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Morgantown Mall adds stores, helps with vaccines

The following article appeared in the Dominion Post's Progress Special Section on Sunday, May 9, 2021. The story which appeared in the newspaper was edited for length. The entire unedited version appears here.

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Mall adds stores, helps with vaccines

Felicia Posey, general manager of Morgantown Mall answered questions posed by The Dominion Post about the mall and explained why she sees it as a true town center that serves the community of Morgantown and beyond.

During the interview Posey discussed how the mall became one of the nation’s first and largest vaccine clinics, how COVID affected the mall and how it is growing and plans for the future.

Has the mall seen growth? Or what growth is the mall anticipating over next year two years?

Morgantown Mall is growing by leaps and bounds during the global pandemic.  The center is positioned for redevelopment and began to make significant traction last year. 

Three anchors opened in 2020 as a result of the redevelopment of 115,000. Dunham's Sports relocated to Morgantown Mall in spring of 2020 with great success thanks to increased product assortment and square footage supporting outdoor shoppers from the tri-state area. 

WVU Medicine Central Services began operations over the summer of 2020 and has evolved a portion of their 85,000 square foot space to serve more than 27 counties with their mega vaccination hub.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet rounded out the trifecta of new anchors, with its first mall location opening last fall, and quickly became a weekly destination for many guests. 

Innovation is at the core of what we do at Morgantown Mall. With new leadership joining the property over the last year, our focus has been on innovation and reinventing the guest experience. We are actively engaged with new tenants to join our center and continue to work with our more than a dozen small businesses to ensure continued growth. The team is collaborating to bring the flavor of regional bests across the mountain state to Morgantown Mall.  Our goal is to deliver a healthy balance of variety while highlighting the unique blend of Appalachian and university culture.

Morgantown Mall continues to be a convenient regional destination to eat, shop, and play.  Our leadership team is committed to making a difference by supporting our community. 

How has COVID affected our business? How are we reacting and managing the effects of COVID? What are we expecting going forward?

With health and safety as a top priority, Morgantown Mall is committed to safe experiences every day.  In the continued need to address COVID-19, our town center has proactively implemented additions to the Code of Conduct, which are posted at each entrance and available at morgantownmall.com. Morgantown Mall's already rigorous disinfectant and cleaning practices will also continue many times per day, including periodically disinfecting areas most susceptible to the spread of germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers are located in highly trafficked areas and walkways for public use.   We remain focused on providing a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

As vaccines become more readily available, we’ve experienced a surge in pent up demand as guest return to shops, restaurants and entertainment. With our guests’ and retailers’ health and safety as our top priority, Morgantown Mall is focused on the experience we create at our center. By providing a mix of things to do and things to buy, our center will continue to deliver the right combination of tenants, activities and events to keep shoppers engaged and returning often.

It has been a call to action to support our community, tenants, and guest experience.  Retail To-Go is one example of how we have adapted.  Morgantown Mall launched Retail To-Go, a convenient curbside pickup initiative, where shoppers can make an order at participating retailers and then arrange for a pickup at the designated location in the parking lot outside Entrance A between JCPenney and Dunham's Sports.  Recognizing the transition to a remote workforce led to further innovation of The Hub space at Morgantown Mall.  The Hub has been upgraded to support the community looking to change their workspace.  The Hub is a space to work, connect, and create.  The initiative has been well received by many local business professionals, students and tenants alike.  

Morgantown Mall has long been champions of small business with more than a dozen independently owned and operated housed here right at our center. These include Country Elegance, Four Horsemen Comics & Gaming, Off the Strip Sports Shop, Salon 304, 3 2 Go Self-Pay Market, House of Vapes, Gold Rush, Veracity Barbershop, Ace’s Breakaway & Play Arcade, PhoneFix, JDM Structures, Bungee Jump, and ReTails by M-SNAP.  

One of the nation's first and largest vaccine clinics was brought to life at Morgantown Mall at the turn of the new year through WVU Medicine Central Services and partnerships throughout Monongalia County. Thousands of guests traveled from more than 25 counties across the state of West Virginia to be vaccinated here through the vaccination hub effort.  It has been a dynamic demonstration of the demographic reach of the property combined with the market mega healthcare players.

How do we plan to compete as a mall-type property with the influx of new stores and new strip centers coming into the market?

Morgantown Mall continues to be a destination for families in the community and across the region. The growth and expansion within the Morgantown market bring the excitement of things to come.  This positions the regional market to dominate in many ‘best of’ categories attracting guests from the tri-state area for an unprecedented mix of retail, dining, and entertainment.   Morgantown Mall is ready to capture and expand with a healthy, exciting balance of new tenants and events as the market trends shift.  In addition, the center is an essential contributor to the community's economic health by supporting providing jobs and revenue for economic development.

At Washington Prime Group new leasing volume over the past several years has been attributable to lifestyle tenancy, including food, beverage, entertainment, home furnishings, fitness, and professional services. We see that trend continuing at Morgantown Mall. We remain focused on bringing new concepts and exciting experiences to guests. The need for human connection remains the same, if not more important than ever before. Morgantown Mall is proud to be a place of connection for community members and businesses alike.

A significant percentage of Morgantown Mall's tenants provide unique specialty services to our guests. We believe our guests desire experiences along with convenience, which can be found through Country Elegance, Off the Strip Sports Shop, Four Horsemen Comics & Gaming, Veracity Barbershop, and more.  Guests appreciate the convenience of the variety of dining options unique to the food court including Wong's Wok, Sbarro Italian Eatery, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Great American Cookies and Auntie Anne's Pretzels.

What will keep people coming back to the mall?

Morgantown Mall is a true town center serving the community of Morgantown and beyond. The numerous events and activations we offer will continue to draw guests back for much-needed social interaction throughout the year. We are proud to build upon our goodwill initiatives in the community through partnerships with local non-profits while supporting small business owners.

Morgantown Mall offers guests fun and unique amenities such as The Yard, a community space and play area featuring traditional family-friendly games like ping-pong, oversized chess, Connect Four, Jenga, and more.   Guests of all ages can enjoy fun and engaging events planned for this summer and fall while anticipating a solid lineup moving into the holiday season.