New life in the mallPublished 10:51am Friday, July 5, 2013
Mary Lynn Chandler is out to help couples tie the knot without emptying the wallet.
“I work with brides on a budget,” she said.
Chandler, owner of Sweet Serendipity Wedding & Events Consignment in Oak Park Mall, opened the business on June 15. The wedding dresses she sells are pre-worn or owned but never used, and range from $40 to $800, well below retail prices. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment on Sundays and Mondays.
Chandler recently moved from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Austin to open up shop.
“I thought this was a great community to open a business like this,” she said, adding business so far has gone “better than expected.”
In addition to the more than 600 wedding dresses in stock, the store has decor, prom dresses, flower girl dresses and bridesmaids dresses. Chandler also sells decorative pieces made by young artists, such as decorative mirrors.
Chandler’s opening came about during turbulence at the shopping center, as Oak Park Mall Ltd. Partnership — which comprises Martin Graff of M H Graff & Associates Inc. and Martin Goldman of M J Goldman & Co. Ltd., both north of Chicago — previously owed $378,000 in delinquent taxes on the mall and about $117,000 to Austin Utilities.
County officials prepared temporary leases and took other steps early last month to keep the mall open in case of a forfeiture. Still, some Austin residents were uncertain of whether the mall would stay open for business.
On June 26, the mall owners paid off the delinquent taxes, avoiding a county takeover of the property. A Utilities official would not comment on whether the mall’s utility bill had been paid off, saying it was confidential information.
Despite doubts from some Austinites, Chandler is optimistic about the mall’s future. She said the building can be turned around if people work on nourishing it and the businesses inside it.
“We need to work on building our community,” she said. “There’s huge potential in the mall.”
To Chandler, a mall plays an important function. It is a place to bring children, spend time with friends and support the community.
“I think that people need to get out here and give us a chance,” she said.
Shan Kehret, the mall’s marketing director, echoed Chandler’s optimism. Kehret continues to get phone calls from potential tenants inquiring about space in the mall.
“The stores are still here,” she said. “They’re not going anywhere and they never will.”
—Jason Schoonover contributed to this report.