By NEAL McNAMARA
Just a few feet from the food court, and directly in front of the cinema, John Keller sells German roasted nuts.
He’s been coming to the Mounds Mall for the past 10 years to sell the nuts, which smell sweet, and sit in big piles, warm and covered with glistening sugar. Every November and December, during peak shopping season, Nuts R Us has been there, says Keller.
But Keller is more than a salesman, he’s also a patron. He remembers back to his younger days when the spot where the mall sits was just wetlands — and Scatterfield Road was nothing more than tiny street that cut through the woods.
“I’ve been coming here since the mall was built,” said Keller. “It was a very popular place. If you couldn’t find your kids, you would come and look here.”
The Mounds Mall opened its doors in 1965, the first enclosed mall in Indiana to be owned by the Simon Property Group, according to Braun Roosa, assistant general manager. The mall was owned by Simon until January 2003 when the Coral Gables, Fla.-based Bayview Corp., a mortgage lending institution, bought the property.
The mall has gone through a lot of changes since 1965, said Roosa, but some stores “have been there forever.”
“We’re definitely a destination spot for retail and entertainment,” said Ann Boyd, general manager.
For many years the mall was anchored by a J.C. Penney department store, which left in May 2003. But businesses like MCL Cafeteria and Zales have been a part of the mall since it opened.
In between, said Roosa, there were other standout stores. There was once a Montgomery Ward, a Jo Ann Fabrics, and a Meis department store. With Scatterfield Road now a commercial strip, like any Wal-Mart and Applebees-flecked avenue in America, the mall faces stiff competition. But Roosa and Boyd say the mall couldn’t survive without competing retailers — it shows that there are shoppers flocking to the area, they say.
The mall is 300,000 square feet, and contains upward of 30 businesses, including the Texas Roadhouse and National City bank, which are located outside the mall.
Boyd and Roosa say that the mall’s main function these days is to act as a place for the community to gather. The mall hosts many events — most recently the traditional mall Santa, along with several of his reindeer — year round. And the radio station WHBU, which airs community-based programming, has a studio at the mall.
“The holiday season is probably one of the best,” said Roosa. “We have the real Santa, and real reindeer. We really take it to the next level.”
Roosa pointed out that the mall lets Salvation Army bell ringers inside, so they don’t have to stand out in the cold. And some of the proceeds from photos taken with Santa go to benefit the YMCA and the Character Counts program.
The mall is working with the Anderson University-based Students in Free Enterprise club to host a job fair for high schoolers; and a recent “pet night,” where owners got their critters’ photo taken with Santa, gave proceeds to the Madison County Humane Society.
“The mall’s ultimate goal is to enhance the community,” said Roosa.
Looking toward the future, the mall is actively seeking new tenants. The food court was remodeled in 2006, and now hosts Latin American, Japanese and Italian cuisine. In April 2004, a 10-screen theater opened, and is now the only first-run cinema in Madison County. These things, plus Sears, Elder-Beerman, and a host of other specialty stores will keep shoppers coming to Mounds, the owners hope.
“We would really like everyone to support the mall, to keep the mall in Anderson,” said Boyd.
Back at Nuts R Us, Keller will continue to hawk his treats — he says the holiday season is a lucrative time for his business.
“Everyone has their own little niche,” said Keller. “I just enjoy coming to the mall.”
About this series
This is the 23rd installment of the year-long A+ series. The series celebrates the people, places, events, institutions and history that make the Anderson area special.
Football history in Madison County.
To nominate a subject for the A+ series, e-mail to Managing Editor Scott Underwood at email@example.com, call him at (765) 640-4845 or send a letter to him Scott Underwood, The Herald Bulletin, P.O. Box 1090, Anderson, IN 46015.
Indiana's first enclosed mall is more than 40 years old
By NEAL McNAMARA
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