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Local, regional stores find space in Minot’s Dakota Square Mall

Local, regional stores find space at Dakota Square

Jill Schramm/MDN Connor Koerbitz of Jax & Henley stands in the Dakota Square store Thursday.

When Minot’s Jax & Henley opened its first storefront to sell handbags in 2016, it was in a location better known for large chain stores. But owner Connor Koerbitz said Dakota Square Mall has been a good choice for growing the small, local brand into a business offering an array of apparel and accessories.

“Most people are kind of surprised to learn that we are local, just based on our buildout and the time and energy that we’ve spent to really make it feel special and unique. But when we share that we are local, people are excited and appreciate that as well,” Koerbitz said.

CBL Properties, which owns about 60 open-air centers and malls, including Dakota Square, recently launched its “We Are Local” campaign to highlight the local impact of its shopping centers. More than 1,300 locally owned enterprises operate across CBL Properties’ portfolio of malls. As a whole, properties within CBL’s portfolio impact their communities in employing 100,000 people across 24 states and contributing nearly $70 million in annual property taxes and millions more in annual sales tax.

Dakota Square Mall includes 17 local business tenants, along with Scheels, a regional company that has grown to become a major tenant and continues to make expansion plans in Minot.

CBL actively recruits local and regional tenants through business organizations, through contacts developed from community involvement by mall staff and through scouting social media.

“If you look across our portfolio, we have a lot of local and regional stores already in the property. It’s definitely more of a focus, going forward, to replace some of the legacy, national names,” CBL CEO Stephen Lebovitz said. “Jax & Henley is a great example of what we’re trying to accomplish, because we find that local entrepreneurs know what the customers in the market are looking for and they have their own following. So we want that following to come to the mall as well.”

Koerbitz said the attraction of a mall location when moving Jax & Henley from an online business to a storefront was having other retailers around to generate foot traffic and create exposure.

“Organic foot traffic is great, because there’s so many other large retailers here,” Koerbitz said. “It puts small businesses like ours kind of on a bigger stage around these other large companies.”

He said the scale also tipped in favor of a mall location when he weighed the rent costs against the value of that exposure, along with the mall’s property upkeep services and its marketing assistance.

Koerbitz’s family connections in Minot led to the opening of a store in Minot. Koerbitz, of Minneapolis, later opened a small Jax & Henley test shop in St. Paul, Minnesota. He hopes to open other locations in North Dakota and the region and is considering malls for those stores as well.

“Our mall here has been really great to work with. I think they’re really excited about the concept of small businesses and bringing them in and encouraging them. I know for us, we’ve tried so many different concepts and different ways of doing business in what we were carrying, and the whole time they were encouraging us and excited about it and the potential,” he said.

Lebovitz said local businesses are part of the diversity CBL is seeking for its properties.

“Our business used to be very cookie cutter, with a lot of the same stores, and now we’ve gone to much more of a curated approach, looking to get a mix of stores that has some strong nationals, because those are important, but also has locals and regionals,” Lebovitz said. “Our goal is driving as much traffic to the mall as possible, and then it’s up to the stores to convert the traffic into sales. So by having more locals, by having a good diversity of retailers and users, then we’re going to bring more people, and that ultimately helps us to have a more successful property.”

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