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December 5, 2023

West Hartford investors to open Ashley Homestores outlet in Waterbury in December, part of effort to revive former Macy’s property

Michael Puffer | Hartford Business Journal Sami Abunasra at the former Macy's property at 575 Union St. in Waterbury.

An Ashley Homestores outlet will open in Waterbury later this month, an investment in the long-struggling Brass Mill Center mall complex by investors who paid $3.3 million for a big slice of the property earlier this year.

Brothers and business partners Sami and Nazeeh Abunasra own Ashley Homestores in Manchester and Newington and are headquartered in West Hartford. The brothers bought the former Macy’s property at the southern tip of the Brass Mill Center mall in July with plans for a retail revival.

Sami Abunasra told the Hartford Business Journal they are on track to open an Ashley Homestores outlet at the property by mid-December. It will be a “soft” opening, to be followed by a grand opening – with more marketing – early in 2024, Abunasra said.

“This is going to be a great addition to our stores that cover metro-Hartford very well,” Abunasra said Monday.

The new outlet store will feature Ashley’s moderately priced furniture lines in a 30,000-square-foot portion of the 161,744-square-foot former Macy’s building. Sami Abunasra estimated fit-out costs at about $1 million.

The former Macy’s building is about evenly divided between two floors and comes with an 11.45-acre property. Ashley will open on the top floor, which has entrances on the side of the building facing traffic-heavy Union Street and Interstate 84 to the west. Sami Abunasra said national retailers have expressed interest in the remaining 50,000 square feet on the top floor, which can go as one or two retail spaces.

Abunasra expects the opening of the Ashley outlet to prompt further interest.

“Once we are open, people will recognize this is not a deserted building,” Abunasra said. “Our presence is going to be a driver for other tenants.”

The former Macy’s property store is attached to the larger Brass Mill Center mall property, which is owned separately. Macy’s shut its doors more than two years ago. Retailer Sears also owns a large piece of the retail complex at the northern end of the mall, which is currently vacant.

The Abunasra brothers bought the Macy’s property with plans to create retail spaces that operate like a retail plaza, akin to the busy Brass Mill Commons retail strip neighboring the mall. The spaces will not open to a common central corridor, as in the mall, but will share an entrance vestibule.  

Sami Abunasra is contemplating the addition of restaurant and commercial pad sites in the expansive parking area. He said he is considering non-retail uses – possibly office or storage space – for the lower level of the former Macy’s site. That portion opens to the rear of the mall and does not enjoy the same exposure as the top floor, he noted.

Waterbury Economic Development Director Joseph McGrath said he is working with Sami Abunasra to explore development concepts that fit zoning rules. McGrath said he is encouraged by the arrival of the dynamic entrepreneur.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring life back to that mall,” McGrath said. “He has some great ideas.”

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