LIMA — Chris Garlock is well aware of the challenges facing the Lima Mall this holiday season.
He knows internet retail sales are growing at the expense of brick-and-mortar shopping centers.
He’s also aware of the lure of “destination malls” such as Easton and Polaris in Columbus, The Greens in Dayton, Jefferson Pointe in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the I-75 outlet mall south of Dayton.
And there’s that monster that everyone is dealing with — COVID-19.
Yet, Garlock speaks with honest optimism as the Lima Mall marked its 55th birthday Wednesday. He’s looking for a strong holiday season.
“Our mall has something the others don’t,” Garlock said. “When you shop here, you’ll likely run into a friend, a former teacher, a neighbor. … someone you know. We see a lot of smiles in the Lima Mall.”
And when it comes to COVID-19, Garlock said the mall is going beyond the recommendations.
“It’s nice to see we have people who come to us because they trust us. They know that we’ve made the place safe,” Garlock said. “We’re following all the procedures concerning cleaning. We’re making sure that we’re honoring all of the necessary COVID restrictions with mask wearing and everything. So, we’ve done a great job with it and our merchants have done a great job with it as well.”
The Lima Mall pulls from an eight-county area with Allen, Putnam, Auglaize, Van Wert, Mercer and Logan counties being prime draws. There were four anchor stores when Garlock became mall manager in 2006. Only two remain today — Macy’s and JCPenney. But Garlock points out there are 64 storefronts with few vacancies.
“We have a good diversity of stores that serve people of all age brackets. That’s a big plus,” Garlock said.
The mall celebrated its 55 years Wednesday with a ribbon cutting at its new entrance, which features a fire pit.