Sunday, January 04, 2009

Columbia Mall comings and goings

The new year has brought a handful of comings and goings at Grand Forks' Columbia Mall.

Certainly the most high-profile change at the mall is the closure of the Royal Fork Buffet. The restaurant had been a fixture in the mall since the early 1980s and, until Sears set up shop at Columbia Mall a few years back, the Royal Fork had functioned as an anchor of sorts for the mall's north corridor. The opening of the Golden Corral Buffet a couple of years ago seems to have had a negative impact on the Royal Fork's bottom line. Since their new competition opened, the Royal Fork both raised their prices and started charging for beverages. In hindsight, I wonder if essentially charging their patrons more was the wisest way to respond to increased competition. Regardless, the Royal Fork was the site of countless family occasions over the years for our family and I will miss it.

While the space formerly occupied by the Royal Fork doesn't appear to have a new tenant as of yet, another restaurant that recently left the mall was quickly replaced with a new one. The Great American Cookies/TCBY in the mall's Dakota Cafe Food Court recently closed. However, the space didn't stay empty for long and a restaurant named Forks and Spoons took over the location. Forks and Spoons serves BBQs, soups, salads, Sloppy Joes and soft-serve ice cream.

Also, Scott's Music is moving out of their location close to the mall's Center Court and into a larger space in the Sears Wing. Scott's is taking over the spot formerly occupied by the Shirt Connection.

What changes would you like to see come to the mall in 2009? Given the current economy, do you think the previously discussed remodeling/expansion plans at Columbia Mall have been put off for the time being?

13 comments:

Matthew said...

It's interesting that you refer to the Golden Corral as having moved in "a couple of years ago." We could probably nail the exact date down by looking at your old posts GFG!

The reason I bring it up is that there seem to have been a number of occasions where people here have argued over when a store/restaurant/other existed in Grand Forks, and an online timeline for those sorts of things might be interesting for those people and for local historians. Maybe it already exists, but it might be a fun project to start at Grand Forks Life, maybe by using the Timeline widget.

My two cents for the day.

dale said...

Didn't I see a post someplace about the Ritz Camera store just closing? Hate to see someone lose their livelihood, but I'm beyond amazed that it lasted that long. The fast decline of film cameras and the commoditization of digital ones would seem to make a stand alone camera store a pretty poor proposition, in 2006, much less 2009. Sad thing is that there's really nothing, short of switching to something else entirely, like cell phones, that they could have done to stave it off.

ndborn said...

i know this is off topic, but thought i might get an answer ... does anyone know what happened to KBRR's (ch 10) over the air signal? we have a rooftop antennae and about a month ago (or more) we lost our analog fox signal. is there another fox station we could maybe pick up?

Jess said...

I would like to see more in the food court.

Meest said...

NDborn. were you picking up the analog of the digital signal? They probably quit transmitting in analog for the switch in February. I know I can get fox in digital over the air now...

Have you updated your digital channels? a month ago I only had 4 digital over the air. Now I have like 14! alot of double's but we'll see whats left after February.

Andrew said...

Oh the Columbia Mall. It used to be the central destination for retail shopping. The downtown was urbanizing and becoming tres chic, as are so many old downtowns in practically all cities of 50,000+ population. But Columbia was still the place for our suburbanite-styled public.

Columbia is fightin' now, and doing their best in view of business constraints. The hardships are not all their fault, but they did misplay their hand on that whole Target thing.

The departure of Target (eight years ago?) stands out now like the Visigoths sacking Rome as _the_ dot on the timeline which signaled the end of the empire.

With Target there seemed to be a change of developer taste. The indoor mall's out and the outdoor strip mall's in. We now have more mall-style shopping than ever in this city. But at least with regard to the spaces of not always the stores within, it's cookie-cutter standard boardroom presentation stuff, greenlighted by folks far from here as a place to park some of the easy capital of the early 00s. That's as we'll come to know it.

Sears seemed to want to get into Columbia forever, it wanted to tap into the magic. There was perhaps a month or two when both Target and Sears were operating that Columbia felt alive and energetic in the same way that Mall of America did when it first opened. (OT: Do you remember that? Wow, going to MoA was like going to Disneyworld then...meeting people from all over the globe. It was seriously Dubai-scale in a time before Dubai.) Turned out that was the peak.

Now, Sears is again caught languishing within a dying mall. It doesn't help that at the corporate board level, Eddie Lampert was just trying to make a real-estate flip. He miss-timed it; the company is rudderless and weighed down by KMart baggage.

I've got to say that Columbia is really trying hard, in the ways they know how. The new food court was a bold stroke at revitalization. I love the space, personally, but I wish there were more actual filled stands a la West Acres. And forgotten in the project was the reality that people come to the mall for the shopping. The food court may hold you a bit, but it doesn't bring you if you weren't already there.

In that sense Columbia's revitalization effort has lacked a unifying vision. It's been bold, but piecemeal. That won't do, long term.

There is a solid sustainable presence that does not seem threatened. In that way it can certainly go on, like Grand Cities Mall. But... that way lies a bleakness and isolation.

Grand Cities just won't die at this point. I recall the days when it was South Forks Plaza. My first mall memories as a little kid were of the fountains and the tossed coins, the tobacconist and cheese shops which were right in that place. Then, KMart and Sears were as much a big deal to SFP as Target, JCP and Dayton's were to CM.

For CM to thrive, rather than just survive as a relic like GCM, it MUST develop the old Target space as soon as possible. Property details aside, CM must do whatever needs to be done to get control over that area and get it redeveloped. What needs to go in there? Well...that's the secret sauce. It doesn't need to be overly fancy or pretentious. Some sort of anchor retailer with a fresh clean look and stuff that's in common constant demand, so people routinely have reasons to go and replenish. Good branding for fashionable acceptance by the discerning public, but also traditional midwestern casual products that are always needed and inexpensive enough for a mass audience.

I caught a rumor in 2008 that a cinema developer was thinking about the Target space. That's intriguing, and could be fun, but ultimately I think such a move would prove an unsustainable flop.

I sure hope any future developer thinking about building upward on the Target floorplan will finally be allowed to do whatever they desire by CM now. Time was, Target was willing and even desired to stay in the CM, so long as they could complete an expansion by at least building upward. CM...you did kill yourselves, you know that?.

As big box retail changes, indoor malls too must manage their anchors to have any hope. I don't know if the present fashion even favors the indoor mall concept, but I have to think that implemented properly, there is certainly place for it up here in America's Icebox.

I still go to Target constantly. It's a must shop for me. I used to do all this at the CM and usually toured the mall even if my only reason to go was to pick up the junk I needed at Target. I followed my needs and followed Target. I rarely go to CM now. And ironically, I hate the strips with the constantly having to go back outside for stores that are too far to conveniently walk to, and too close to sensibly drive to.

Anyone got word on how Furniture Row is fairing? How do you get there again? It's behind what? I saw a sign at the exit, but...then we stopped at Denny's and now I forgot what I wanted to do. Oh hey! There's Target, let's just go in there.

Carm said...

A proper Barnes and Noble. In the former Target space. Please.

jesslvan said...

I agree this space needs to be developed sometime in the next century. The question on whether the mall can withstain and hold new smaller stores is a question, when there are already spaces unused in the mall. Does anyone know of the timeline in which plans are on the go?

Jtown11 said...

I agree that a proper Barnes & Noble should go there. I would like to see an indoor mini-golf course there. It would be something unique to drive people to the mall... and be useful year-round. There are many stores that would help the mall, but retailers are sluggish are new openings because of the national economy. Hopefully, the Target store redevelopment happens this year.

Matthew said...

I swear I heard all these ideas last year, but everyone is waiting for "someone else" to do it (no offense intended, I'm the same way).

Speaking of which, did the people who were going to open up mini golf, batting cages and go-karts ever try to get by the city council again, or did the doctors in the neighborhood shut them down for good?

Anonymous said...

I visit GF a couple of times a year and was very sad to see my favorite eating place gone. The corral is OK, but looks more like a macdonalds, no cozy booths or any class. Will miss it and hope the one here in Winnipeg (and other areas)stays open! I never even bothered going into the Mall, it is full of high priced stores. I would definitely visit if there were a "bargain/liquidation" store or two in there like "only deals" (a great store that closed a few years ago) or like the one that was in East GF..

gf2004 said...

I wish somebody in this town would open a DSW & Ulta or Sephora. CM leaves soooo much to be desired! Unfortunately it's hardly worth the trip out there.

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