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Friday, June 26, 2020

Brooks Brothers, One of The Avenue's Last Original Tenants, is Permanently Closing at Tower City

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 9:58 AM

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  • Illustration by Scene
Brooks Brothers, the upscale men's clothing store that was one of the original tenants at the Avenue at Tower City, is closing its downtown Cleveland location permanently.

A truck was seen loading out the store's inventory Wednesday afternoon. A company spokesman confirmed to Scene Thursday night that the store had been temporarily closed due to Covid-19 and that it would not re-open.

In 1990, when the former Cleveland Union Terminal was dramatically transformed into "The Avenue" shopping mall at the hands of Forest City Enterprises, Brooks Brothers was one of the swanky tenants that signed early leases.

Alongside Gianni Versace boutique, Gucci, Bally's of Switzerland, Harve Benard and the Los Angeles men's clothier Politix, Brooks Brothers fit squarely with Forest City's plan to create a high-end, specialty retail destination for Cleveland shoppers. Market research had shown them that many affluent Clevelanders shopped via catalog or "went on shopping sprees in New York and Chicago" because of an upscale retail vacuum in Northeast Ohio.  

These high-end outlets were supplemented by shopping mall staples — Waldenbooks, The Disney Store, Victoria's Secret, J.B. Robinson Jewelers, GAP Kids, a food court — to create a bustling, splendid urban retail environment. It was, especially during the winter holiday season and especially for city kids growing up in the 90s, a really unique and magical place.

Brooks Brothers and Footlocker, which is also temporarily closed, had been the only retail outlets that remained from The Avenue's original tenant list. (Not even McDonald's and Sbarro survived.) Now it's down to Footlocker.

Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Detroit owns the Avenue at Tower City. A  representative there told Scene by email that they could not comment on current leases at the location. They could not, therefore, answer whether or not Brooks Brothers' decision had anything to do with the looming specter of "City Block," the reimagined entrepreneurial hub that sprang from the minds of local car-salesman / blockchain investor Bernie Moreno and lawyer Jon Pinney.

Moreno initially envisioned City Block as a blockchain startup hub with a "campus atmosphere" that would include a CMSD K-12 school. That vision has evolved. Bedrock Detroit agreed in principal last year to a reconfigured City Block that would still "occupy a substantial portion of The Avenue Shops at Tower City."

According to then-Bedrock Chairman Jim Ketai, City Block will "bring together corporations, technology start-ups, venture capitalists and the broader community in a world-class entrepreneurial center."

The Brooks Brothers spokesman declined to elaborate on the store's lease situation and City Block as well, saying only that Brooks Brothers' other Northeast Ohio location, at Eton Chagrin, will remain open.

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