The POOL Together indoor market is closing after less than a year of operation in Mesa, leaving 29 merchants to scramble for new locations.
POOL had been seen as an innovative way to reuse one of the Valley’s roughly 300 empty big-box stores while serving as an incubator for budding entrepreneurs. Even the Wall Street Journal took notice.
But the concept unraveled by late summer in the midst of a slow economy, the hasty exit of a co-founder and mounting complaints from tenants that the owner wasn’t building up the concept.
Josh Krize operated a coffee shop in POOL until November, and he said he wasn’t surprised at the closing. Krize left after promises of new tenants, several restaurants, marketing, a grand opening and more were pushed back, scaled down or never materialized.
“They didn’t deliver what they were going to do,” Krize said. “The coffee shop is kind of like the therapist. Everybody came over and it was the same complaint.”
Krize said he and others became disillusioned after the departure of co-founder Skyler Hynes, whom he considered the project’s visionary. POOL had 53 merchants at its peak but Hynes said he was asked to leave in September, which triggered merchants to exit.
A key to POOL was having merchants who sold things shoppers wanted on a regular basis, Hynes said, while keeping out flea market-type shops. But the owners changed the standards and pulled back on investments, he said.
“The concept did not really get the opportunity to get to fruition,” Hynes said. “I hope the silver lining in this situation is that some of these businesses find homes in Mesa’s downtown or wherever.”
The Downtown Mesa Association has met with displaced merchants and is trying to match them with property owners and leasing agents, DMA Executive Director David Short said. Many business owners want to keep working in a shared space, Short said.
POOL will remain open through Feb. 5, with altered hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
California-based GRL Mesa Investments poured more than $2 million to renovate the former Mervyn’s building at the northeast corner of Main Street and Stapley Drive. The market’s online farewell notice didn’t give a reason for closing and an owner’s representative did not respond to a request for comment.
POOL leasing director Pam Paes said she got word Wednesday via e-mail, and had no prior warning. Several organizations and a shopping center owner have been eager to relocate merchants, she said.
“To my knowledge, nobody is going out of business,” Paes said.
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