T.J. Maxx, a discount retailer and one of the last remaining department stores in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, will close its location at 1410 University Ave. W. permanently on Oct. 8, capping 10 years at the site, according to an announcement posted at the shop entrance.
The clothing and home goods retailer — located in the Midway Marketplace strip mall anchored by a Cub Foods grocery — opened in October 2013. Decades ago, the area was a prime destination for shopping, car sales, hotels and even dancing and proms. The last decade has been a difficult one for retail in general, given the advent of online shopping in the “Amazon era,” a pandemic that led to widespread lockdowns for restaurants and retailers, and the May 2020 riots and property damage that followed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
An adjoining department store, Herberger’s, closed in the summer of 2018 when the national chain shuttered the last of its brick-and-mortar locations after declaring bankruptcy. On Sunday evening, about six individuals could be seen rifling through bags of belongings outside the former Herberger’s, which was used by the state of Minnesota as a COVID testing location during the pandemic. The exterior has now become something of a staging area for transients and panhandlers.
A store clerk answering the phone at the Midway T.J. Maxx on Monday morning confirmed the store closure and said the shop would not be relocating to another site. An email to Edelman, the marketing firm that handles media inquiries for the TJX Companies — the Massachusetts company that owns and operates T.J. Maxx — was not immediately returned.
Kraus-Anderson Realty bought the Midway Marketplace in 2019. A call to a company property manager on Monday was not immediately returned.
A difficult era for retail
On social media, some patrons said they were taken aback by news of the store closure, and praised the store clerks for their friendliness and approachability.
“That is one of my fav stores,” wrote a St. Paul resident. “I go out of my way to come back over there because the staff has always been super nice to me. Even their cops on duty are nice. This makes me sad!!!”
All in all, it’s been a tough few years for the strip malls that border University Avenue near Snelling Avenue. At the former Midway Shopping Center, which had been a neighboring strip mall, proximity to Interstate 94, the Green Line and Allianz Field, the professional soccer stadium that opened in 2019, hasn’t spawned the retail renaissance that neighborhood advocates had hoped for, leading to a somewhat tense recent community meeting with the ownership of the Minnesota United soccer team.
In fact, some 30 retailers have left the area immediately surrounding the stadium, dubbed “United Village” or the “Snelling-Midway super block.”
Team owner Dr. Bill McGuire — who is working closely with master developer M.A. Mortenson Co. of Golden Valley — has said development plans now include a hotel building, a separate office building, a playground and sculpture garden, though there are no immediate plans for new housing.
Across Snelling Avenue, two new luxury apartment buildings — The Pitch Apartments and The Pivot Apartments — have drawn some young professionals, but they remain less than fully occupied. Both were recently advertising two months free rent, among other leasing incentives. The Pivot was advertising six months of free parking.
Signs of life
That’s not to say there aren’t still signs of retail life in the Midway.
Near Hamline and University Avenue, a Jersey Mike’s sandwich shop recently put up a “Coming Soon” sign next door to the Noodles and Company fast food.
Across the street, small retailers — including a pulled-noodle Chinese restaurant, bubble tea shop, independent bookstore, credit union and more — occupy an entire block of commercial space on the ground level of the Hamline Station apartments. The Midway Super Target at 1300 University Ave. W. is still believed to be among the busiest Target locations in the nation.