New businesses come to mall

Three businesses have recently opened their doors at Dakota Square Mall. Two are fashion boutiques and the other a new restaurant in the food court.

The introduction of the three businesses indicates turn over at the mall which is also suggested by shuttered store-fronts like what used to be an Arby’s restaurant in the food court and some empty kiosks in the mall’s walkways. Still, the mall’s general manager said the mall is at 96 percent capacity and that the open units have gotten many bites.

“There continues to be a real strong interest in the mall,” said manager Chuck Massey.

He said the only real open units are a spot of roughly 700 square feet and another spot that’s roughly 400 square feet. While he’s not ready to do any announcements of upcoming tenants right now they do seem to be counted for considering that he said there may be new stores announced early next month.

What has been announced is a store called Zumies that sells the “California lifestyle type thing,” Massey said, with skating and surfing inspired apparel that is targeted at young people from their mid-teens to their late 20s. That’s scheduled to begin construction in mid-July.

The two fashion boutiques that have already recently opened, though, each specialize in different genders.

At the intersection of all the thoroughfares, facing the central mall clock tower, is Francesca’s, a women’s clothing boutique franchise that started in Houston and has blossomed across the country to 500 stores. It’s a true boutique, too.

“Something that’s very unique about Francesca’s is that we never get in the same stuff twice and we only get in about six or so of one item, so when it’s gone, it’s gone,” said assistant store manager Francesca Fay. “You’re never going to see someone with your same outfit.”

That’s a rather unusual business model for franchises which often like to maintain a strong, iconic brand image with specialized fashions. Francesca’s, though, gets in things other than just clothing, including wall signs, clothing accessories and even gifts for mothers and grandmothers as the 100th Mother’s Day approaches.

“Each Francesca’s is geared toward where’s it’s located. So in Florida they will have more of the summer, the bikinis and all that kind of swimwear,” Fay said. “We’re going to have a lot of fall and winter items.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is L’Couture, a single store men’s boutique specializing in fashions of a single place to set a certain mood.

“It all comes from Miami and is very diverse from what you see elsewhere in the mall. It’s very summery clothes which are coming into style,” said Samantha Sunsin, the assistant manager of the store. “And this is for going out or if you want to go out you can put on something nice.”

Both Sunsin and store manager Karen Silva were born and raised in Miami and came to North Dakota to pursue a dream of owning a clothing store. They don’t want to just stop at their current business model but traveled all the way to the other side of the country because they have “high hopes, high faith” in its success in the booming market of western North Dakota.

In five to six months, Sunsin said, they hope to expand to offering some women’s clothing as well.

When all the clothes have been bought, though, customers can walk just a few feet down and find the newest addition to the food court: Leeann Chin, a restaurant chain based in Bloomington, Minn.

The chain is just starting its expansion away from storefront and standalone casual fast restaurants into food courts, with their Minot location being one of their first and only second in North Dakota after the West Acres Mall in Fargo.

“We’re extremely happy being here in Dakota Square Mall,” said Todd Laramy, the director of operations for the chain. “It’s safe to say it’s exceeded our expectations.”

Laramy was sent by the company to oversee the opening and initial operation of each new restaurant the company opens and is especially pleased with the location they have in the mall, which is at the edge of the food court and faces both one of the mall’s primary entrances and the Barnes & Noble.

Mall manager Messey wasn’t able to disclose the consumer trends of the mall because the ownership, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., based in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a publicly traded company. He did say, though, that customer numbers have been trending upward.

“The business is still very strong. We continue to draw from such a wide area as far as eastern Montana and up into Canada,” he said. “I think any additional retail in town that has cropped up in recent years just solidies Minot as a destination for shopping.”