Bargain time: Ollie’s discount chain seeking to cut deal at Valle Vista

Ollie's Bargain Outlet is negotiating with Valle Vista mall for a vacant anchor space next to Urban Air.

HARLINGEN — Discount retailer Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is negotiating with Valle Vista mall to fill one of its deserted anchor locations with a new store.

The arrival of Ollie’s in the former Forever 21 location next to Urban Air was teased by the Harlingen Economic Development Corp. earlier this month on the agency’s Facebook page.

“Ollie’s Bargain Outlet coming in late 2020,” the post read. “The store will be located in 30,000 square-foot space next to Urban Air at Valle Vista Mall.”

The arrival of Ollie’s in the vacant store space would be a major coup for the troubled mall by filling the anchor position vacated by Forever 21 in 2017.

But on Monday a spokesman for Ollie’s was more circumspect about plans to expand to Harlingen.

“That’s not been decided yet and we’re still working on a site down there but nothing has been signed or anything like that,” said Jerry Altland, vice president of real estate. “We’re looking and negotiating but nothing’s been finalized. We’re trying.”

Ollie’s has 345 stores in 25 states, but has no locations in the Rio Grande Valley. In Texas, the discount chain has stores in Benbrook and Mesquite in North Texas, as well as Nacogdoches in East Texas.

Ollie’s sells general department store merchandise but at rock-bottom low prices. The company, founded in 1983 and based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, buys its merchandise from various retailers and suppliers and at manufacturer closeouts and bankruptcy sales at below-wholesale costs.

Each of the chain’s stores sells house wares and kitchen items, flooring, books, toys, electronic, clothing, lawn and garden, sporting goods, health and beauty, pet supplies and automotive products.

The arrival of Ollie’s would go far in re-energizing the troubled mall which opened in 1983. In 2018 it was purchased by a New York company, Kohan Retail Investment Group, for a bargain price of $12.5 million.

While the mall has had trouble filling its store spaces, with a vacancy rate as high as 20 to 25 percent, the area surrounding the mall remains the city’s most vibrant shopping area and continues to attract new investment and new businesses.

At Shops of Valle Vista across Dixieland Road from the mall, discount retailer T.J. Maxx is planning a $2 million investment in a new store to be finished by late spring or early summer. Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers and Visionworks are among the new stores which have opened there.