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Mall owner seeking to make best of location

T-R PHOTOS BY LANA BRADSTREAM — The halls of the Marshalltown Mall were clear of all customers on Friday. The new owner, Mike Kohan, said he wants to utilize the empty spaces for more than just retail.

Even through JCPenney is leaving, the identified Marshalltown Mall owner has ideas on how to utilize the space.

The owner is Mike Kohan, the CEO of Kohan Retail Investment Group in Great Neck, NY. The firm has been in business for 20 years and has been buying dying malls across the country.

Kohan purchased the Marshalltown Mall in November for $2.3 million in an online auction.

“We turn malls in distress into something for different use,” he said. “We do not turn anyone away asking for space so it can really be multi-use. We are opportunistic. We buy malls and make the best out of it.”

Some of the uses Kohan has utilized in his malls have been call centers, medical centers and entertainment venues. One Iowa mall in which this has been successful is the Southbridge Mall in Mason City. Space has been renovated for offices, a multi-purpose arena and even a miniature golf course. The mall has experienced a resurgence in activity in the last two years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kohan said retail has taken a huge hit, which is evident in the closing of 154 JCPenney stores across the country.

The Marshalltown location opened July 6, 1977.

“It is unfortunate that JCPenney in Marshalltown was on the list of closures,” he said. “It is sad, but nonetheless life goes on and we have to rise to the challenge. We are not going to stop until we get to a full resolution.”

JCPenney closing

The Marshalltown Mall anchor was placed on the list of JCPenney closures on June 4.

Lynn Olberding, the CEO of Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce, said it was a corporate decision and is not a reflection of local store or support.

“A lot of things go into a store’s decision to locate in a particular community,” she said. “They use lots of data, including geographic area and proximity to other retailers, in making their decisions. The same is true for a corporation’s decision to close a location. What we can all do is support the businesses that are here to help them stay in our community and thrive.”

Kristen Bennett, communications manager for JCPenney, said the official closing date of the Marshalltown location will be 10 to 16 weeks after liquidation begins.

Bennett did not disclose how many employees are at the Marshalltown store but said benefits-eligible associates will be paid severance pending court approval.

“We are forever grateful to all of our associates for their dedication to our company and their passion for meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations during this difficult and uncertain time,” she said.

Pro-small business

Kohan could not disclose any plans he has for the Marshalltown Mall yet. However, he has been approaching businesses he has worked with in the past and offering them space.

“I am not anticipating any concrete answers — not for a couple months,” Kohan said.

He has not yet had a chance to send a colleague to the Marshalltown Mall. However Kohan does have plans to make repairs to the heating and air condition system, the roof and the parking lot.

He has no plans on increasing the rent of businesses already located in the mall.

“We have worked with tenants for years and nor never unfair to them,” Kohan said. “They are our partners. If they do well, they stay in the space. We do not make tenants pay an unreasonable rent when we know they cannot afford it.”

Kohan also intends to utilize the space as a type of business incubator. He said budding, but credible, businesses will receive greatly reduced rental prices so owners can get on their feet.

“I want to let the community to know I am glad we are there,” Kohan said. “Any business has the opportunity to open at the mall. Just try us. We want to give a chance to small business owners, help start and establish themselves.”

OTHER KOHAN MALLS:

• Southbridge Mall in Mason City

• Westland Mall in West Burlington

• Adrian Mall in Adrian, Mich.

• Almeda Mall in Houston

• Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle, Maine

• Central Mall Lawton in Lawton, Okla.

• Central Mall Port Arthur in Port Arthur, Texas

• Central Mall Texarkana in Texarkana, Texas

• Chapel Hill Mall in Akron, Ohio

• Colonial Park Mall in Harrisburg, Pa.

• Eastland Center in Harper Woods, Mich.

• Fort Steuben Mall in Steubenville, Ohio

• Graceville Outlet Mall in Graceville, Fla.

• Great Northern Mall in Clay, N.Y.

• Holiday Village Mall in Havre, Mont.

• Indian River Mall in Vero Beach, Fla.

• Jasper Mall in Jasper, Ala.

• Lycoming Mall in Pennsdale, Pa.

• Miami Valley Centre Mall in Piqua, Ohio

• Midland Mall in Midland, Mich.

• Prescott Gateway Mall in Prescott, Ariz.

• Richmond Town Square in Richmond Heights, Ohio

• Savannah Mall in Savannah, Ga.

• Seminole Towne Center, Sanford, Fla.

• The Esplanade in Kenner, La.

• Towne West Square in Wichita, Kan.

• Tulsa Promenade in Tulsa, Okla.

• Valle Vista Mall in Harlingen, Texas

• Village Square Mall in Effingham, Ill.

• Washington Crown Center in Washington, Pa.

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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