Oak Park Mall: Tenacious for tenants

As malls struggle to keep stores, Oak Park Mall, behind marketing director Shan Kehret, is fighting through the trend. The mall has added a few small businesses, which Kehret hopes is the beginning of a trend to bring more businesses in.

As malls struggle to keep stores, Oak Park Mall, behind marketing director Shan Kehret, is fighting through the trend. The mall has added a few small businesses, which Kehret hopes is the beginning of a trend to bring more businesses in.

Shan Kehret is breathing new life into Oak Park Mall.

Kehret, the mall’s marketing director, sees the process of setting up shop through from interest to open sign. In a little more than the last year, 16 businesses and organizations have opened a storefront at the mall, several expansions have taken place and only three businesses have closed.

Kehret begins by showing potential tenants the different spaces available, gives them a rent figure and tries to sell them on the spot.

Later, when they decide to open, she helps draw up a lease agreement and get them situated.

“Usually people come and inquire about spaces available for rent,” she said, adding her job leaves little time to go out searching for new tenants.

The strongest selling points for the mall is its location along the 18th Avenue Northwest strip, which Kehret highlights as one of Austin’s hotbeds for retail activity. With the Applebees, Target, Hy-Vee and more all rolled up into one stretch of road, people are more likely to stop by a new shop in the mall while they’re out getting groceries, eating out or shopping.

“It’s kind of a one-stop area that has everything all rolled up into one long avenue,” she said.

A typical day begins around 8:15 a.m. with Kehret, the only person in her office, wrapped up in a flurry of voicemails, emails and calls to return. Many are customers inquiring about upcoming events or other mall details.

“I usually am just flooded with calls all morning long,” she said.

But she’s not too busy to keep a good rapport with her tenants. They come by to touch base with her and say good morning before their own days start at 10 a.m.

From there, she focuses on marketing the brand of Oak Park Mall, and attracting people and tenants to come there.

“I try to think of different events and marketing ideas,” she said.

Before her position at the mall, the Austin native worked in print advertising with the Mower County Shopper for three years. It has been about four years since she started doing marketing for the mall, and her take on the role is glowing.

“This is probably the one job that I have had when I love to come to work everyday,” she said, adding all the new friendships she has cultivated are one of the high points of her work. “It’s a people job.”

And there’s the thrill of landing a new tenant, as well.

“I’ve just enjoyed the challenge,” she said.

While small businesses are important, Kehret said her next hope is to bring in a large retailer to set up shop.

“That would be our mail goal,” she said.

Her other hope is to bring in restaurants, of which the mall had none as of the start of 2013, so people can enjoy a meal while perusing the stores.

Recent changes at the mall:

New storefronts to open:

—Kids Against Hunger

—Austin Area Farmer’s Market

—Mower County DFL headquarters

—Dave Thompson Auctions

—Machine Shed Arcade

—Legacy Comics & Games

—DeVriess Botique

—Artisty Weddings and Events

—Napoli Chocolates

—Kelly’s Fashion

—Willow Cove

—Gypsy Imports

—Piece by Piece

—Land-O-Dreams Three-Day Mattress

—Impact Martial Arts and Fitness

—PC Tech Connect

Expansions or moves:

—Just for Kix

—Artistry Weddings and Events

—Kitchen Warehouse/Restaurant Warehouse

—Sears

Closed businesses:

—Regis Hair Salon

—J&K Restaurant

—Ole Barn BBQ

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