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Resurgent mall gets 3 new tenants

Mendenhall Mall nearly full with business; owner says it's time to expand valley library

Posted: Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Mendenhall Mall has three new tenants and possibly two more coming this month, as it enjoys its highest occupancy rate in four years.

Mall owner and manager Rein Fluck said it is also time to expand the city library branch housed in the building.

Fluck continues to get inquiries for more business, he said. The building is 92 percent full.

The mall lost tenants while it had competition from Kmart and continues to face competition from Fred Meyer. Fluck said the mall had less flexibility than large chain stores when it came to changing inventory with products that were popular in Juneau.

He said his stores could lose employees and customers again when Wal-Mart and Home Depot arrive in the next few years.

"We'll lose as many people and as many jobs as they will create," he said.

Specialty shops such as a sewing machine sales and repair store and an exotic bird shop will offer something Wal-Mart cannot. Plus, the mall's three restaurants and deli will draw customers in regardless of other competition, he said.

Having competitive rent is also part of the equation, Fluck said.

Recent tenant Juneau Pets and Supplies is a boutique store for exotic birds and small animals. Aside from the town's bird-keeping community, which often shops online, the store is exposed to new potential customers that would be ideal bird owners - children, said store founder Dayna Robertson.

She sees a lot of kids flowing from Bullwinkle's pizza parties, into the library and kid-sized entertainment center Our Backyard. The city's second high school, set to open nearby, would increase human traffic by 15 percent, Fluck estimates.

Robertson and husband Steve run the store alone and have less overhead than large retailers. Business is good so far, she said.

"A parrot is actually the worst pet on the planet," Robertson said. Owners must spend time feeding and cleaning the birds, and in return they bite.

Still, people want something unique. On display is the couple's own blue and gold Macaw, a bird they bought in New Orleans but that originates in Brazil.

"It's more like having a family member than a pet," she said.

Bill McCrea is down the hall drawing in Juneau's quilters, sailmakers and sewing enthusiasts at "The Place that Sells Sewing Machines."

It won't be open until next month but he plans to sell and fix machines, and host sewing classes. Alaska presents a variety of needs for sewing not common in the Lower 48, such as repairing torn dog sled harnesses and boat sails.

"Now they have thread that will last 15 years in seawater and the sun," he said.

Also new in the mall is Seanna O'Sullivan Photography. A gift shop is set to move in and Sequence, a youth clothing store, will relocate to another place in the mall soon.

Fluck wants to expand the library from its 7,500 square feet to a size between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet by relocating businesses on the right and left and knocking walls down.

He plans to present the idea to the Juneau Assembly in the coming weeks.

With the library needing more room and the mall needing more people to walk through its halls, Fluck believes it will be a win-win situation.

"A library ... is the best resource a mall could have," Fluck said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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