PORTLAND – The former L.L. Bean outlet store on Congress Street and the neighboring Olympia Sports store won’t be vacant for long.
Renys is moving in.
The Maine-based department store will occupy both spaces at 540-544 Congress St. and become the company’s 14th location in Maine.
John Reny, an executive with the family-owned company, said the company looked at the site years ago but was wary of moving into a downtown space with little on-street parking.
But, he said, customers suggested that Renys open a store in Portland, and there was even a Facebook campaign for a Renys in the city.
“As we went along, we got more and more intrigued,” he said. “I think it will be good for us and good for the city of Portland.”
Reny said the company’s concerns about parking were eased by recognition that thousands of workers are within a short walk of the store during the day, the city attracts people at night, and hundreds of people live nearby in condos and apartments.
Portland “is a very trendy place to live and work,” he said. “Downtowns are coming back. We really think it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director, said Renys will bring a strong Maine-based brand back to Congress Street. Bean closed its outlet in late October, saying the store had been marginal and was no longer needed because the company owned a new outlet in Freeport.
Olympia Sports announced that it was closing its Congress Street store soon after Bean made its decision. Executives of the sporting goods chain said they were worried about losing foot traffic downtown with Bean departing, and noted that they had other stores nearby.
Mitchell said the city needs a general department store where residents can buy clothing, housewares and even food.
“This is ideal from a re-use perspective,” he said, and Renys will renovate quickly, looking to open in March or April.
“You want the lights to be on,” particularly in the heart of downtown, he said. “You don’t want a dark space, particularly of that size.”
Drew Sigfridson, a broker with CBRE/The Boulos Co., said it will be interesting to see a department store return to the street that was Maine’s busiest retail strip until the 1980s.
“Renys, we felt, was a perfect fit,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]