South DeKalb Macy’s prepares to close, and shoppers worry what’s next

This Macy’s, at The Gallery at South DeKalb, is closing in a few months, company officials announced on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM.
This Macy’s, at The Gallery at South DeKalb, is closing in a few months, company officials announced on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM.

Charlie Mae Adams came to the Macy's at The Gallery at South DeKalb on Saturday in search of some nice shoes. The store has been a fixture in South DeKalb for more than 50 years, but Macy's announced Tuesday it's closing the department store in a few months.

Adams and others said they are worried about the future of Macy’s employees and the mall itself. This Macy’s, formerly a Rich’s, has been a part of this community since the mall opened in 1968. It stayed in south DeKalb, one of the first suburban destinations for working-class African American families, when other businesses and residents left.

“Oh God, it’s going to take a whole lot from here,” said Adams, who’s shopped at Macy’s for 30 years, but was unsuccessful in her shoe search. “A lot of people will have to find somewhere else to work.”

Macy’s headquarters has offered few specifics about why this location is closing, what will happen to the store, or its 80 employees. A company spokeswoman said last week such decisions are difficult.

“In today’s retail space, we continuously review our brick-and-mortar locations, evaluate opportunities to maximize value and ensure the sustainable, long-term growth and success of our store business,” said the spokeswoman, Lauren Vocelle.

Large brick-and-mortar stores have had a difficult time in recent years, as more Americans prefer to shop online. The Macy's at North DeKalb Mall closed in 2016. The Gwinnett Place location, like the mall itself, has struggled.

Adams said she’s been a Macy’s regular because she likes to look at and touch items before she buys them. Adams, 77, said younger family members are more comfortable with shopping on their smartphones.

“The age of disruption is here,” DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson, whose district includes the mall, said during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Such challenges were evident Saturday. There were few teenagers, the typical lifeblood of a department store, inside Macy’s around midday. Some customers complained about the lack of good deals, although some items were 75% off.

“The prices are too high, even for a regular Macy’s,” said Vlad Pop, 35, a north DeKalb County resident, as he exited the store empty-handed. “I see why it’s closing.”

Vlad and his wife, Elena, heard about the store’s closing and came there in search of bargains. They typically shop at outlet malls near Ga. 400 in North Georgia or online.

“If they had good prices, I would definitely consider coming here because it’s closer to 400,” said Elena, 33.

The mall, located near I-20 and Candler Road, is largely filled with sporting goods and jewelry stores. The Macy’s has three levels and a sign promoting a storewide sale.

“Let’s shop girl!,” one woman said as she walked inside Macy’s with three other women.

Foot traffic was brisk inside Macy’s, but many shoppers had bags with items from some of those stores.

The Rev. Cyril Daniel lamented Macy’s coming end and pondered the mall’s future as he sat in the food court Saturday handing out small cards with information about Tabernacle Church, where he is one of the ministers.

“It’s going to be a big problem for the people who shop here,” Daniel said. “Who’s going to take that big spot there?”

In Other News