In the midst of a snowstorm Tuesday, Feb. 12, walkers made circuits around the interior of the Mariner Mall. Two of the shops they passed were advertising clearance sales. One is closing its doors; the other is moving to Duluth.
Mark Hadland brought his used video game and DVD shop, Game Essentials, to the mall 12 years ago. He plans to close the business Feb. 20 or 21. Everything in the store is 25 percent off.
Technology, online sales and the mall's changing demographic has taken a toll on the business.
"When you're selling something like this that's inexpensive you need traffic, you need a couple dozen people a day come in and buy at least a couple things," Hadland said. "That doesn't happen anymore."
When he came to the mall, it boasted a movie theater, multiple restaurants, a pet store, Younkers and more. Today tenants include call centers, offices, classrooms, a child care center, even a church.
"We are transitioning into a retail and business center," said Suzyn Cragin, property manager for Quality Investments Inc., which owns the mall.
As spaces open up, she puts out feelers for new tenants. Most aren't retail businesses.
"I'm getting calls from brokers in Minneapolis and places, but what's needed in town seems to be office, warehouse and light manufacturing," Cragin said. "That's the direction we're going."
Retail stores in both Duluth and Superior have been struggling.
"Online shopping has really taken a toll on retail businesses," Cragin said.
Including Game Essentials.
"The problem with it is you're selling media that's all downloadable now," Hadland said. "All the games are downloadable. All the accessories you can get online for less money than coming here. DVDs are all on Netflix. The other thing is everybody sells their merchandise themselves online."
When Game Essentials closes, Hadland plans to continue selling items online and look for a different job.
Patrick Quinn, who owns VP Wild Rice Company, will be sad to see him go. He's been stopping by Game Essentials for the last 10 years.
"I've got my own businesses, so I take pride in supporting other small businesses," he said. "If you love your community, yeah, shop local."
Over the years, he and Hadland have become friends. Michael Halonen, who works across the hall, stops by daily to visit as well.
Hadland thanked his customers for their support over the past 12 years.
"I made a lot of friends," he said.
Diamond Royal Tack is also holding a clearance sale. Everything in the store is 20 percent off. A selection of red- and green-dot items are available at 50 and 30 percent off.
After 15 years in the Mariner Mall, Diamond Royal is relocating to the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth at the end of March. The owners launched Beyond the Barn, which focused more on apparel, at the Duluth mall last year. The move will combine the two stores.
Cragin called the loss of Diamond Royal bittersweet.
"It's kind of hard to see them go; we worked so well together," she said.
She said that the mall is doing OK. A tenant is ready to move into the Fastenal space when that business relocates to 310 Belknap St. The former Shear Design storefront will house a new business June 1, and she has prospective tenants for the large space across from New Horizons Children's Center and the former Ravin Crossbow spot.
"I have prospects out there, but it's a matter of making things work," Cragin said.
She said the mall will continue to welcome walkers, but no bikes, rollerblades or scooters are allowed. Walking hours have recently been trimmed. The mall is closed to walkers on Sundays. Walkers must exit the mall by 5 p.m. Saturday and are asked to leave by 8 p.m. weekdays to allow maintenance staff time to work.