Ashtabula Towne Square

A GROUP of local investors have purchased the Ashtabula Towne Square.

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP – Local investors have purchased the Ashtabula Towne Square, 3315 N. Ridge Road (Route 20).

Sure Fire Group, LLC purchased the mall Thursday for $6.1 million from Morgan Stanley Capital I Inc. Morgan Stanley Capital I bought the property from a receivership.

Sure Fire Group, LLC is an Ohio Domestic Limited Liability Co. filed on Sept. 16. The registered agent on file for this company is Kenneth A. Kister of Ashtabula. He said four different groups — all local — share ownership.

“We’re doing this for the community,” Kister said. “We felt local investors would be the best stewards for the property.”

Joseph Pete, vice chairman of the Ashtabula Township trustees, said he is very excited about the purchase.

“I’m glad local investors bought it,” he said. “I hear they are going to make it a very nice place, like it used to be.”

Ashtabula Township trustee Bambi Paulchel said, “It’s a wonderful step forward.”

Daniel Claypool, chairman of the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners, said Friday the commissioners were aware the sale was proceeding.

“We have not talked directly to (Kister) about it,” he said. “The commissioners have pushed for some time to have the property sold so it could move on. It has sat in court for so many years.

“Whatever Mr. Kister decides to do with the property, we will support him,” Claypool said.

Kister said the site will stay a retail mall and several people already have approached him about space for the holiday season — and beyond.

Don Iannone, executive director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, said he was “delighted” by the news.

Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere said he’s happy the mall is under the ownership of a local group.

“The fact that they want to keep it retail is very important,” he said. “I am confident the owners, who are well aware of our market, will make the necessary changes needed to attract viable tenants and keep the stores we have.”

Timonere urged area residents to support the mall and to shop locally.

“That is the only true way we can guarantee retail options in our area,” he said.

Kister said he envisions the mall revived and busy with lots of stores, a food court and a restaurant — as it was in 1992.

Ashtabula Towne Square opened 22 years ago as the Ashtabula Mall. It was a popular shopping destination for local residents. It has the capacity for 70 stores, plus a food court, and a six-screen movie theater.

JCPenney and Super Kmart now serve as the anchor stores.

When the mall opened, it offered shoppers a Dillard's, JCPenney, Kmart, Phar-Mor, Carlisle’s and Sears. Throughout the past 10 years, it suffered a sharp decline, seemingly losing store after store.

In July, Bank of America foreclosed on the owners of Ashtabula Towne Square, according to U.S. District Court, Ohio Northern District Court, Cleveland office, records.

Cabot Investment Properties, also known as Cabot Ashtabula 1-30 LLC, owned the mall since 2008, but defaulted on its loan, court records show. Bank of America was the company’s financial lender.

A mall store manager, who spoke on the basis of anonymity, said it was common knowledge that the mall was in receivership and seeking a buyer.

Staff writer Mark Todd contributed to this story.

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