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Alpena Mall ‘holding ground’ under new owners

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Brandon Bishop, who co-owns Karma’s A Fish! with Shelly Adamski, takes care of one of the snakes available at their location in the Alpena Mall.

ALPENA — The Alpena Mall “is holding its ground,” according to representatives of the development firm that purchased it late last year.

The 182,975-square-foot mall was purchased by the Shreveport, La.-based firm Molla Investments in December, according to a press release from Friedman Real Estate, the firm that brokered the deal. The mall was previously owned by Cocoa Capital Corp.

Solomon Belay, owner of Molla Investments, said the mall continues to perform the same as it has in recent years. He said the developers are trying to help their existing tenants by promoting the mall and they are hoping to fill any existing vacancies.

“We’re trying to get some quality tenants, but malls are not like they used to be, the retail industry is not what it used to be,” he said, alluding to the competition mall retailers are seeing from online sales.

Shelly Adamski, who co-owns Karmas A Fish! with Brandon Bishop, said one of the store’s biggest obstacles is competing with Walmart or Amazon.

“Somebody will look at our stuff and say, ‘I can get this delivered right to my door in two days for a dollar cheaper than what you’re selling it for. I would rather buy it from Amazon,'” she said.

The store sells live birds, reptiles and small mammals, as well as the food, bedding and supplies needed to care for them.

Adamski and Bishop decided to start the business because they couldn’t find the fish they needed for their fish tanks, other than those that were available at Walmart and Meijer.

She said there is a need for the pet store because there’s nothing like their store for 80 miles. She said the nearest pet store like theirs is either located in Gaylord or Saginaw.

Although the store has operated in the mall for the past two years, Adamski said they have noticed a decrease in the number of people coming into the mall.

“When it’s good, it’s real good,” she said. “When it’s bad, it’s real bad.”

Jody Carpenter, owner of the gift shop Little Bit of Everything, has also noticed business at the mall is “very slow.” Carpenter said the big stores help bring people into the mall, but that small businesses need the support of residents living in the Alpena area.

Carpenter said she started her gift shop because it was her dream and that her strategy has been to focus on what her customers want and to keep those things in stock. She said body jewelry is one of the things people want right now.

“I try to get things that are different,” she said. “I don’t want to be like the normal stores.”

Belay said the mall was able to bring the restaurant Hungry Hippie in this winter and said Stitches N’ Blooms, a crafting shop, will open in the mall soon. The Hungry Hippie moved into the mall in February, opening in the space where Cabin Creek Coffee was formerly located.

Stitches N’ Blooms will open in the space where the old Payless shoe store was previously located. A late-May post on the business’s Facebook page said the move was “bittersweet” as the business has been at its current location in the Thunder Bay Shopping Center, the strip mall on U.S.-23 anchored by Neiman’s Family Market, for the past 34 years.

The Thunder Bay Shopping Center was sold to Woodcrest Capital in September, which is a commercial real estate agency based out of Fort Worth, Texas.

“Looking forward to what the next 34 years holds,” the post said.

Belay said that, in addition to focusing on attracting quality businesses, the management firm believes there might be opportunity for more food service businesses or restaurants in the mall.

“We need to get the good word out, attract more traffic, and help the town of Alpena grow,” he said.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.