Despite mall vacancies, store owners say business is good

New Wal-Mart also seems to have little effect, tenants say

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stores at Juneau's two malls are doing well despite several vacancies and expectations that the town's new Wal-Mart might suck customers away.

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Sandra Brown, the owner of Salon 2211 at the Mendenhall Mall, said she is just as busy as she's ever been. She said she didn't think Wal-Mart has had a noticeable impact.

"I don't think that really affects us in the mall," Brown said. "I haven't seen a loss of people walking through the mall. I guess it's kind of normal to have a few vacancies."

At the Nugget Mall, there are about eight empty storefronts, and manager Bud Jaeger could not confirm how many were actually for lease.

"It's more vacancies than we've had for a while, and we're hoping to get it filled up here as quickly as we can," Jaeger said. He did not know why there were that many vacancies, and said there just aren't many merchants looking for spaces right now.

Several stores have been there for decades, such as Hearthside Books & Toys, Nugget Alaskan Outfitter and The Plum Tree, Jaeger said.

"Those that do well are the ones that have grown through the years in square footage, and the ones I mentioned have much larger stores than they used to have," he said.

At the Mendenhall Mall, there are two empty spaces, one business for sale and one space advertised as "for lease." The manager of the Mendenhall Mall, Larry Bauer, did not return calls for comment.

Alex Musser, owner of GravityPlan, a skateboard, snowboard and clothing shop, said he moved to the Nugget Mall about three months ago to get exposed to more foot traffic.

"I guess the reason we are doing so well is the support of the community and all their friends," Musser said.

Katy Petsel, office manager of Nugget Alaskan Outfitter, said business has been good since Alaska Permanent Fund dividends were mailed out. She said the outdoor clothing store is a weather-driven business.

"It doesn't really matter if it's summer or winter. The weather is what keeps us going because we sell so much rain gear," Petsel said.

Vacancies at the mall usually come and go in cycles, she said.

"We'll have a number of vacancies and then they'll fill up again," she said.

Pennie Peterson, owner of Vintage Fair Cafe and Espresso at the Nugget Mall, said she's observed less foot traffic this year, but she doesn't think Wal-Mart is the reason.

"I don't think Wal-Mart has affected business in the mall. We thought it was going to at first, but it's not taken anything away from the mall," Peterson said.

The cafe is also a weather-driven business.

"The foot traffic has a lot to do with weather," Peterson said. "When it's nice outside, people want to be out doing other things. They come in here when they want comfort food."

Bill Adair, owner of Bullwinkle's Pizza Parlor, declined to comment for the story through his secretary.

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