Mall tenants, city officials remain hopeful after mall closes

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Sunglass World is one of many stores being impacted by the closing of the Panama City Mall.

Tony Werden, the vice president of sales and marketing for Sunglass World said, "It is a little emotional for us as that was one of our first in-line stores. It was one of the stores that we actually started the company at."

Werden says shortly after the hurricane, mall management asked them to check out their stores to see how they fared.

He added, "About a week after that we were told that we needed to clear out everything from our stores."

Hendon Properties manages the mall and says around 500 employees will lose their jobs because of the closing.

Sunglass World has other locations and has been able to relocate its workers.

Werden added, "We've been fortunate enough that we've been able to take care of some of our employees and still service the area."

However, that's not the case for many other employees who depend on the mall for their income.

It's an impact for workers, store owners, and shoppers, but as one door closes, city officials are hopeful new doors will open.

Billy Rader, the Panama City Commissioner for Ward 3 said, "I have full faith that things come in full cycle."

He's optimistic the mall property will eventually be transformed into a new and improved place to shop.

Rader added, "Things will come back around with the mall. It'll be a different type of development and I think that people will embrace it."

For now, the city will have to focus on the future, to get past what Hurricane Michael helped take away.

Werden said, "Hopefully there will be some type of redevelopment there. You'd love to see that for the town and the community."