“The Woodville Mall sucks,” according to two local women who answered Our Voice on the Street poll last week.
Not so, says Juanita Jones, the new mall manager who took over at Thanksgiving time.
Jones wants you to know repairs to the oldest mall in Northwest Ohio have been underway and some new stores have moved in. The Christmas display at center court featuring Santa Claus is “amazing, the best in years,” she adds.
First, the repairs. Nearly all skylights have been repaired, except for those in the Elder Beerman concourse. The carpet is gone and granite flooring to replace it is on site and will be installed when the final roof leaks are fixed, sometime before the spring, weather permitting.
A lack of heat in the concourse, food court and two screens at the Fox Theatre is the result of a malfunctioning furnace system and repairs are underway. When I visited, there was no heat for Harry Potter and Megamind. And, Kenny and Tina Isranuchip, owners of The O.K. Wok, a food court staple for 20 years, were serving food dressed in winter coats, scarves and stocking caps.
Elder Beerman and Kay Jewelers are just two of the latest group to exit the mall which was purchased in 2009 by Mike Kohan, a New York businessman, for $700,000.
At the time, Kohan said he would repair the roof, replace the carpet and bring in his own stores. To his credit, he’s doing that, although, I’m sure the pace isn’t fast enough for local shoppers, but there is this little obstacle called The Big Recession and its lingering aftermath. Kohan has brought in two of his stores—Fashion Outlet and Suit Your Feet and reopened the Fox Theatres.
Juanita Jones, a former resident of Columbus who has more than 15 years experience in retail property management, has brought a high level of energy to the position. In less than a month, she has landed C.J.’s Breakfast & Sandwich Shop and Midwest Pro Wrestling Alliance. Hair Craves, a beauty salon, will open soon.
C.J’s is owned by Dave Castner and had been located at the Erie Street Market for the past five years. Brian Shotwel owns MPWA, an athletic gym that will feature mats and lessons for wrestling, karate, boxing and mixed martial arts in addition to exercise equipment.
Jones also has letters of intent from Freakin Yummy Desserts and Shadow Lord Games Limited.
She is also in contact with Kohl’s and Kay Jewelers. So, you have to ask yourself, “Why would they be interested?”
Answer. Cheap rent. Fifty to seventy-five cents a square-foot, she said.
That lowers the threshold for profitability.
Whether or not the day of the mall in America has passed is up for debate. Lifestyle Centers like Levis Commons and Fallen Timbers are the current craze, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean Woodville Mall will go the way of NorthTowne and Southwyck. Mike Kohan doesn’t believe that. In addition to Woodville Mall, he has purchased malls in Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota.
Kohan’s approach is to fill storefronts with his own stores like Fashion Outlet and Suit Your Feet, add a mix of discount stores, service providers and other small local vendors and keep his two anchors—The Andersons and Sears.
Jones thinks she can fulfill that vision and create the foot traffic that makes a mall an asset for the retailer. “I’m telling you I’m bringing this mall back for this community. You just watch,” she says.
Gerald Weigel, a financial advisor and long-time mall tenant, likes the new direction. “She has a lot of energy and has already brought in a couple of new tenants.” Weigel isn’t going anywhere. He just signed a five-year lease.
The Isranuchins of The O.K. Wok aren’t going anywhere either. They survive because, over the years, they have developed a good take-out business supported by Oregon and Northwood residents.
If there’s a positive Juanita Jones can take from the derogatory comments readers made it’s that they were at the mall when approached by Our Voice on the Street. I’m sure they remember the time when the mall was a bustling marketplace and center court served as our community’s town hall, a gathering place where neighbors could enjoy many events, even some that this paper sponsored such as the new car show, PrimeTime Affair and our Earth Day Celebration.
Comment at zoz@presspublications.