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Charlottetown Mall

17 Aug

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Quick Review

This is a small (60-store) enclosed mall at the edge of Charlottetown and the de facto centerpiece of a district of big-box retailing, mostly in strip malls.

As far as store selection goes, the mall contains many, though not all, of the “standards” in Canadian malls in smaller communities: Aldo, Bentley, Dollarama, Dynamite, La Senza Moore’s, Northern Reflections, The Source, Sport Chek, Stokes, Tip Top Tailors, and anchors Winners and—in an outbuilding– Superstore (Loblaw’s large discount format in the Maritimes). The store selection includes a surprise or two, like the growing retailer SoftMoc and youth-oriented Garage.

Food selection is limited: what appear to be locally owned Asian, burger and pizza options, and an array of snacking options (great for guilty pleasure not so much for health).

A Target briefly replaced long-time tenant Zellers but it almost as quickly as it opened. The mall recently announced plans to subdivide the space into other stores.

Although the mall underwent some renovations for Target, unlike others that went through a total renovation, the renovations appeared minimal.

Not that a make-over wouldn’t help this mall: my take-away impression of this mall was that it was depression in three-dimensions.

Many of the store fronts looked like dinosaurs of mall design from decades past; few having had been renovated in decades unless the store opened more recently than that.

Like the storefronts, the fixtures throughout the mall were original. For example, benches are metal mesh, typical of those found in public parks. The standard for most malls now is either plush seating (in more upscale malls) or wood fixtures (in more basic malls).

The sense of dread was augmented by the lighting: fluorescent lights covered by thin white plastic waffling, a standard design of the 80s and 90s.

That most of the major stores like Winners and Moore’s have private exterior entrances suggests two things: (1) They don’t want shoppers coming in through the mall; (2) the owners have even less incentive to make desperately needed renovations.

And those renovations are necessary because an attractive mall not only catches shoppers’ eyes, but also makes shoppers feel safe and comfortable.

What’s surprising is that the mall is owned by one of Canada’s largest and strongest mall managers—RioCan.

Perhaps the renovation of the Target space will bring much needed renovations to the rest of the mall but if Target failed to spur those, one cannot the latest remodeling of that space to have a halo effect on the rest of the mall.

The mall also needs a renovation of its website, which—like the mall—has a mid- to late-1990s aesthetic. It also has a directory of stores that lists categories for which the mall has no stores.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Winners and, in an outbuilding, Superstore.

National chains: Aldo, Bentley, Claire’s, Dollarama, Dynamite, Fairweather, Garage, Moore’s, Northern Reflections, SoftMoc, The Source Sport Chek, Stokes, Sunglass Hut

Variety of merchandise: Good, although not deep in any category, most categories covered from clothing and accessories, to electronics and household goods. Two of the most significant categories missing are pharmacies and furniture.

Prices are in the lower- to middle-ranges.

Special notes: Many stores have their own exterior entrances

Food court: Lacks a food court perse but has several stands and faster food options, including locally owned and operated Asian, burger and pizza places, and snack foods including donuts and pretzels.

Wikipedia page: None.



Place Vertu

16 Mar

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Quick Review

In most cities, Place Vertu would probably be built as a power mall, an outdoor strip mall with several big box stores. In fact, the mall across the street is a power mal. But perhaps because of its Montreal location (land of cold, snowy winters—who wants to freeze and slip on ice going from store to store?) or because of sits at the edge of a major planned community (Bois Franc), the owners developed it as an indoor mall.

The mall might have had aspirations of becoming a regional mall at first. Early tenants included K-Mart (which left Canada before I moved here), and Dominion (a grocery chain long since gone from the Canadian grocery scene), the Bay (now Hudson’s Bay), and Sears. The Bay left years ago. Although Sears technically occupies its location, it puts less effort into stocking and maintaining the store than I put into cleaning my office (which is close to none). In fact, the Sears at Place Vertu is so depressing that—dilapidated fixtures holding C-grade merchandise that’s strewn all over the place—that it appears to be the first 3-D advertisement for an anti-depressant.

Furthermore, invisible from the highway and away from any “natural” intersections of major streets, the mall has limited ability to attract drive-by and walk-in customers. So it needs to position itself as a destination for the immediate community.

Remodeled in the past several years, the landlords have effectively positioned Place Vertu as a neighborhood mall. A family can find nearly all of its major necessities at this mall. The remodeling makes the mall a pleasant place to make those purchases and run into a neighbor or two in the process.

Around the time of the renovation, Zellers (later Target) moved into the former Bay location. The empty Target location is an auto showroom right now.

The former Zellers location became a Canadian Tire.

The landlord enticed specialty grocer Adonis to the mall. Adonis specializes in Middle Eastern food. Stay away from the baked goods; Adonis charges for its sumptuous, home-made baklavas by weight; and you’ll pay for that weight in more than one way.

Other major retailers include Winners, Uniprix, Sports Experts, and Dollarama. Most of the retailers offer reasonably priced merchandise that the average working family can afford.

An unusually large food court serves as a neighborhood gathering space and a couple of restaurants (like East Side Marios) provide a more formal meeting place.

The floor plan is a bit difficult to traverse as some corridors do not connect to others. For example, the wing with Target and Winners is not easily accessible to the wings containing Canadian Tire and Adonis.

But that’s a small complaint. Because it has a clear sense of its identity, Place Vertu does what it’s supposed to do well and does not annoy visitors with pretensions to more. No wonder it’s celebrating its 40th birthday.

Mall at a Glance

Anchors: Adonis (specialty supermarket), Canadian Tire, Sears, Winners.

National chains: 5eme Avenue, Aldo,Ardene, Bentley,Brown’s Outlet, Centre du Rasoir, Ernest, Hallmark, Payless, SAQ (Quebec provincial liquor store), The Source, Sports Experts, Uniprix.

The mall also has a great selection of local stores, unusual for most malls.

Variety of merchandise: Fashion: Fair. Household: Good to Very Good. Electronics: Limited. Food: Excellent.

Prices from low to middle range.

Special notes: This is a neighborhood mall, intended for purchases of everyday items.

Food court: Large selection, with particularly strong selections in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine (serving the local community). Kabab is a particular favorite, probably the best Middle Eastern food court restaurant in the city. Grillades Torino, also in the mall, is a close second.

Wikipedia page: