Despite vacant stores in I-10 Mall, open stores doing well

Despite vacant stores in I-10 Mall, open stores doing well
(Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)
(Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)
(Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)
(Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)

IOWA, LA (KPLC) - Built in the late 1980's, the I-10 Outlet Mall in Iowa has weathered devastating natural disasters over the years.

It's left it with fewer and fewer stores and has many wondering how it stays open.

Stores in the mall are trying to rebuild their image, just as they've rebuilt the mall itself.

Many who run stores in the mall spoke with us on behalf of the mall owner, giving us an inside look at what they've personally experienced over the years. And this year, is an important one for the mall.

"It marks the 25th year that the mall and VF outlet have been here in this mall," explained Edward Allums, who manages the VF Outlet store located in the I-10 Mall in Iowa.

"We definitely get the traffic," said Allums.

It's easy to see why. With their large sign visible to interstate traffic, the mall appears to have the perfect location.

But the promising shopping venue that started with more than 20 stores now has just a handful.

"Right now we have about five or six stores that are presently in the mall," said Allums.

Employees blame bad luck for that, with natural disasters like a tornado in 2002 to Hurricane Rita.

"It just took a long time to get the economy and the area back up and rebuilt, so a lot of stores then executed their rights in the lease to cut the lease and they moved on," said Allums.

As a result of natural disasters over the years there are a lot of vacant stores in the mall. But despite that, stores that are open here say they're in good financial shape.

"I tripled my business by being here," said Dorinda DeReese, owner of Gifts Gallore.

Moving from downtown, DeReese has run Gifts Gallore at the I-10 Mall for almost five years.

She joins Connie Gawith, who has run Connie's at the mall for nearly three years.

"Financially speaking overall, we do turn a profit," said Gawith.

Both are mom and pop type stores, and just like the VF Outlet, relies heavily on local loyal customers.

"We're doing really, really well right now," said Allums.

While sales may be good for stores that are open here, the problem remains in getting more to open up shop.

"We keep thinking it's got to happen and with the boom in Lake Charles we really have high hopes and think we're going to grow," said DeReese.

Allums added, "It's just getting one or two small businesses in and letting the community see that they're surviving and making it and I think that's really going to help us grow the mall."

And if experience has taught them anything, it's that despite each hurdle, they're able to keep moving forward, which keeps them optimistic.

"Yes, we're definitely going to be here another 25 years," said Allums.

Because there's just a handful of stores open, one side of the mall is closed except when it's leased out for events, or until someone permanently sets up shop.

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