HEATH – Indian Mound Mall may not be your parents’ or grandparents’ mall, but it’s also not the empty shopping center with numerous vacant spaces many experienced on their last visit.
Malls will probably never return to the pre-internet era, but after the worst of COVID, more people may want to get out of the house and shop locally.
General Manager Adam Jenkins said the Heath mall has filled every leasable space, with a dozen new stores or restaurants opened in the last 12 months and another coming soon. The food court, which had just one tenant, will have five in January.
“We are really proud of the progress we have made at the facility,” Jenkins said. “Online retail is huge and will continue to be huge. But it’s the only shopping center in the county. Those items you want to touch and feel and see. There has to be a place to go and see that.”
Whether people feel safer around others, or newcomers here for Intel are checking out local attractions, Jenkins said there has been a surge in brick-and-mortar retail.
“Our Black Friday numbers were fantastic,” Jenkins said. “People are feeling more comfortable coming out and us having a center full of retail definitely helps.”
All but a couple of the new stores are locally owned, which Jenkins said was by design.
“When I was looking at how do we fill these spaces, that was one of the things we looked at,” Jenkins said. “I think if we bring variety to the mall and engage the local community, … I felt it’s vital to have a mix of tenants.”
Jenkins, who was hired as mall GM in April 2021, said mall owner Washington Prime Group, based in Columbus, encouraged working with local businesses. Washington Prime owns 89 malls, including eight in Ohio, according to its website.
“I was not given a (minimum) price per square foot,” Jenkins said. “We try to work with tenants. I’m sure some of the prices were lowered.”
Lori Anne Mosser opened Plush Pals outside of JCPenney in April and has seen quite a transformation in the mall since then. She asks shoppers to come back to the mall this Christmas shopping season and see for themselves.
“When I came in there were a lot of empty spaces and that kind of stays in your mind,” Mosser said. “It’s nice for people to realize there’s a lot of places to check out. I feel like it has (changed) a lot. Being here, my personal experience is mall management has worked very hard. I’m extremely happy here.”
Mosser said she opened the store because she wanted a place close to home where her children could create their own stuffed animals or people. Customers choose an unstuffed plushie, then add the stuffing, clothes, scents and pre-recorded sounds like a heartbeat or someone’s voice. There are two size options – 16 inches and a miniature 8-inch version.
“I had always wanted to be a business owner,” Mosser said. “I sold self-defense weapons and loved doing that. It was really important to do something my children could be involved in. I didn’t want to leave them to go to work. I wanted something close to home. I knew it was something I, as a parent, would like.”
Like many locally-owned businesses, Mosser is the only employee. So, if she is sick, or taking a vacation, the store has to close. Mosser took her Plush Pals to an event Saturday in Johnstown, but had to close the store.
The store’s posted hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 12-6 p.m. Sunday.
Casey Clay opened Cricket’s Closet in June, across from Apex Fitness Center, between JCPenney and the Altitude Trampoline Park. It offers used and some new home good items as well as clothing for men, women and children.
Like Mosser, Clay is also the only employee, but she gets help from sister LeeAnn Mohler and niece Natalie Mohler. Cricket’s Closet is open 12-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
“I’m a mom of three, so I take Monday and Tuesday off,” Clay said. “I’d love to be open every day. I just can’t.”
Clay said she would like to become a non-profit. She donates some of the proceeds every month to Heartbeats of Licking County.
The store name, she said, comes from where she grew up in the Licking Valley area off Wilkins Corner in a place called Cricket Valley. She said the name honors her grandfather’s legacy.
So, what has it been like since she opened Cricket’s Closet?
“A journey,” she said. “It’s been slowly picking up each month. The sales have gone up. November was great for us. The mall has been great for me. The foot traffic has been amazing.”
Another newcomer to the mall is Buckeye Pop Shop, located by the food court. Buckeye Pop Shop sells a multitude of anime and funko pop items, including bobbleheads and collectables. Anime is a style of animation originating in Japan. Funko is an American company that manufactures licensed and limited pop culture collectibles.
The business, owned by Yoojin Ha and Brandon Bayley, opened Oct. 29. The hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12-6 Sunday. It will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 19-23, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 24.
“We have good days and slow days,” Ha said. “We’re hoping the holidays bring in more customers and hoping more people shop local.”
Ahmed Elbakry, owner of Déjà vu, located near Massey’s Pizza, said business has been slow lately. The store specializes in women’s accessories, hats and shoes.
“It was good the first two weeks and after that slowed down very badly,” Elbakry said. “Hopefully (holidays) will bring more business.”
The business is open the same as the mall — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12-6 p.m. Sunday.
Indian Mound Mall newcomers
Following is a list of newcomers to Indian Mound Mall in the last year, provided by mall General Manager Adam Jenkins. The mall hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12-6 p.m. Sunday. On Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17, the mall will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Beginning Monday, Dec. 19, it will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Individual store hours may differ.
Bakers Table: Locally owned, offers deli sandwiches, flatbreads, coffees and baked goods such as cheesecake, pies, cookies and more.
Buckeye Pop Shop: Locally owned, offers a multitude of anime and funko pop items.
Comic Shop Plus: Locally owned, specializes in new and used comics as well as collectible toys.
Crickets Closet: Locally owned, offers home good items as well as clothing for men, woman and children.
Custom World: Sells custom made T-shirt and sweatshirts.
Deja vu: Locally owned, specializes in woman’s accessories, hats and shoes.
Evelyn’s Table: Coming soon to the food court, a locally-owned, southern-style restaurant, featuring hearty sit down meals such as pork chops, meatloaf and rotating specials.
Jamie’s Cheesesteaks: Locally owned, offers multiple versions of Philly cheesesteaks in chicken or steak, as well tater tots and loaded tots options.
Plush Pals: Locally owned, a unique child-based experience offering customers to build their own plush pal, complete with a heart, outfit and sound box
Stash House: Locally owned, specializes in clothing for teens and young adults.
Tech for all: Locally owned, offers a wide selection of computers, laptops, projectors and accessories.
The Daily Thread: A large selection of woman’s clothing for petite and plus-size woman.
Weathervane Kettlecorn: Offers gourmet kettle corn made locally. Moved to food court from current Deja vu location.