In the Know: What luxury stores are in line to replace closing Nordstrom? Your suggestions. Plus, what's going up at Pine Ridge and I-75?

Phil Fernandez
Naples Daily News

What luxury retailers are potential candidates to replace the closing Nordstrom anchor at Waterside Shops in Naples?

You definitely have some suggestions, among the hundreds of comments in emails, Facebook and other platforms. With your help, we'll go into detail on those and examine what may be a plausible option in these tough economic times.

Delightful Pelican Bay resident Susan Woodall told me of her shock at the shuttering of the stylish store, saying of employees how she "appreciated their customer service." A sound substitution would eventually give the departing 158 workers a potential choice in a tightening market.

"The logical store would have been Neiman Marcus, but I doubt that’s going to happen now (that) they’re filing for bankruptcy," said Woodall, reaching a conclusion shared by many analysts.

Your hit list for 5489 Tamiami Trail N. includes classy competitors.

"The owners of Waterside Shops should reach out to Federated Department Stores and offer a deal to have a Bloomingdale's store occupy the space," said Naples resident Art Littmann. "It would be an ideal replacement."

More:In the Know: 'A very bad sign for our community' as new details emerge in Nordstrom anchor closing at Waterside

"We need a Bloomingdale's in this area," reader Steph Zur said. "I’m shocked there isn’t one already."

"I wouldn’t mind seeing this store close and be replaced with Bloomingdale's," said reader Marianne Lavalle.

"I hope we can get Bloomingdale's or Lord & Taylor," said reader Wendy J. Thomas Porto. "Going to miss Nordstrom."

"How about a Lord & Taylor there?" wondered reader Sharon Hirschfeld. "Loved the one in New York City."

Macy's already is camped in Coastland Center, but reader Janet Lombardi put her vote for the storied brand at the superior setting and aesthetics of Waterside, described by Woodall as "a special place."

Prior to this month, all of those would be conceivable higher-end options.

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"Given the added disruption of the pandemic, it will be challenging for many retailers to resume store operations at a scale at all similar to recent experience," Anne Brouwer, a senior partner at Chicago-based consulting firm McMillan Doolittle, told me. "Neither retailers nor malls will find the future easy."

It has been a messy May, defined on CNBC as "the most transformative state of the industry that we have seen in 50-plus years.”

• Neiman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 7 as the organization tries to eliminate roughly $4 billion in debt.

• Macy’s, which already had been permanently closing venues and looking for ways to avoid bankruptcy, delayed the May 2 release of its official first quarter results until July 1. The parent company of Bloomingdale's, it had been looking at raising as much as $5 billion in debt, according to CNBC.

• Venerable chain Lord & Taylor has lined up liquidators and is preparing to liquidate department stores, Reuters reported May 5. Its iconic flagship in Manhattan has already been sold, as part of others that have been padlocked.

Well, shoot, where does that leave us?

More:In the Know: Lucky's closing nearly all locations including Collier, cancels plans for North Naples, Lee County

The Forbes Co., Waterside's owner, is examining the alternatives but nothing nailed down yet. Nathan Forbes, president and managing partner, is confident one will emerge. Meanwhile, Naples residents are petitioning and emailing Nordstrom leaders, hoping they'll change their mind about the July 12 shutdown.

And then here's an idea, courtesy of Naples resident Ingrid Langeland.

"I liked Nordstrom, but would love to (have) Von Maur in there," Langeland said. "Usually great prices and service."

And a nice grand piano, too.

Forget Muzak versions of "Raspberry Beret", "I Am Woman" and "Last Tango in Paris". Von Maur customers often shop to a pianist tickling the ivories. And he or she takes requests.

Hey, how about some "Moon River"? Oh Audrey, where art thou?

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It's a decent paying — or is that playing — job, if you can get full-time, which isn't common there. The average Von Maur salary for pianists is $51,985, according to Still below's overall mean for Collier of $60,435, but above Lee's $45,008. 

"And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar, and say, 'Man, what are you doin' here?'"

Maybe because the place pays better than many service jobs.

Average compensation at Von Maur, based on data: $13.98 an hour. Certainly feels low in a metro area that Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine says has one of the nation's highest concentrations of millionaires, nearly 10% of Naples households.

But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says $12.53 hourly is a living wage for someone single in Collier. In Lee, it's $12.02.

However, keep in mind that with children, it's a whole different ballgame. MIT puts it at $26.47 for a Collier adult with one child. Lee: $24.58.

More:In the Know: A little delayed, but Sprouts is sprouting in Southwest Florida; latest real estate numbers; and what did Tom Golisano say?

The merchant also features a coat check, original artwork, antiques, an open-floor plan, an interest-free charge card and free gift wrapping.

With fronts in only 15 states, most of America isn't familiar with the chain, which has been growing in recent years, but not at the breakneck pace of some of its now-struggling contemporaries.

The Von Maur family opened its first establishment in the late 1800s. The rented locale was 20 by 50 feet, located in Davenport, Iowa, which continues as the headquarters.

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When it rolled into a 130,000-square-foot two-story space in a Minnesota mall in 2018, it became the first department store chain to add a new location in the Twin Cities since 2015.

Having just added sites in Chicago and Michigan, another one is in the works at the moment for Des Moines.

Von Maur seems to offer at least a few of the qualities that Karl M. Gibbons, president of an international industry consulting firm, projects are needed in the coming years.

"The successful retailers of the next decade will be those who offer consumers an environment where they can eat, play, work, learn, discover, try and even borrow merchandise," said Gibbons, head of Naples-based Third Eye Management. "It will provide a sensory experience where customers can see, touch, smell, hear, taste, and feel, creating an emotional reaction."

Karl M. Gibbons, president of Third Eye Management

Currently in the midst of strategizing reopenings in COVID-19's wake, CEO Jim von Maur asked if he could delay his conversation with me until a scheduled time this week regarding a Naples possibility.

Of course, I understand that. If you have any questions you'd like for me to ask him, please let me know.

I'll plan to report back. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Hot spot

I was honored to hear from the talented Lillian Tibbles the other day.

We love your column, especially your great sense of humor. We live in the Vineyards and are curious about the land being cleared at the corner of Napa Boulevard and Pine Ridge Road. Do you know what is planned for that spot?

Thank you so much for your note. It means a lot. Several other readers had a similar question including Naples residents Leslie Feldman and Ron Beeber and J. Clair. Mmmmm eclairs.

Sorry, a momentary distraction. 

Collier and state records show a four-story, 107,000 square-foot office building developing at the intersection as part of the Physicians Regional Healthcare System, across the street from its hospital.

More:In the Know: Here are new chains, businesses coming to longtime empty spots in Naples

And:In the Know: Readers ask whether work has begun on Vanderbilt Beach Road extension? Plus, construction starts on massive development

That's a little bit larger than the originally planned 99,976 square feet on the vacant 7.63 acres. The hammering will go into next year, with the construction trailer permitted to stay until the middle of 2021. The state has given it a window to complete until 2025 if needed.

With about 500 parking spots, plans for the project at 6376 Park Ridge Road go back to 2011.

A little bit of a creepy history around there. A man walking in the woods in the area east of Interstate 75 came across "bone remains" last year.

He picked up the skull, and then realized it was human, and back down that skull went. Authorities were called and determined it was a 50-year Naples resident who had been missing since 2017. No foul play was suspected.

Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez ( writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.

In the Know's new columnist, Phil Fernandez. The photo was shot in Naples Daily News studio Thursday, September, 12, 2019.