Vicksburg Mall a success story so far

Published 8:41 pm Friday, February 7, 2014

In the fall of 2010, the Vicksburg Mall was purchased by Houston-based Weiner Development for an undisclosed sum that likely didn’t set the retail developer back to far. After all, the shopping center then known as Pemberton Square Mall was a shell of what it was when opened in 1985.

A mall that once featured Walmart, Piccadilly and Arby’s had deteriorated into a main campus of fly-by-night operations and kiosks and kept afloat only by separately-managed flagship stores Dillard’s and Belk. In December 2010, the new team’s head honcho said 27 people trusted them with their money in fixing up the place — and patience was the key.

“We think that to take a mall that has been descending slowly, level it out and turn it to a more stable path, will take time,” company president Andy Weiner said in a December 10, 2010 story in The Vicksburg Post after a speech to a local civic club that outlined a three-year plan to revive the mall. “And we ask everybody to please be patient with us.”

Give or take a few months, the plan deserves an A for the results.

In the 2 1/2 years after Weiner’s plea, Goody’s clothing store opened in a previously vacant space at the back of the mall and the Vicksburg Plaza strip mall, next door to the big mall in Kroger’s former digs, was revitalized with the arrivals of PetSense, T.J. Maxx, CitiTrends Newk’s Eatery and Little Caesar’s Pizza. Inside the mall, Tanner Jewelers opened a new location and Wilcox Theatres, inherited in the purchase, was given a chance to survive. Renovations planned for a long time there such as expanded screens depend on continued cash flow.

On Tuesday, Hobby Lobby opened this past week where J.C. Penney used to be — a feather in the owners’ cap that local teachers, crafts aficionados and home decor enthusiasts should keep busy. A satellite campus for Alcorn State University and a makeover at Garfield’s Restaurant went in late last year. They’re two completely different operations, but it’s commendable the ownership, which re-branded in 2012 as RockStep Development, fostered both to fruition.

Inside the mall, it’s the tough row its ownership expected when they took over. The occupancy rate has been hovering around 50 percent since 2010. But, it doesn’t take away from the aggressive efforts undertaken to keep the mall’s highest-profile spaces vibrant. Supporting the mall hasn’t been this easy in a long time.