Last February, Scott Kim had to shutter his women's clothing store after the Hickory Ridge Mall was damaged in a tornado.
Last week, he was back at the mall — in his store's old space — to hear what the mall's new owners, the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church, are planning.
"People keep saying to us, you're a church. What are you going to do with a mall?" says Al Cousins of the World Overcomers. "We want to talk to those retailers who are returning, those who are on the fence, and those who weren't here in the first place and tell them, here's our plan."
In addition to 40 retail and food-court stores, the mall will include social services, church ventures — such as a day care center and a book store — and family entertainment. Part of the former Macy's is slated to become a banquet and conference center. There are also plans for a youth recreational center and a movie theater.
"We don't believe the community has been abandoned by the residents. We believe the community has been abandoned by the national retailers," Cousins says. "Are we going to have a Macy's and Dillard's? We don't need them for a community mall."
The church hopes that by creating a mix of retail, social services, and educational facilities it can revitalize both the mall and the surrounding community. It has been in negotiations with entities as disparate as Incredible Pizza and Southwest Tennessee Community College to lease space in the mall.
"A mall with 100 retail spaces won't survive. It doesn't work like that anymore because of the economy," Cousins says.
The church is currently generating letters of intent from interested retailers and will begin writing leases in 45 days.
"It's a unique concept that I think is right for Hickory Hill," says mall manager Pat Jacobs. "People ask me who's going to be here. I don't know, but I can almost guarantee Circuit City won't be."
The mall's grand opening is slated for the end of June.
Kim, who owns six other 4 Ever Young stores in the area, plans to return once the mall opens.
"I still have my store," he says, pointing to the fixtures. "I have a lot of stuff still here."