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I think my mall is dying.
It’s called the Southgate Mall. I grant you, it’s small by big city mall standards, but it’s my mall and it’s been here for as long as I can remember.
It may not seem like much to you, but I really like it.
You see, I enjoy walking at the mall.
Now I’m not a mall walker. Mall walkers are those people who meet at the mall before the stores even open and turn walking into some kind of cathartic group experience.
That’s not me.
I’m not into cathartic group experiences.
I just enjoy getting out and walking. During the very hot Montana summer days, the mall is a cool and comfortable option. And during the very cold and snowy winter days, the mall is a relaxing respite from the storms.
I love my mall.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is that there are very few people at the mall. I mean very few. It’s not unusual for me to spend an hour walking — which requires many loops in our small mall — without seeing more than a dozen people in the main hall.
That makes it very convenient for walking, but I have to admit it gives me great concern for the future of my mall. Almost every time I walk at the mall, I see more employees “working” in the stores than customers shopping in the stores.
And it seems like every few weeks, another store front is empty or has a “Going Out of Business” sign in the window.
It’s sad to see the stores that have disappeared — Sears, JC Penney, Radio Shack, Red Robin, Dairy Queen, and a whole bunch of smaller stores that I don’t even remember the names of.
It seems there are only two stores that regularly have actual customers. One is Scheels, a sporting good store, and the other is Nail Trix, a nail something store.
Without those two stores, I’m not sure there would be any customers in the mall, or any walkers for me to pass on my route.
That’s why today is a special day. It’s a celebration day.
Today, I started my mall walk and I saw. something I wasn’t sure would ever happen.
There was a new store in the mall.
It was a J. Crew Factory store. I think it’s a clothing store. I assume the “Factory” in the name means it is a cheaper version of the real J. Crew store.
Whatever the case, it is in our mall and it is open.
I even saw two employees standing behind the counter looking very professional and smiling.
There weren’t any customers in the store, but the employees looked good.
So our mall is still alive.
NOTE: I wrote this episode sitting in the coffee shop at the Scheels store. When I left, I decided to take another couple of loops on my walk and I couldn’t help but notice in the J. Crew Factory store there were two customers.
It was a very good day.
Maybe … just maybe … my mall is coming back to life.