The merchants at Myrtle Beach Mall only need one word to say what they want from their new owners.
They want more people in the corridors, more people browsing windows and more people spending money.
The mall, off U.S. 17 near S.C. 22, was sold last week for $45 million to two California-based real estate investment firms.
According to their websites, Peak Financial Partners and Misuma Holdings specialize in buying underperforming properties, reinvigorating and then selling them.
They have or have had projects in California and Texas, primarily, but have operated in other states as well. Peak, for instance, bought six buildings in New Orleans and sold two to hotel interests.
“This is familiar territory for us,” Alan Davidov, Misuma founder, said in a news release.
He said the company has taken other underperforming retail assets and executed a “true turnaround benefiting tenants and the community”
Neither Davidov nor Gil Priel, managing director at Peak Financial Partners, could be reached for comment Tuesday. Joe Perl, the mall’s general manager, declined to comment on the sale Tuesday.
The mall, which opened in 1986 and was renovated in 2004, has about 70 stores, including the area’s only Bass Pro Shops, as well as Belk, J.C. Penney, a movie theater, Books-A-Million and others.
A few of the mall’s merchants – who had not heard of the sale on Tuesday afternoon – would tell the new owners they have some work in front of them.
“When people do come in,” said Erika Gillard, manager of Icing by Claire’s, “it’s like, where is the real mall?’
Ali Abdi, owner of the Oxford Perfumes and Jewelry Kiosk, said there are days he can sit for 10 hours without a sale.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Abdi, who has had the kiosk since 2003.
Steve Harm, owner of Countertops & More, said the road to improvement is kind of a Catch 22 path.
The mall needs more national stores to bring in more shoppers, but the national stores need to see the increased traffic before they will lease space. Harm said the new owners should entice the stores by offering them free rent for a year.
The new owners have partnered before on The Outlet Shoppes in El Paso, Texas, where they completed the development of a 450,000-square-foot outlet mall, according to their websites.
Peak Financial Properties, which has projects only in Texas and California, also completed the development of a stalled townhouse project in California.
Misuma Holdings has redeveloped large retail centers in Texas, office buildings in New Orleans and a Beverly Hills hotel, its website says.
“When you pull up to this mall, it looks like it’s just been sitting here,” said Gillard of the 521,000 square feet of Myrtle Beach Mall.
She thinks the mall needs a total makeover, inside and out.
“People walk in, see there’s nothing here and walk back out,” Abdi said.
Harm said one problem is that the mall’s management has allowed more than one store to carry the same merchandise, which results in a price war that no one wins. Abdi said he’s seen so many stores come and go that he can tell when new merchants move in if they will survive, or not.
“We watch them come and go,’ Harm agreed.
And it’s not just the merchants who notice the deficiencies at the mall.
“There’s not much to this mall,” said Jamaica Hubbert of Pittsburgh, who is in town for the Atlantic Beach BikeFest. “It’s kind of dreary.”