Glenwood Mall merchants optimistic
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” Retail has changed a lot since Terry Kates opened his West Wind Gift Shop in Glenwood Springs 30 years ago.
His humble beginnings started in 1977 downtown, where he spent nearly 10 years at 816 Grand Ave., the current home of Through the Looking Glass bookstore.
Then the energy bust happened in the early 1980s. It was then that he knew he had to do something different.
“I’m like a chameleon,” Kates said. “I do my homework. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t make it either. You’ve always got to keep changing to make it in retail.”
That seems to be a recurring theme for Kates, doing different things. That’s why in 1987 he packed up shop and moved from Grand Avenue to the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood. It’s the best thing he’s done for his business, he said, and it’s a move he’s never regretted.
In November he’ll celebrate 20 years at the mall. That’s no small change.
In the 20 years Kates has held shop in the mall, he’s seen good and bad years. He’s seen many other businesses come and go, but his business is still going strong.
“Retail is a cyclical thing,” he said. “But I’ve had a good year this year.”
Kates attributes the classic mall appeal to the success of his business.
“It’s just conducive to shopping,” Kates said. “Shoppers want to be comfortable. They want to be able to park, come inside and shop at one place. The mall allows them that comfort.”
He recalled a four-year period in the late ’90s when business took a downturn, but he managed to survive. In part, he said, the mall’s proximity to Interstate 70 and being the only “indoor” shopping center from Denver to Grand Junction as reasons.
“We’re the only enclosed mall along I-70,” he said. “When people come here to shop, they like that.”
With the introduction of Glenwood Meadows in 2005, some local shoppers may have overlooked the “old-fashioned” mall in West Glenwood. But Kates said that his business has seen an increase in out-of-town customers thanks to the new competition.
“I’m glad they’re there,” Kates said. “They bring people into town, and when they’re here they’ll stop by and check out the mall, too.”
But location isn’t the only thing in the world of retail.
When the clouds reveal themselves by storming over the mountaintops with drenching rains, it’s a good thing to be off the street, according to Kates.
In Kates’ opinion, shopping downtown or at Meadows doesn’t play well to shoppers during bad weather.
“Bad weather is good for us,” he said. “It plays to our advantage.”
The cold of winter drives shoppers inside to the warmth of the mall’s setting. In the summer shoppers may prefer strolling downtown shops, but when the thermometer tops out, shoppers like air conditioning, according to Kates.
Kates believes the layout of newer shopping centers like Meadows isn’t tailored to shopping.
“It’s not a nice easy flow,” he said. “To get from one store to the other you have to drive or walk a long way. In bad weather I wouldn’t want to do that.”
Other local store owners, like David Wood of Red Mountain Books in the Glenwood Mall, say that business has dropped off some since the addition of Glenwood Meadows.
“There is a lot of retail in Glenwood,” Wood said. “It’s gotten a little more spread out.”
Wood said the biggest impact has been a decline in foot traffic passing by the entrance of his store near the center entrance of the mall. But, he said, thanks to his loyal customers, business is still good.
“That’s the good thing,” he said. “We’re thankful that we have a good loyal clientele.”
Kates said he believes it’s the niche stores like Red Mountain Books that have suffered the most. Kates doesn’t blame the addition of Meadows for the economic downturn of those niche retailers, but instead holds online shopping accountable.
“Look at the music stores,” Kates said. “You can buy music online now and you don’t have to go to the store. You can get anything online. As a retailer you have to be able to adjust if you want to stay in business.”
The Glenwood Mall doesn’t even have a music store that sells compact discs or tapes nowadays.
With competitors like Amazon.com, retailers like Wood have to find something to set them apart from the online and big box competitors like Target.
“We have us,” Wood said indicating himself. “We know books. When someone comes looking for a book and we don’t have it, I can get it for them. And I don’t charge for shipping costs.”
Kates and Wood have both been at the mall for more than a decade. They’re hoping that success will continue.
For Kates, he’s at home at the mall. He’s going to stay right where he is for as long as he can.
“At this stage, we’re steady, that’s all I can look for,” he said. “We’re not setting the world on fire, but business is steady.”
Wood agreed that remaining at the mall is a good business decision.
“That’s my plan,” he said. “I do pretty good here.”
Even with the loss of one of the mall’s anchors, Dunlaps, which closed in July, the mall had no problem filling the space with another department clothing store. A sign reads, “Bealls, coming soon.” How soon is unknown. Several attempts for comment from mall administration yielded no results.
Currently, the mall only has three open locations for businesses, not including the Dunlaps spot. But a number of retailers have remodeled and the presence of anchor stores such as Kmart, JC Penny and the Mall 3 Movie Theater would indicate a strong outlook for the mall’s future.
Kates is sure that he’ll finish his retail career in West Glenwood.
“There’s no better place,” he said. “This is the best location in town for me.”
Contact John Gardner: 384-9114
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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