Published: November 26, 2019

Malls dying — but not gone

North Idaho’s Silver Lake Mall welcomes new business, seasonal occupants

When it opened in 1989, there was excitement and fanfare. A special section in the local newspaper listed 42 businesses eager to open their doors to shoppers. There was even a parade on the freshly paved parking lot.

Today, the atmosphere at the Silver Lake Mall is quieter. Some might say eerily quiet.

Mall managers are reluctant to talk numbers. Calls are left unanswered. Visitors to the management office are politely told to wait for a call from corporate HQ. The return calls never come.

A quick survey of the property tells the obvious story: most of the storefronts are empty.

There’s no fault to be placed. Similar declines are happening at malls across the country. The trend is clear: The segment of the retail market that malls occupied has moved into cyberspace.

By 2022, analysts estimate 1 out of 4 of the malls that exist in the United States today could be out of business, victims of changing tastes, a widening wealth gap and, mostly, the embrace of online shopping for everything from socks to swing sets, according to ShopperTrak a global provider of retail analytics.

This year alone, more than 8,600 stores could close, according to industry estimates.

But it’s not all bad news at the Silver Lake Mall, which is off U.S. Highway 95 on Hanley Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.

Melissa Schock, associate general manager of the mall, said five businesses are opening seasonal outlets for the season including See’s Candies, Hickory Farms, North West Artist, North Star and After Market Solutions.

National health club franchise Planet Fitness opened in mid-November.

Current long-time Silver Lake Mall tenants said there are some definite positives to their locale.

“I have plenty of parking,” said Karl Myhre, president of Strategy Games, a video game outlet that has been at the mall for 10 years. “Every year I do better, and I’m anticipating my best year ever.”

As a longtime leasee, Myhre said he’s seen changes at the mall.

“I moved down to the dead end of the mall and watched businesses come and go all around me,” he said.

While there may be some short-timers, Myhre is not alone in his Silver Lake longevity.

Bulldog Pipe and Cigar Co. has been a fixture at the mall for the past 15 years, said Zach Malloy, manager.

“Obviously a mall has it’s footprint and we’re looking forward to the holidays when we see increased foot traffic,” Malloy said. Plugging his business, he adds, “cigars are a great gift idea. We have kind of our own niche.”

Around the corridor at Merle Norman, a skin care and cosmetics business, licensed esthetician Susan Nave said the business has remained at the mall for convenience.

“We’ve been here 24 years,” she said. “Malls are definitely a thing of the past, especially when you can push a button from Amazon and have it on your doorstep. But the one-on-one interaction and customer service can’t be replaced. And our customers know where to find us.”

Centrally located in the main corridor of the quiet mall is Emily Tuttle, who hawks e-cigarettes and accessories at Smart Smoke.

Most of her business, she said, is online. About a quarter of her revenue comes from = foot traffic.

“We’ve been here six years,” she said. “I’ve seen businesses come and go.”

For the most part, it’s pretty laid back in the expansive hallway that serves as her cubicle.

“I get asked mostly where the bathrooms are,” she said.