QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Enter the Aviation Mall from the entrance by Regal Cinemas, walk down the hall, past the theater, and look to your right, and you will see three businesses that share something in common. Look the other way, and you’ll see two more.
On one side, there’s DVD and Blu-Ray shop Play It Again; Adirondack Zombie Hunters, an airsoft and shooting range simulation emporium; and MG Sales, a new face on the corner of the hallway that deals in overstocked and discontinued goods. Further down, there’s dance studio The Body Barre. On the other side, there’s ax-throwing studio Adirondack Axe, and selfie-themed photo studio The Selfie Spot.
The thing that ties these six businesses together is that none of them have corporate managers or bigger organizations behind them. They’re all local enterprises; many of them taking up spaces once occupied by chains that have closed up shop and left the mall.
“We’re right next to Regal,” said Patricia Guilder, one of the co-owners of MG Sales. “These big windows are what you can see as soon as you enter the mall.”
The windows Guilder is talking about used to belong to American Eagle, which operated from a position that would make its long display windows the first thing in the mall that shoppers might see as they come out of catching a movie. While some might wonder if being inside a building would obscure the store’s location, for them, it’s prime real estate.
MG Sales – combining Guilder’s last name with those of co-owners Sarah and John McClure, all of Whitehall – buys overstocked goods by the pallette from businesses from Queensbury down to Albany. The result is racks of clothes, a case of video games, shelves of toys, beauty products and a lot more. And the windows that once held sharp American Eagle outfits now show chairs, tables, and other big-ticket items that customers are always interested in finding at a discount price.
“If people walk by and they see something they like, they’re more likely to be like, ‘Okay, what else is in there,’” said Guilder. “Location is everything,” Sarah McClure added.
The business is a new but not unfamiliar venture for Sarah and Guilder, both of whom have retail experience. The McClures also own and operate McClure & Sons Construction in Glens Falls. Just a few days into being open, MG Sales was seeing steady midday traffic on Tuesday afternoon; something that everybody benefits from.
“The mall became the best option, with extra foot traffic and space we needed,” said Steven Greene, owner of Adirondack Axe, which relocated to the mall last October. “We had an outside storefront when we started – and I still do prefer that – but the mall has been a good move overall, with a few exceptions of people looking for us outside.”
Adirondack Axe, an ax-throwing attraction where visitors can take lessons and hit targets, had to leave its original home in a plaza across from the Queensbury Walmart, citing a disagreement with the landlord. Since coming there, losing a storefront visible from the road took some adapting, with the store’s preferred hours not always syncing up with the mall ecosystem as a whole.
“Our hours being later than mall hours does create some unique situations,” Greene said. “We get many calls: ‘Are you open since the malls closed?’ I hope as covid moves on, if you will, we can get back to normal.”
Even so, Greene credits the mall for putting in the work to signal boost that stores like his are there. Chain businesses like Target, Planet Fitness and Dick’s Sporting Goods have their place, complete with outdoor entrances. For mall manager James Griffith, local businesses like MG Sales and Adirondack Axe are a key to getting visitors to keep coming inside.
“It’s about keeping the shopping center vibrant,” said Griffith. “That’s what these tenants allow us to do. We’re more aggressive with how we price things out with them. We’re very communicative with how we can help them to get open, anything we can do in the process. Additional things for their displays, additional tables; anything.”
Griffith knows well the amount of emphasis on supporting local businesses in communities like the greater Glens Falls/Queensbury area. As mall manager, he has had to find new uses for former big-box locations in the mall, like the former Sears – currently a COVID-19 vaccine site – and Bon Ton, which is now home to Olly’s Bargain Outlet. In addition to managing the mall, Griffith also has his own role in local goings-on a few communities away, as supervisor of White Creek in Washington County.
The local businesses in the mall aren’t all sitting in the former homes of bigger businesses. Some are, like The Body Barre, which occupies a former Payless ShoeSource. On the other hand, The Selfie Spot operates out of the former business place of J. Reid Menswear, a locally-owned business that recently moved back to its former home on Glen Street in downtown Glens Falls.
Regardless of who is where, a part of the mall’s future is in being part of the same ecosystem as that downtown, and those like it, rather than exclusively the ecosystem of corporate entities that come and go. That’s especially true when the entire catalogs of those bigger stores can be entirely accessed online, an option more and more shoppers are turning to.
“The national retailers have omnichannels,” said Griffith. “You can shop online, or shop curbside. The stuff that we’re adding to the shopping center because they can’t order it online. That’s the same for adding more entertainment; Zombie Hunters, Adirondack Axe and The Selfie Spot are things you can’t do online. You have to come in and take part in it.”
As the mall hallways are traversed by more and more people looking for places like theirs, the trio behind the counter at MG Sales feels the benefit. As they sell and set up everything from toys to TVs, they start to see familiar faces coming in to browse.
“Not only are we seeing people that we have not seen in years,” said Sarah McClure. “We’re also meeting new people. So many new people.”