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December 9, 2007

8:07 p.m.: A+ Series — Mounds Mall still courting shoppers

Indiana's first enclosed mall is more than 40 years old

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.

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