Wendy Reuer, Published November 16 2012
Moorhead Center Mall morphing into its own under new leadership
And that’s just fine with tenants and General Manager Renée Thomas, who are looking forward to making Moorhead Center Mall a destination for shoppers and visitors.
It’s a goal within grasp for the mall at Fifth and Center Avenue that emerged from a period of empty storefronts just three years ago.
In 2009, two of every five storefronts were empty, with 18 sites vacant. Since then, the mall has become a viable competitor for new, locally owned shops in the marketplace.
In 2010, the 30,000-square-foot Furniture for Less shop moved in, followed by the popular Thai Orchid restaurant, the computer repair shop Raptor PCS, and fashion retailer Glik’s. These moves brought the mall back to 90 percent capacity.
The Moorhead Center Mall has remained close to capacity and today is thriving, longtime store owner Corinne Stefanso said.
Stefanso owns The Classic, a gift and clothing shop that has been located inside the mall since it opened nearly 40 years ago.
She said she has seen plenty of changes over the years, but as a majority of storefronts stay filled, the future is bright.
Despite losing a major retailer when Maurices, a women’s clothing store, moved to Dilworth last month, a fuse of new businesses is moving in.
A retro variety store, The Basement, opened in October, and Godfather’s Pizza will open its first Moorhead location on Nov. 24 in the former Giovanni’s Pizza.
While Thomas remains mum about what may fill the Maurices space, citing many prospects but no closed deals, she said the space is another opportunity for the mall to move toward her vision of a boutique destination with a feel similar to downtown Fargo.
“We have lots of different prospects,” Thomas said.
Thomas, who has a background in property management and came aboard as general manager three months ago, said she envisions the mall as an emerging Galleria – a shopping center that is home to unique boutiques and specialty shops.
The Moorhead Center Mall has strived to show its personality as a destination, not a competitor with West Acres mall, Thomas said. The Fargo mall dwarfs the Moorhead Center Mall in size and storefront quantity.
Competition with the largest shopping center in the region is not the ultimate goal of the mall, said Scott Puffe, owner of Puffe’s Fine Jewelry.
Puffe said the mall’s culture of small independent shops, rather than corporate-managed stores, not only makes Moorhead’s mall a special shopping destination, but cultivates camaraderie among the business owners.
“Having a variety of unique businesses in the mall will lend itself to a variety of customers for everybody,” Puffe said.
While leasing agents continue to market the mall spaces, Thomas plans to parlay the mall’s community feel into foot traffic by hosting several upcoming events that will be hosted at the mall.
After the mall celebrates “Small Business Saturday” on Nov. 24, the first of “First Fridays” will be on Dec. 7.
Local artists and performers will be invited to the mall the first Friday of each month to show off their talents and work.
Thomas said the mall will eventually undergo a rebranding and logo change.
“These are all gradual changes,” she said. “We’re not looking to be completely different from what we started out as.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530
Shops at Moorhead Center Mall
Cheri’s Sweet Creations
•Vic’s Bar & Grill
•Furniture for Less
•Meadowbrook Home Furnishings
Health Care Services
•Drs. Bill & Denise Duke
•Moorhead Drug Company
•Moorhead Vision Associates
•Pladson Chiropractic, Jeff Pladson, DC, Matthew Lau, DC
•K & Krafts
•Puffe’s Fine Jewelry
•Tip Top Tux
•Centre for Hair & Wellness
•Farmers Insurance – Kevin Anderson
•Hers Styling Salon
•His Styling Salon
•Mane Impressions Styling Salon
•Merle Norman Cosmetics
•MinDak Gold Buyers
•Your Home Improvement Company
•Alan Evans Bridal
•Christopher and Banks