MOA Opens Space for Retailers Hit Hard by Tumultuous Year
A range of struggling boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries will soon find a new temporary home at the Mall of America. On Monday, the mall said it plans to provide free space for more than a dozen businesses that have been impacted by civil unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Starting Oct. 1, the Bloomington mall will open a 5,000-square-foot space on its second level for 17 local shops. The space, which will be known as “Community Commons,” will remain in place through spring 2021, MOA officials said in a statement. Beauty chain Riley Rose, which shuttered all stores late last year, used to occupy the space. The commons has “an open-style floorplan that will lend itself well to this new shared format,” mall spokeswoman Sarah Grap said in an email.
Mall of America also plans to provide marketing support for the businesses in the commons. “They will be featured on our website, social media, and through traditional media opportunities,” Grap noted.
The businesses were selected through an application process. Umar Ahmed, CEO and co-founder of bamboo toothbrush seller Twiggy Fresh, said he heard about the program through some friends and made a last-minute decision to apply. Twiggy Fresh is primarily an e-commerce business, though the company used to maintain a small shared store space in the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis. But amid the pandemic and ongoing social unrest, that space has been shut down, Ahmed said. “Downtown is a totally different kind of customer,” he noted. “Most of the time, we had a short window of time with downtown customers.” He expects that to change at MOA.
Meanwhile, mall officials say the stores will benefit from an uptick in holiday season foot traffic. “They will gain visibility to thousands of shoppers who otherwise may never have known of their brand,” Grap said. “The hope is that they will be able to increase their customer base for the long term.”
Raeisha Williams, owner of Heritage Tea & Beverage, said the temporary move to MOA will be a “great opportunity to promote my brand.” Both of her store’s locations have been shuttered within recent months. Her tea shop on University Avenue in St. Paul closed at the beginning of the year, and her second location within the US Bank Stadium isn’t operating now due to Covid-19.
“We’re just excited about the opportunity,” Williams said. “We’re happy to see that the Mall of America is trying to engage, particularly with African American businesses.”
Jill Renslow, MOA’s executive VP of business development and marketing, describes the initiative as “one of hope and possibility.”
“Mall of America joins the efforts to help rebuild the hearts, minds and livelihoods of our diverse retail community,” she said in a statement.
Juxtaposition Arts, a teen-staffed nonprofit creative group, has been tapped to provide artwork for Community Commons.
According to Star Tribune estimates, this summer’s civil unrest resulted in property damage at more than 1,500 locations in the Twin Cities metro. Businesses along Lake Street in south Minneapolis sustained some of the worst damage in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death.
And, of course, the pandemic has been the death knell for scores of retailers big and small. Over the last few months, dozens of retailers have filed bankruptcy due to Covid-related losses. Even MOA itself has struggled during the pandemic; last month, the mall entered into a special cash-management agreement with its loan servicer to avoid foreclosure.
Still, businesses participating in the Community Commons program remain optimistic. “I hope to achieve an awareness of our business/brand and to let people know that we are here and here to stay,” said Allena Dancer, owner of The Peach Eatery, in an email.
The 17 businesses that plan to temporarily relocate to MOA are:
- 4 The Love
- Art Piece Soul Gallery & Studio, LLC
- Belle & Virtue Collection
- Butters by Jay
- Candy Colors LLC
- Captain Rebel
- DAUREN Worldwide
- Ebony Gifts
- Fabulous Diva Boutique
- Herbal Alchemy
- Heritage Tea & Beverages
- La Michoacana Purepecha
- The Peach Eatery
- Twiggy Fresh LLC
- Urban 29
- VIP Section