DIY Style

Popular eatery making Lehigh Valley Mall comeback as more than dozen vacancies remain

A popular Italian eatery initially announcing a permanent closure during the March 2020 coronavirus pandemic shutdown now plans to reopen at Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall Township.

Bravo! Cucina Italiana plans to open under new ownership sometime next month at the mall’s Lifestyle Center, a spokeswoman for Earl Enterprises, which now owns the chain, confirmed this week to lehighvalleylive.com.

Bravo! following the pandemic shutdown informed patrons of the closure with a sign on the front door, reading: “We have made the difficult decision to close this restaurant. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you through the years.”

Orlando, Florida-based FoodFirst Global Restaurants, the previous owner of Bravo!, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2020. The same month Earl Enterprises took over the chain as the new parent company, the spokeswoman said.

The chain is known for its full-service, upscale affordable Italian menu options. The Bravo! spokeswoman confirmed the eatery’s layout and popular menu items, such as flatbreads, pizza, pasta, “parms,” land and sea combinations, and desserts will remain. What’s new will be a Sunday brunch menu, complete with classic food entrees, and a variety of cocktails, she said.

Bravo! will join at least five other new mall tenants that recently filled vacancies at the mall, which became ravaged by store closures during the coronavirus pandemic. New stores include Ardene, Slime Time, Toys Toys, Harlem Vibes and Hi Level Fashion.

Ardene, which moved in between Bath & Body Works and Imagine Personalized All on the upper level, is a fashion retailer of clothing, footwear, accessories, jewelry, activewear and intimates, according to the company’s website. There are more than 375 national stores, as well as an e-commerce business.

Slime Time, which sits between Champs Sports and The Children’s Place on the upper level, resembles a child’s laboratory. There, children can adorn lab coats and goggles and take part in creating slime concoctions. There’s also various stations of scents, such as cherry and cotton candy, and toppings for the slime. Children are encouraged to stick fingers into the slime and pull them out to hear “funny little slurping” noises, the business states on the mall’s website.

Toys Toys, next to L’amour on the lower level, offers a variety of children’s toys and games.

Harlem Vibes, between Country Memories and Zales Jewelers on the upper level, is a New York-based men’s and women’s fashion retailer. The store has a variety of denim, T-shirts, hoodies, track pants, outerwear and baseball caps, as well as sneakers, sandals and boots. Brands include Champion, Le Tigre and Sniper Gang.

Hi Level Fashion, between PINK and Bath & Body Works on the lower level, is a men’s fashion retailer offering clothing, shoes and accessories. Brands include G-Star, Lacoste, Psycho Bunny, Timberland, New Balance and Cult of Individuality.

The Beauty Institute | Schwarzkopf Professional and Aslan Jewelers also recently opened at the shopping mall.

The Beauty Institute, a school offering cosmetology and beauty programs, moved into space in the lower level near Track 23. Aslan Jewelers, owned by Dani Aslan and his wife, Patti, of Coopersburg, filled a vacancy left by Helzberg Diamonds. The space is next to a nail salon and Boscov’s on the second level.

The new tenants come after the mall was forced to wave goodbye to several retailers during the pandemic. Among them were Abercrombie & Fitch; Yankee Candle; New York & Company; Aldo; and Modell’s Sporting Goods; as well as Helzberg Diamonds and Littman Jewelers. Murphy Jewelers has since relocated to the mall’s Lifestyle Center from the The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley in Upper Saucon Township.

While some of these spaces have since been filled, such as streetwear outfitter Track 23 moving into space previously housed by Modell’s Sporting Goods, more than a dozen store vacancies remain.

Shoppers can find these empty spaces at Yankee Candle and next to White House Black Market at the Lifestyle Center; between Verizon Wireless and Haagen-Dazs ice cream on the lower level; between Toys Toys and Cellairis on the lower level; next to Macy’s on the lower level; between Austin 5 and Blue Monkey Vapes on the lower level; a large space left by jewelry chain Littman Jewelers on the lower level; space left by Ruby Tuesday and Lolli and Pops on the lower level; as well as space left between Asian Dynasty and Chick-fil-A on the lower level; between Golden Spa & Nails and AT&T and between Brow Studio 7 and The Disney Store, both on the upper level; and between The Children’s Place and Kay Jewelers on the upper level.

What might fill the majority of these vacancies remains unclear. New York-based Lividini & Co., the public relations firm representing Lehigh Valley Mall, did not immediately return a request for information.

Pepper Palace, however, does appear to have its sights set on the former Yankee Candle space at the mall’s Lifestyle Center, according to the mall’s website. The retailer is known for its all-natural, handcrafted, and small-batch hot sauces, barbecue sauces, wing sauces, and salsa, as well as its seasonings, dry rubs. The company began in a kiosk at a Central Wisconsin Mall in 1989 and has since grown to include 100 retail locations across the United States and Canada.

Construction additionally is underway on Shake Shack, next to Dave & Buster’s, a restaurant and entertainment hub that opened in October 2020. The mall also recently welcomed L’amour, offering beauty and personal care products; Dino Sweets, a coffee and miniature doughnut stand; Bella Bridal; and Hairitage Beauty Salon. Additionally, arts and crafts retail giant Michaels just before the March 2020 shutdown opened in space previously housed by Babies R Us.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at [email protected].