Outlets of Vicksburg prepares to celebrate 20th anniversary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 17, 2015

Karolynne Rivers, 4, eats an ice cream cone Thursday at the Outlets at Vicksburg.  -- Justin Sellers

Karolynne Rivers, 4, eats an ice cream cone Thursday at the Outlets at Vicksburg. — Justin Sellers

The Outlets at Vicksburg will celebrate 20 years in business May 23 with “The Road to 20.”

“The Road to 20” has a double meaning, signifying both the 20 years of continuing business and the long-awaited extension of the frontage road adjacent to Interstate 20.

Celebrations include exclusive discounts and sales, online contests and giveaways and a major celebration Memorial Day, May 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring live entertainment, food, refreshments and giveaways.

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With the Outlets’ 20-year anniversary just around the corner, the first and only general manager, Margaret Gilmer, has been reflecting on the shopping center’s success.

“I’m a partner in the partnership that started this center, so I guess I kind of grew my own job,” she said. “After we got it built, somebody had to manage it.”

Gilmer said she could not believe 20 years have gone by but added time flies when you’re having fun.

“When we started working in the industry, we would go to the national meetings,” she said. “You would take a booth and (national retailers) would come to the booths if they were interested in locating in your area.”

Most retailers had heard of Vicksburg, but once Mississippi was mentioned, they often lost interest, Gilmer said.

“It was a difficult sell job convincing the retailers that they wanted to be in Mississippi,” she said. “There really weren’t any others here at the time.”

Gilmer said she and her partners were persistent.

“One of my partners and I dressed up in antebellum dresses and manned the booth,” she said. “We thought we were going to a trade show.”

The opposite turned out to be true. Gilmer said the meeting was very male, very black tie and very retail.

“When we rented our booth space, we were on the back isle in the back corner and we had on our antebellum dresses,” she said. “We made Mississippi mud pie and we served mint juleps. The consultant we were working with told us it would be great if we did that, but she didn’t mention no one else would be doing anything like that.”

Gilmer said all the retailers and developers came to see them at what ended up being the busiest booth at the meeting.

“There was just something about Vicksburg that they all like,” she said. “I’ve never had a retailer that came that did not love the area. If there were ever anything that would make you be totally committed to an area it would be all the national retailers sending their site selection people and every time they would go, ‘this is amazing.’”

Gilmer said most of the retailers that opened with the center in 1995 are still there today.

“The stores like Dress Barn, Kitchen Collection, Bon Worth, Claire’s and so many of the stores that opened with us are still here,” she said. “I think that’s a testament to their success that they do great business here.”

As tourism numbers have grown in the past years and the center has established a reputation, Outlets at Vicksburg has continued to be successful, Gilmer said. Sales numbers have grown each year since the center opened.

Gilmer previously said there are plans for additional phases of construction, which would add another 100,000 square feet of retail space.

For more information about the Outlets at Vicksburg or “The Road to 20,” call 601-636-7434 or visit www.outletsatvicksburg.com.