Walk near the former JCPenney location at Early’s Heartland Mall and there’s not much to see. The exterior entrances and windows are covered with cardboard, and the store’s mall entrance is obscured by a large black curtain.
But mall manager Mark McAfee said crews have been hard at work in the store removing the last traces of its former occupant. He said Wednesday that the crews should be finishing with “demo” this week, and that Hobby Lobby can now move into its space to begin construction.
The city announced in September that Hobby Lobby would move into the vacated Heartland storefront, and McAfee said the store is now slated for a probable July or August 2018 opening. The Oklahoma-based arts and crafts giant carries a selection for hobbies, picture framing, jewelry making, fabrics, wedding supplies, party ware, home accents, holiday merchandise and more.
Hobby Lobby will expand from the original JCPenney location and utilize two of its neighboring mall spaces. One of those former occupants, Hibbett Sports, has moved all its operations to its Commerce Square location in Brownwood.
McAfee believes Hobby Lobby will spur a new era of prosperity for Heartland Mall, and said he expects all the mall’s storefronts to be filled by next year. He said he is currently in conversation with several potential tenants.
“I don’t think there will be any more space for lease at that point,” he said.
Heartland Mall is located at 300 Early Blvd.