Buffet buyout: China King's Gui Chen, left, bought Patrick Li's Hibachi Grill when Shoppers World didn't renew China King's lease.
Space for lease? Shoppers World has thousands of empty square feet and just lost its rent check on the 7,000-square-foot China King Buffet.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE
The gigantic China King Buffet is the latest tenant to vacate the increasingly empty store-fronted Shoppers World, moving down the road to the Hibachi Grill on Seminole Trail.
China King owner Gui Chen says Shoppers World wouldn't renew the Buffet's lease.
"They tried to get everyone out," says Chen, whose large eatery of sushi, grilled meats, and vegetable dishes occupied the site of the once-popular Katie's Country Club nightspot until the last days of December.
In 2011, the 169,000-square-foot shopping center also lost such tenants Whole Foods, Super Shoes and Ragazzi's. And with the upcoming opening of Stonefield, and the apparent glut of commercial real estate in nearby U.S. 29 shopping centers, such as Albemarle Square and Seminole Square, the big question is what owner Federal Realty Investment Trust, which also owns Barracks Road Shopping Center, has planned.
The Rockville, Maryland-based real estate investment company bought the aging Shoppers World for $27.2 million in 2007, and a recent shuffling of tenants Advance Auto and Massage Envy suggests that the company may entice a big box.
"I can tell you that Federal Realty is currently in conversations with a number of retailers for Shoppers World that would bring a very attractive range of goods and services to the Charlottesville market," says marketing director Andrea Simpson. "I cannot share the names of the retailers but look forward to making the announcements as soon as the commitments are finalized."
"Maybe they're biding their time to redo the whole thing," says real estate expert Richard Spurzem. "The location is pretty strong across from Fashion Square Mall, and Federal Realty knows what they're doing."
On January 1, after a less than three-day shut-down, the new entity known as the China King Buffet and Hibachi Grill opened for business in a building with a history of buffet dining. The nearly 12,000-square-foot structure that once housed Golden Corral has been touted as the largest restaurant in town.
Chen says he purchased Hibachi Grill from Patrick Li, and will provide about 250 dishes seven days a week from 11am to 10:30pm.
"Their food is my food," says Chen. Lunch is around $7, dinner around $10.
Correction 1/10/12: The original version erroneously put the 2007 sales price of Shoppers World at $7.2 million. That was the price of two parcels. Two other parcels were $20 million, making the total price Federal Realty paid $27.2 million.