Я Us stores in Buckhead, Duluth and Smyrna.  

The Northlake location is currently offering up to 40% off in- stock merchandise with some exclusions like Apple products and gift cards.  As seen in the photo below, the store's stock of products like Barbie was already pretty light by mid-day Friday.  
The Northlake area has seen a dramatic decline in national retailers over the past decade with Toys Я Us being the most recent.  
The vacant Bally Total Fitness 
The 367,000 square foot Northlake Festival was once home to a number of well known chain stores from Haverty's / ROSS Dress For Less and Office Max to Michael's and Bally Total Fitness. (Michael's relocated to the former Drug Emporium across the street)

The center was also home to a number of chain businesses that simply don't exist any longer.  A Kids Я Us was previously in a separate space within the center, as were Blockbuster Video, hifi buys and a Black-eyed Pea restaurant which still exists, just not in Georgia. 

The former Office Max was reborn as a Goodwill while hifi buys (site of my family's first DVD player) became a Monkey Joe's. Black-eyed Pea became Jason's Deli while Blockbuster became Uniform City, and Sport Shoe became Starbucks and AT&T Clear Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint

Gorin's Homemade Ice Cream & Sandwiches, scene of my 9th birthday party, is now the offices of Meredith Enterprises Inc., the center's current owner.  (Meredith Enterprises, known then as West Coast Realty Investors Inc., purchased the center in 2002 for $20.4 million or $57 per square foot.)  

AMC Theatres 8, also an original tenant, closed in 2002, and reopened as Movie Tavern, a dinner and movie concept, in 2008.  Movie Tavern remains in business today.  

The School Box has moved three times within the center. Currently, I believe the school supply store occupies what was originally Michael's.  The previous move took The School Box from a space near what was OfficeMax to a space closer to Jason's Deli, previously occupied by ULTA, if memory serves. The more recent move freed up space for Hancock Fabric to reopen in Northlake Festival from their current home in Suburban Plaza.  

A freestanding Fuddrucker's restaurant, an eatery my family frequented in my childhood, is now a Resurgens Bank. A separate outparcel previously home to a Taco Bell was demolished and became a new Chick-fil-A in 2011.

SAS Shoes has been the center many years, and operates only a handful of metro stores.  PetSmart occupies a space to the right of Toys Я Us and survived the opening and later closure of Petco at nearby Briarcliff Village.  

Northlake Festival's longest tenured tenant may just be its tallest as well.  662 feet up in the middle of the center's parking lots sits the transmitter for WSB AM.  

Interestingly, Northlake Festival, along with neighboring Northlake Square, were recently awarded to the proposed City of Tucker.  The City of Tucker would also include the adjacent Kroger, the CSM plant on Montreal Road and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Atlanta on Northlake Parkway.  The proposed city of LaVista Hills would include Northlake Mall, Briarcliff Village.  Essentially, LaVista Hills gets everything along the Northlake Mall side of LaVista Road while Tucker would get everything on the Northlake Festival side.  

The shared boundary between the two potential municipalities is reportedly “set in stone,” despite the fact that neither side is completely pleased or an actual city yet.  

My friends at The Brookhaven Post have an informative post and map detailing the boundaries of each proposed city.  
Given the current state of both Northlake Festival and Northlake Mall, redevelopment of some kind is likely in the next few years.  

As I've mentioned previously, the Northlake area as a whole is a sought after market, especially for quick serve restaurants.  Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panda Express, Chick-fil-A, Bojangles' and Hudson Grille have all opened new locations in the Northlake area in the past few years.  


Anonymous said...

When did the Best Buy that was at Northlake Tower Festival close? It appears that there is now only a "Best Buy Mobile" inside Northlake
Mall, and I distinctly remember a large Best Buy somewhere in the immediate area.

Atlantan99 said...


There is still a Best Buy store in the Northlake area, just not in Northlake Tower Festival. Best Buy anchors the adjacent center, Northlake Square, in a renovated Big Star grocery space. Northlake Square is on the other side of Northlake Tower Festival, separated by a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and BP gas station.

Thanks for your readership and comments.

Carl Black said...

Thanks as always for the GREAT history! Just wanted to add that, prior to Clear, that space to the right of SBUX was one of the first AT&T Wireless stores in the state. After the merger and rebranding, they kept the older BellSouth Mobility/Cingular Wireless store across from the mall and closed this one. I'm guessing Carvel is also one of the older tenants there, although I have no idea when they opened.

Anonymous said...

I forgot about the adjacent Northlake Square, where Best Buy is located, so please ignore the above post. (With Northlake Mall, Northlake Tower Festival, Northlake Square, Northlake II (I guess that's still its name), and Briarcliff Village, it's easy to become confused.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed article. The Toysrus never seemed to be that crowded. I hate to hear another store is leaving this center. I don't remember the Ross Dress for Less. I think the biggest challenge with this center is so much of it is hidden from the road.

Anonymous said...

Here are some other random early-day tenants of the Festival:

Men's Wear Outlet (next to Toys R Us)
Glass etc (between Toys R Us and J Brannon)
J Brannon (hair salon?)
Gadgets (bar)
Maximilians (womens' clothing)
Accent on Nails (manicure)
The Diamond Collection
Computers Mean Business (seller of pc's)
Gracious Gourmet (caterer)
Dance Barre (dance shop)
Oshman Sporting Goods (near what is now Monkey Joes)
Vermillion (gift shop, like Spencer's)
Monterrey Mexican (before present location)
TCBY (was near Bally's)
Hi-Fi Buys

I distinctly remember looking around when it opened, and noting that most of the places were no-name artsy/crafty/greeting card type of shops. But that was better than the wasteland that it is now.

I doubt it will be redeveloped any time soon. It looks identical to a similar dead strip mall on Pleasant Hill, just a bit west of I85, which has remained in a dead state for 10+ years.

At least the area is a leader in attracting 'fast casual' dining (which is a good euphemism for 'low brow').


Scott Alexander said...

The chick fil a originally was built (prior to Taco Bell) as a "D-Lites". It featured hamburgers that were supposedly less in fat that McD's. Just an fyi

Michael Murphy said...

I used to manage the AlphaGraphics (later betaCOPY after disenfranchisement) that was next to Carvel. We were originally in Suite 117 and Carvel was further down and we were both moved to accommodate the arrival of OfficeMax. On the other side of Carvel was a hearing aid place and Eyes-Rite (run by Roberta).

Anonymous said...

I live less than 2 miles from Northlake but haven't gone there to shop in years. They don't have any stores I like, and it's unsafe for a woman to go alone. The last time I went to Northlake Mall, I was almost plowed down by a gang of thugs walking the mall. I will never go back to the mall or any store or restaurant in that area. It has changed beyond belief.

Save Tucker! said...

You must have been on the Lavista Hills side then because those things don't happen on the Tucker side of Northlake!

Anonymous said...

The whole Northlake area is a dump whether it is called Tucker or not. Just look at the ghetto housing along Brockett road and the class of the residents to see where the area has long been headed to. Making this area a part of a city would not help the neighborhood crazies any, but it will clean up the commercial areas.

Aside from that, I used to work at the Toys R Us. Was a whole lot of fun working with the group. Had a great management team there. Cheryl Crawford was the store manager way back when.

Mr G said...

Excellent article, thank you very much. I went today (12/29) with my kid; while some areas are already picked over, there are a lot of good deals, and more to come as they get closer to closing. Sad news for Tucker for the future, though; I've been going to this store since 1999, and will miss it when it's gone.

Anonymous said...

Bought a lot of diapers back in the day at Toys R Us. And the hot fudge sauce at Gorins, loved it.

Trey said...

I was there for the opening in 84, they had MR. T there signing autographs as it was the hey day of the A-Team.

Anonymous said...

I believe the Black-Eyed Pea/Jason's location was also home at one time to a restaurant called Sgt. Pepper's.

Anonymous said...

1. Comment from anonymous: The ghetto housing along Brockett has been annexed into Clarkston. 2. Northlake Festival Shopping Center is listed for sale on LoopNet.

Anonymous said...

@ "Save Tucker". The Northlake festival side has as much or more crime as the Mall. Mostly smash and grabs, but some violence too. That Kroger side is downright scary. I'll do my shopping where there will be a dedicated police presence, thank you. Dekalb sure isn't handling it right now! But the PTB in Tucker and the Tucker flag wavers all think it's "good enough" for us. Terribly short sighted of them seeing as there will be better patrolled alternatives across the street soon. What with that and the disaster of Lawrenceville Hwy that creates a 4 mile junk yard entrance to the town, they sure do set the bar low for our future progress. Time to move in town before property sinks even lower out here.

Marjorie said...

I have been shopping weekly at that Kroger, often late at night, for ten years, and never had so much as an odd encountered. Mystifies as to what anyone could find "Scary".

Marjorie said...

Yeah, that world class orthopedic hospital and chemo clinic. What a junkyard!!

Anonymous said...

Toys R Us is now owned by Bain Capital. They are in the process of running Toys R Us in the ground. This is probably the real reason Toys R Us is closing.

Anonymous said...

Northlake Tower Festival hasn't been worth a stop in a very long time. Too bad. It used to have some decent stores. But when it started going downhill, it sure went fast.

Anonymous said...

This was the first Toys R US that I visited as a kid. I am glad my kids got to go there before it closed. It will be missed. Such memories of the high shelves and long aisles that you had to go down before they renovated.

Anonymous said...

Very sad indeed, I moved from South Georgia to the Northlake area in my senior year of high school in '99 and have since moved to Smyrna/Vinnings about 2 years ago. The area has really gone down and it hurts to see what is happening. I am hopeful though that the centralized location will help eventually drive re-development.

Julie said...

Me too. I still remember the entrance and original Nintendo game wall. So sad. ��

Julie said...

Brought tears to my eyes to see TRU close. I went there all the time as a kid in the 80's and remember it's original layout with the huge Nintendo game case (at least it felt huge to me as a kid lol) and the high shelves and long aisles. So many memories. Glad I had a few with my own kids before it closed. Am really going to miss it. 😢

Anonymous said...

Hey I heard that possibly A Hobby Lobby might move into the old TRU location. any truth to this rumor???