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Published: Friday, 2/18/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

New life for Woodville Mall

Site manager's expertise draws 15 businesses to eastern suburb

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A once-bustling Woodville Mall is seeking to breathe life back into itself. There are 15 new tenants, with the prospect of two more soon. A once-bustling Woodville Mall is seeking to breathe life back into itself. There are 15 new tenants, with the prospect of two more soon.
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For the last several years, the inside of the Woodville Mall has been more like a morgue than a mall. But a new manager and eye-catching low rents are breathing new life into the 41-year-old structure in Northwood.

Since Juanita Jones took over managing the mall just before Thanksgiving, she has brought in 15 new tenants to the mall's spacious confines and is on the verge of adding another two. Not all of the new tenants are retailers, but Ms. Jones said more retailers will come after she fills enough spaces to create a buzz for the shopping center.

"She's awesome. She is the best thing that's ever happened to this mall in the 15 years I've been here," said Susan Bunn, owner of Sports Maniac, a sports memorabilia shop and tanning salon.

"The prior mall manager didn't do anything. But with her, it's getting really exciting around here. She keeps everybody going around here and she cares about all the tenants."

Ms. Jones said part of her success is not being afraid to get out and sell the idea of locating in the mall. "I've put my card out everywhere and I've been out in the community, driving up and down, often on weekends," she said.

What she's been selling is rock-bottom rental space — 75 cents to $1 per square foot for the first year. That's low enough to enable start-up entrepreneurs to test their business acumen. A recent industry report shows average retail rent in the Northwood area is $11.74 a square foot.

Since November, the mall has added two restaurants, a dessert shop, two hair salons, a computer store, a combination gift shop-bookstore-dance studio, a crafts store, a radio station, a lawn maintenance business, a photography studio, a hobby store, a role-playing games store, an art gallery, and a computer networking business.

A gym that specializes in mixed martial arts, karate, and boxing will open in March, and a clothing retailer has signed a lease but is relocating to a larger space.

Mike Kohan, the New York investor who bought the mall on Williston Road for $700,000 in November, 2009, said he wasn't sure what to think when Ms. Jones, a former restaurant and catering service owner in Columbus, contacted him last fall about the manager's job.

"I don't think the mall has had any exciting things happen for the last 10 years, but she is really doing a great job and we are supporting her 100 percent," he said.

Ms. Jones isn't done. She trying to get Kohl's Corp. to put a store there, in the vacant Elder-Beerman spot. The retailer hasn't automatically rejected the idea, she added.

"This community needs this mall, and I believe in this community," she said. "Why not Woodville? That's my attitude. People say, ‘Why?' and I just say, ‘Why not'?"

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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