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               SINGING RIVER MALL: GAUTIER, MS

Michael J. Dixon's Commentary

User submitted October 15, 2013

Singing River Mall is a dead mall, or at least a "dying mall" as of October 2012, in Gautier, MS. Gautier has a population of about 19,000 and it is located in central Jackson County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Once, it was a thriving economic force on the coast, however, Singing River mall has fallen into economic turmoil in the last ten to fifteen years. At last count in October 2012, Singing River Mall had 33 open stores, 29 closed stores, 2 open kiosks, and 6 closed kiosks.

I have found memories of this mall growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the late 1980s and 1990s. I lived about twenty miles from this mall and the debate in my household was to go to Singing River Mall or to the mall in Biloxi, Edgewater Mall. Singing River Mall had some great stores the other mall did not have and was well worth the drive. I remember the Nutty Bavarian snack shop and the enjoyment of eating a chocolate covered pretzel from there. Sadly, they served their last pretzel about a year and a half ago. Edgewater Mall still remains a thriving economic force in the area; however, it is at about 90% occupancy and seems to remain at that level.

After Hurricane Katrina, Singing River Mall redeveloped some of its unused space and allowed Ingalls Shipbuilding to operate their administrative offices. Ingalls brought about 2,000 employees a week there to work and Singing River Mall had a surge in sales and new business like Coffee Fusion provided food for the employees. However in 2011, Ingalls pulled out and several businesses like Coffee Fusion also closed their doors.

Most of the primary stores have pulled out of Singing River Mall in the last five years or so. Walden Books, Sound Shop, Hallmark Cards, and Radio Shack have all packed up shop and left places for a dozen or so secondary shops. Hibbet's Sporting Goods, Shoe Department, Gordonís Jewelers, T-Mobile, and the anchor stores Sears, Belk, and JcPenny still operate. An interview of a Singing River Mall employee told me that the anchor stores own the property that they operate. If they close the store, the property would not be worth their initial investment. Therefore, they stay open to prevent a loss. Many of the secondary shops would be out of business if it was not for the anchor stores.

Singing River Mall has been a haven for non-traditional places in recent times. Three churches, 5 gyms/dance studios, a homework station, The Mississippi Gulf Coast Railroad Club, and a place for Dungeons and Dragons gamers now reside in the interior of Singing River Mall. A movie theatre thrives as well by offering Monday night football, cheaper tickets, and beer.

Chick-Fil-A served its last piece of chicken circa mid-2011. A report from an employee of New York Pizza, one of the three remaining eateries, told me people were lined up out the door on the storeís last day. A Coffee Shop and a Mexican restaurant, La Fiesta Brava, round out the last two remaining places to dine inside Singing River Mall. During an half hour period, I noticed may people eating inside La Fiesta Brava, but most just turned around and went to the parking lot and not to the mall after their meal.

In 2011, local officials passed a ninety million dollar incentive for renovations to Singing River Mall. Little progress has been made since them. A business owner who used to operate inside singing River Mall said that he was promised many things, but nothing was ever fulfilled. Many locals have found memories of this mall and would like to see it survive. An employee at the health food store said that he kissed his first girl here in the movie theatre. Only time will tell what will be the ultimate fate of Singing River Mall.

Links

http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/veryoldstereo/Singing%20River%20Mall/ - Photo Tour of Singing River Mall
http://blog.gulflive.com/mississippi-press-news/2011/07/ingalls_shipbuilding_leaving_s - Ingalls Story Here
http://blog.gulflive.com/mississippi-press-news/2011/10/financing_plan_to_redevelop_si.html - Bond Story Here
http://www.wlox.com/global/story.asp?s=9014894 - More Stories









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