Utah clothing retailers JMR and Lolabella to close all stores
Clothing stores • Declining sales at Gateway reason for closures, says owner.
Published: February 13, 2014 12:08PM
Updated: February 13, 2014 09:51AM
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Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo Sarah Middlemiss, associate, rearranges shoes at Lolabella Boutique in 2008.

After 30 years, a staple in Utah clothing retail will close its doors.

JMR Chalk Garden, which opened its first store at Trolley Square in 1984, and Lolabella Boutique will close each of its stores at The Gateway Mall and the Fashion Place Mall in the next two months. Both clothing outlets are owned by brothers Jeff and Richard Barnard.

“It’s been an emotional decision, but when we first started JMR we were in our 20s and our customers were in [their] 20s, and I’m now in my 50s and our customers are still in their 20s,” Jeff Barnard said. “We’re really proud of JMR and Lolabella, but we’re really excited about going forward.”

The JMR and Lolabella at The Gateway will close in two weeks while the two stores at Fashion Place will close in about two months. Until then, all the stores are selling their remaining merchandise at half off.

Jeff Barnard said he was forced to close down all four stores at both malls because of declining sales and traffic specifically at The Gateway Mall, which has seen dozens of businesses close down in the past two years since the opening of the competing City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

“The main reason we’re closing is because the decline of The Gateway Mall has been so severe,” Jeff Barnard said. “I don’t want to make it sound like it’s Gateway’s fault. At Gateway in the last two weeks, three more stores closed besides ours, and we tried to hang on and we couldn’t. People at The Gateway were helpful, but they just keep losing store after store.”

A spokeswoman for The Gateway said while the mall has lost some stores, it has gained others and is still a premier destination for shoppers.

“Although we did face some challenges after another similar shopping center opened just a few blocks away, The Gateway still has many things that Utah residents cannot find at any other shopping center,” said spokeswoman Amanda Caraway. “A few examples are Discovery Gateway, The Clark Planetarium and the Urban Arts Gallery.

Since the Barnards had JMR Chalkgarden at Trolley Square, they had opened JMR stores at the now-defunct Cottonwood Mall, South Towne Mall, University Mall in Orem, the Layton Hills Mall, the Ogden City Mall, as well as outlets in Park City and California. All have since closed.

The Barnards opened the first Lolabella Boutique, which focuses on high-end fashion for moms, eight years ago at The Gateway and then the second store at Fashion Place. JMR Chalk Garden specialized in clothing for teens and young adults.

Jeff Barnard still owns the Chalk Garden Co-Op, a specialty clothing store at 74 S. Main Street next to the City Creek Center in Salt Lake City where he said he will now concentrate most of his time.

The Barnards also own the Bar-X cocktail lounge in downtown Salt Lake City along with “Modern Family” actor Ty Burrell. They along with Burrell also plan to open a new specialty beer bar called The Beer Bar next door to Bar-X.

“There’s lots going on, and it keeps me really busy,” Jeff Barnard said. “But it’s all being done in the name of moving forward and in the name of progress.”

vince@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ohmytech