Mall seeing growth spurt

Published 7:00 pm Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kelly’s Fashion is the latest store in a recent growth spurt for the Oak Park Mall. Adam Harringa/

Three new stores will be open by October

It’s been a decade since Oak Park Mall has been this full.

From boutiques and book stores, to restaurants, small retailers, a game shop, arcade and wedding accessory store, mall Marketing Director Shan Kehrit can hardly keep up with the owners in line to move in. Since 2010, the once-dwindling mall has gone from 18 storefronts to 28, a number she says they haven’t seen since at least 2002. And while there are 47 total storefronts, she only has six left to rent to smaller businesses, as the mall’s owner, Marty Graff of M H Graff & Associates Inc., has earmarked the remaining space for potential large regional or national businesses.

Kehrit has been busy. In 2012 alone, the mall has added 10 new shops and four businesses have expanded or moved into larger spaces. In that same span, nothing has closed or moved away.

Email newsletter signup

The newest additions are the boutique Kelly’s Fashion, which opened Aug. 10, Piece by Piece, a jewelry and glassware shop slated to open in mid to late September, and Willow Cove, a refurbished furniture store set to open in October. Beyond those, Kehrit said, there are two more “really strong possibilities” for new shops. Although she couldn’t confirm their names, she’s hoping to announce them soon.

The businesses that expanded this year are: Sears, which doubled its size with a move to the former home of Ruskell Hardware; the Kitchen Warehouse, which now includes the Restaurant Warehouse; Artistry Weddings and Events, which moved into a bigger lot previously occupied by Just For Kix; and Just For Kix, which had two separate storefronts and now has one larger lot.

“The mall is really only going in a positive direction,” Kehrit said. “We’re really getting a variety.”

Next on the docket: the parking lot. Graff said in April they would resurface the entire lot this summer, and Kehrit said this week that the project is still under review.

 Kelly’s Fashion: A family affair

Juana Paredes had owned a boutique in southwest Austin for about three years, but it wasn’t getting enough attention. So she decided to follow her husband’s example and open a shop in the mall.

Juana opened Kelly’s Fashion on Aug. 10 beside her husband Manny’s business, J&K Restaurant, which opened back up Aug. 17 after being closed for about a week for maintenance.

“We thought it would get more business here,” Juana said, adding that Manny was excited to have her next door.

Kelly’s Fashion offers casual and formal wear primarily for children and young adults, along with shoes and some cosmetics. Next door, J&K no longer offers chicken, but has coffee, nachos and other Mexican items.

 From glassware to furniture

Sheila Van Osdel and her daughter, Tessa Smith, have always wanted to run a business together. By the end of September, they hope it will be reality.

Van Osdel and Smith are opening Piece by Piece, which will sell an assortment of jewelry, decorative glassware and some brass items. Eventually, they hope to add greeting cards, bookmarks to benefit non-profits, and possibly candles and stained glass.

“We’ve both wanted to do it for a long time,” Van Osdel said.

Also opening this fall is Willow Cove, a refurbished furniture store owned by Jill Jones and Amy Cooper. Jones describes their business as décor consignment, or taking small, unwanted pieces and transforming them.

“We’ve been doing it for so long, we decided Austin needed that,” Jones said. “There’s clothing consignment. Why can’t there be furniture consignment?”

 Expanding dance

Marny Rohr can’t think of a better place to run a dance studio than Oak Park Mall. The director of Just For Kix said she has been pleased with her facility since she moved to the mall four years ago. And over that time, she said she’s watched the shopping center transform.

“For so many years the mall was looked down upon, but [Kehrit and Graff] are so great to work with,” Rohr said. “It’s helped me in a tight situation.”

Now, Rohr is returning the favor. Just For Kix is in the middle of an expansion which will take its space from 4,800-square feet over two unconnected lots to one, 6,000-square foot studio. Rohr said she will have two studios for the start of classes Sept. 10.

Oak Park Mall changes since 2010

Additions —October; Willow Cove —September; Piece by Piece —August; Kelly’s Fashion —June; Legacy Comics & Games —June; DeVriess Boutique —May; J&K Restaurant —April; Artistry Weddings and Events —April; Napoli Chocolates —January; Machine Shed arcade —December 2011; Spirit Bear Academy —December 2011; Ole Barn BBQ —August 2011; Kitchen Warehouse/Restaurant Warehouse —September 2010; Two Bears Trading Post —August 2010; Acclaim Studio of Dance —August 2010; Weight Watchers

New events/ organizations —Mower County DFL headquarters —Dave Thompson auctions —Austin Area Farmers’ Market —Kids Against Hunger

Expansions/moves —Just for Kix —Artistry Weddings and Events —Kitchen Warehouse/Restaurant Warehouse —Sears

Closings —September 2011; Ruby’s Place restaurant —December 2011; Family Dollar —April 2010; Ruskell Hardware —March 2010; Christopher & Banks