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Still standing

Stores remain open with demolition of mall on horizon ? Crossroads Mall will eventually become Corridor Plaza

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Trenton Lawrence, assistant manager at Buckle, looks over a T-shirt sold at the store. The retail store, which is known in part for its denim product, has been at Crossroads Mall since 1992. The mall is being redeveloped by new owners and is in the process of becoming Corridor Plaza.

Safety fencing surrounds most of Crossroads Mall this September as demolition on part of the structure is set to begin soon. The lettering of JC Penney, once a popular anchor store of the mall, has faded from the brick exterior.

It’s a sign of the state of malls across the country — many closing or being reenvisioned.

But inside Crossroads Mall, multiple businesses are still open and working to keep their customer base. Those businesses have remained open during a time when not only a majority of stores have left the mall, but also a time when a global pandemic is sweeping the country.

The Messenger recently checked in on some of these businesses to see what products they offer and what their plans might be in the coming months as new owners, Crossroads Plaza Development LLC, of Ankeny, begin their plans for the mall. The firm plans to tear down the existing mall and replace it with a mixture of stores, multi-use buildings, an office building, a hotel and a roughly 10,000-square-foot green space. The new complex will be called Corridor Plaza.

Buckle

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Deb Schmidt, store manager of Carolyn’s Hallmark Shop, holds one of her stuffed gnome friends at Crossroads Mall. Gnomes, Hallmark cards, ornaments and other gifts are sold at the store. As Crossroads Mall is redveloped, Schmidt said customers have been confused on whether or not the store is open. She said the store will remain open at its current location throughout the holiday season and into at least part of the new year.

Trenton Lawrence, assistant manager at Buckle, said employees have had to do more outreach to keep business steady.

“We have been more involved on social media,” he said. “We have to be involved in the store and out. We call our guests about specific brands we know they are interested in. Educate them on what’s new. We do more outreach to keep our numbers going.”

Buckle, the fashion retailer which sells clothing, footwear and accessories for men, women, boys, girls, opened at Crossroads Mall in 1992.

Lawrence said its location within the mall has not changed since it opened.

He said the biggest challenge in recent times has been letting the public know that Buckle is still open.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Angela Voigts, store manager of rue21, shows off some of the store’s fragrances. Voigts previously worked at Vanity and Younkers, two stores within Crossroads Mall that have closed in recent years. She’s hopeful rue21 will have a space as the mall undergoes a redevelopment under new ownership.

“We are definitely open,” Lawrence said. “We’ve all had to adapt with the changes at the mall and the pandemic. We’ve had to work harder to get the word out that we are still in business.”

In terms of products, Lawrence said denim has emerged as a focus for the store.

“We also sell shoes, T-shirts, brands only available at Buckle,” he said. “A lot of in-house brands you can’t get anywhere else.”

Lawrence’s favorite part of the job is helping customers find the right style and fit.

“What sets us apart is we are very personal with our guests,” he said. “Guest-oriented, guest-involved. I love to style our customers and find correct fits. I like helping people from when they first come in to when they leave.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Lam Tran, owner of Hunan King, poses behind the counter of his restaurant at Crossroads Mall. Tran or a member of his family have operated the Chinese restaurant at the mall for over 30 years. Tran said he’s likely to close the business at the end of 2020.

To his knowledge, Lawrence said Buckle plans to remain in Fort Dodge.

Carolyn’s Hallmark Shop

Hallmark has had a presence at Crossroads Mall for about as long as the mall has been open, according to Tom Maudlin, who currently owns the gift store with his wife, Carolyn.

“It was one of the first stores in the mall,” Tom Maudlin said. “It’s had three different owners.”

Deb Schmidt has managed the shop for almost 23 years.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Aubry Salgren, co-owner of The Artist’s Warehouse at Crossroads Mall, poses in front of some of her artwork.

“She’s the heart and soul of the store,” Tom Maudlin said.

Hallmark cards, ornaments and a large general gift collection is found within the shop.

“We have a full line of a variety of gifts,” Schmidt said. “If you need a gift, come here and you’ll find it.”

Schmidt said the store offers free gift wrapping.

She said curbside pickup is available for customers who do not wish to enter the store.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Raul Guitron, manager and part owner of Hacienda Vieja, an authentic Mexican family restaurant, holds a margarita in one hand and a fajita dish in the other. Guitron said he likes being in Fort Dodge and is looking forward to continuing to serve customers even if it’s in a different space than its current Crossroads Mall location. The mall is in the phase of being redeveloped by new owners. In the coming months, businesses will have to decide if they are staying or relocating.

Tom Maudlin said he’s been trying to get the word out that Hallmark remains open.

“We are still open and there are still good stores out here,” he said. “We are still and have been operating normal hours. People hear all the rumors and see the fences and assume nothing is left. We are still operating.”

Tom Maudlin said he doesn’t yet have a read on the future of his store.

“That’s up in the air with the developer,” he said. “We are waiting to react to their plan.”

Schmidt said the Hallmark store will be open through Christmas and most likely the first part of the year.

“We sure want to stay, we have amazing customers,” Schmidt said. “We all need them (customers) to come shop with us so we can be part of the future.”

rue21

Angela Voigts used to work at Vanity and Younkers, two stores in Crossroads Mall that have closed in recent years.

She now manages rue21, a retail brand that offers fashion-forward clothing and accessories for young men and women.

rue21sells T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, casual wear, shoes and fragrances.

Voigts said the Fort Dodge store ranks in the top five for fragrance sales among the hundreds of rue21 locations in the country.

She hopes the store will continue to have a presence in Fort Dodge.

“There’s some uncertainty right now,” she said. “A few of us managers would like a better sense of what’s going on. Will we get a space?”

Hunan King

For over 30 years, Lam Tran’s family has been serving Fort Dodgers their Chinese food favorites from its location at Crossroads Mall.

“The food is locally liked,” Tran said. “It’s been here for so long.”

Appetizers like crab rangoon and chicken fried rice have been top sellers, Tran said. His favorite is the lemon grass beef or pork.

“It’s spicy,” he said.

But Tran, who moved to America from Vietnam when he was 10, said his time in the kitchen is likely to cool off by the end of the year.

“I think I will be done by the end of December,” Tran said. “I don’t plan to go forward with any restaurant business anymore.”

Tran said that’s mostly due to the decline of Crossroads Mall and his enthusiasm for the business has been dwindling.

“Due to lack of anchor stores to be precise,” Tran said. “Not as much reason to come in the mall. Ready for something different.”

Tran has been operating the restaurant since 2005.

The Artist’s Warehouse

Aubry Salgren and Marisa Hamilton own this artistic haven where customers can produce crafts and paintings of a wide variety.

The two opened their store in June 2019.

Customers can come in to work on their projects or take them home. There’s also a space available for baby showers and birthday parties.

COVID-19 has impacted the number of customers coming in, Salgren said.

“A lot of people haven’t gathered because of COVID,” she said. “Not as many people have come in.”

In an effort to bring the art to customers, Salgren she and Hamilton started delivering art products.

“We started delivering kits to people’s houses so they could do them at home instead of coming in,” Salgren said.

Salrgen said she enjoys the atmosphere of her store.

“I like being able to paint while I am at work and do different crafts with the kids,” Salgren said.

In terms of location, Salgren said she and Hamilton are considering their

options.

“We are looking at a new place,” she said. “We aren’t sure what’s happening yet.”

Hacienda Vieja

This Mexican family restaurant serves authentic Mexican dishes and a variety of mixed drinks.

It is managed by Raul Guitron, who co-owns the restaurant with Salvador Lepe

The business opened at Crossroads Mall seven years ago.

Even as foot traffic at the mall has declined, Guitron said customers in Fort Dodge have been loyal.

“People come to the restaurant at night even though mall is slowing down,” he said. “I am glad people are still coming.”

Guitron, who moved from to the area from Portland, Oregon, said the people in Iowa have been friendly.

“I enjoy when people come and then go happy,” he said. “When something is wrong I like to learn from it and make it right.”

Guitron is hopeful to have a space for the restaurant somewhere within the new complex.

“We are waiting to have a meeting with new owners soon,” Guitron said. “See some possible locations. We like the size of the town. My kids have friends here and are happy here.”

Shoe Sensation

Shoe Sensation, which opened at Crossroads Mall on Jan. 12, 2012, is one of few brick and mortar shoe stores in Fort Dodge.

“It’s about the only place in town to get the Vans, Converse, Nike,” said Brittany Dreke, store manager.

She said the store also sells Under Armour, Hey Dudes, Puma and K-Swiss brands.

In addition to shoes, the store sells accessories, back packs, dufflebags, hats, socks and sunglasses.

Dreke said she’s done a lot more outreach to let people know the store is open during the pandemic and during changing times at the mall.

She said she’s seen more new customers in recent months.

“Our new customers that are coming in,” Dreke said. “A lot did not know we were here. They like to come here. We have people who travel to come here. If we don’t have something we can order it for you, it’s fast and easy and can be here in 2-3 business days.”

According to Dreke, Shoe Sensation has plans to remain part of the new complex or in the Fort Dodge area.

“We are going to stay,” she said. “We will be here somewhere in the vicinity of the mall.”

Other businesses open at the mall include: Bath & Body Works, Riddle’s Jewelry, Christopher & Banks, Dunham’s and Verizon.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Brittany Dreke, store manager of Shoe Sensation in Crossroads Mall, poses with a wide selection of shoes behind her. Dreke said Shoe Sensation plans to stay before and after the mall is redeveloped.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
The future of the remaining stores at Crossroads Mall remains uncertain as new owners look to redevelop the site. Some owners say they are confident they will have a spot somewhere in the new arrangement, while others are ready to close.

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