Entrepreneurs continue revitalizing empty Big Box stores, malls

Big Box stores and malls have come to the Mankato area hoping for long-term success. Some find it and some don't, leaving large empty buildings in their wake.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 9:54 AM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Big Box stores and malls have come to the Mankato area hoping for long-term prosperity. some find that success and some do not, leaving large empty buildings in their wake.

Some of these vacant businesses are getting a makeover: revitalized and revamped for community use.

After all, for some individuals, an empty building is merely just an empty slate.

“There was no lights,” recounted Susu Sadaka, co-owner of Sadaka Deli. “Everybody was working out of their homes, and it was actually pretty spooky”

For Chris Lacombe, UNRL Hockey GM Chris LaCombe and partner for Pond on Madison, it was clear that their work would be cut out for them.

“I can even remember when we first walked into the building, and it was just rows of old racks and it just looked like an abandoned warehouse,” said LaCombe. “You know, like an old ShopKo or Target. It was kind of eerie.”

The sheer size of the building’s interior was enough to intimidate Jeremy Thomas, Owner of Unique Classic Cars.

“You walk into a cavernous, big building and it’s empty,” said Thomas. “[It’s] like, ‘oh my gosh!’ so it’s kind of overwhelming.”

The floor space and suitable location of the former Lowes was the main driver for Thomas, Owner of Unique Classic Cars.

“Our previous facility was only 15,000 square feet and now our piece here is pushing 55,000 square feet,” said Thomas. “So, it gives us the opportunity to put all of these classic cars inside and in a showroom atmosphere.”

For the Sadaka siblings, their place has become a hub for the Madison East Mall.

“This mall has Mankato Clinic,” said Susu Sadaka. “It has Mayo, it has two fitness centers, it has a church, it has a clothing place. So, this mall has turned into [something] for everybody to come in.

Her brother, Milad Sadaka, co-owner of the Deli, wants the building to be a hub for people trying to get out and have some fun, even during inclement weather.

“You know, we’re here when we have A storm outside, [and] nobody can drive,” said the brother Sadaka. “We feed all those people here.”

Thomas believes that the new facility could also be helpful to the community, too.

“The other thing that having a facility like this allows us to do is to be active with the community,” said Thomas. “And not just in the classic car community, but other fundraisers and things like this.”

At the Pond on Madison, once the Shopko, they have a similar thought.

“Now, this is more about bringing people together, having some fun with the families,” said LaCombe. “[If] you want to eat something, drink something; watch the kids play.”

Jacob Moe, the General Manager of cccccccccc, is still marveling over the transformation the facility has undergone.

“It’s kind of amazing when you think about it,” said Moe. “I went to school here. I’ve been to ShopKo and to come in … while it’s [under] construction, and then to finally see the finished product, get everything finalized, customers coming in the doors -- it’s an incredible transformation!”

LaCombe thinks the transformation will bring joy to people of all ages looking for something fun to do.

“[Before], you come in, you would shop, and you’d leave here,” said LaCombe. “Here, you’re going to be hopefully in here for a couple of hours.”

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