- By Matt Sanctis Staff Writer
Two local businesses will open in the Upper Valley Mall this spring, including a furniture store that will take over space formerly occupied by Elder Beerman.
Sheer Perfection, a new hair salon, is expected to open in a location near the mall’s front entrance near the food court on March 1, said Brenda LaBonte, the mall’s general manager. Unique Furnishings Plus, which will offer antique and hard-to-find furniture and other items, is expected to open on May 1 and will take over the former Elder Beerman store, according to LaBonte and the store’s owner.
The mall has seen several national retailers close locations at a time when the industry is undergoing major upheaval. In many cases, the mall has tried to replace those businesses with small, locally owned stores.
“We are able to deal with local tenants and make it affordable for them to move in,” LaBonte said. “The old adage that mall space is expensive is not true. We want to get these local stores, incubate them and let them grow.”
Unique Furnishings Plus has been open for close to a decade in the Southern Village Shopping Center, but needed more space as it has expanded, said Charles Dean, the business’ owner. The store specializes in finding antique and unusual furniture and other decorative items, but also sells newer items.
“There are people who are looking for top quality stuff,” Dean said. “We think we have it.”
The business has outgrown its current location, he said, and the former Elder Beerman store will offer enough space for a showroom and plenty of storage. Dean said the business would likely use about half the available space in the former department store, and it’s possible he could provide additional space to other vendors as long as they meet his business’ standards.
The current location is about 25,000 square feet, and his store has five employees. Along with additional space, the mall location also provides easier access to his customers from Urbana and New Carlisle, Dean said.
“We want to be a part of helping the mall grow,” Dean said.
Marlon Howard grew up working in the salon business in stores owned by his step-mother and his aunt. But Sheer Perfection will be the first business he’s owned, he said. He also said he wants to draw more customers back to the mall and said the salon will offer a wide range of services.
“We thought the mall would be perfect because of all the foot traffic they still have,” Howard said. “I know they’re trying to build that business back up. It’s a perfect location because there are no hair salons there now. All malls need hair salons.”
Last month, mall officials confirmed Christopher & Banks would close its location and reopen this spring in the Bechtle Crossing shopping center in the former Lane Bryant store.
Other chains, including Rue 21 and Kay Jewelers, have also left the mall to open locations on Bechtle Avenue. J.C. Penney and Macy’s left in 2015.
Many national retailers faces challenges as shopping habits change, LaBonte said, and more people make purchases online. She said malls need to be more creative when looking to fill vacant spaces.
“We can’t stay the same and grow,” LaBonte said. “We have to be sensitive to the local retail market and what’s going on. We’re going to be non-traditional.”