Broken water main sends mall shoppers elsewhereIt was the primo parking that first tipped off would-be customers that something was amiss Monday at Miller Hill Mall.
By: Christa Lawler and Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
It was the primo parking that first tipped off would-be customers that something was amiss Monday at Miller Hill Mall.
Daniel Mokros had planned to run into Barnes & Noble and grab a book. He said he was surprised when he saw few cars in the lot.
“I thought it must be a sparse shopping day,” he said.
But it was a water main break on Decker Road that forced the mall to close in the morning, said Cindy Rodenhizer, the mall’s marketing director.
Signs at mall entrances indicated the stores would be closed for the day, although J.C. Penney stayed open with an abbreviated staff.
“We’re just open for those customers that have made a really long trip in,” store manager Ted Cuva said.
Among the out-of-towners was Susan Heckart, who came from Aitkin only to find the mall closed. Was she disappointed?
“Yeah,” Heckart said, “considering we came over 100 miles to go to the mall today to go shopping. So, we’re going to try somewhere else.”
Jamin Siljendahl, a manager at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, said his staff was expecting Monday to be a huge shopping day, less than two weeks before Christmas.
“This is going to be bad for the whole entire mall,” he said.
But by 1:30 p.m. the city crews had repaired a crack in the water line to the mall and water was restored. Five Guys Burgers and Fries soon reopened, followed by Younkers, Applebee’s and Barnes & Noble. Most others remained closed.
The mall closure didn’t affect Doug Myhre of Duluth, a regular mall walker who typically does three laps a day. He had gotten in a bit of a workout without incident, and planned to keep walking “until they kick me out,” he said at a turnaround point near Applebee’s.
Many went to the nearby Target store, which saw a boom in business.
“It’s pretty busy in here,” said Katy Eisenmann, an assistant manager, noting that the crowds were unusual for a Monday morning. “With the mall being closed, we’re definitely feeling the effects.”
Nearby Perkins Family Restaurant and Bakery on Miller Trunk Highway also closed when the break cut off water to the mall, but reopened 20 minutes after water was restored.
“You have to shut down if you have no water; it’s a health-code rule,” said Jim Whereatt, the general manager. “Like most public places, if you don’t have water, employees can’t wash their hands, and customers can’t use the restrooms.”
He added: “It hurts business tremendously for all of us up here. It kills them [mall merchants] to have to shut their doors, and we’re right with the mall.”
Still, he was trying to take the water main break in stride.
“This happens every year,” he said. “There’ll be a day when pipes will freeze up. Usually, it’s on a side street.”
But if it’s going to happen, it’s better that it happened on a Monday, he said.
“If it had been this weekend,” he said, “it would have been really ugly.”