When West Acres first opened 40 years ago, 13th Ave. was a gravel road, DeLendrecie’s occupied 110,000 square feet of the mall and the mall only housed 52 stores. Now, 13th Ave. is one of the busiest streets in Fargo, few people have heard of DeLendrecie’s and West Acres has over 120 stores. Much has changed, but one thing that has remained is the consistency and popularity of West Acres. Celebrate 40 years of West Acres, and see what led them to be able to climb over the hill.
April 21, 1971 – Groundbreaking ceremony was held, marking the commencement of construction of West Acres Shopping Center.
Aug. 2, 1972 – West Acres Shopping Center opened with 52 stores in approximately 230,000 sq ft. DeLendrecie’s opened on that date in what is currently the Herberger’s location occupying 110,000 square feet of their 190,000 square foot building.
March 1978 – Sears expanded by 20,000 square feet.
March 1979 – The mall was expanded by approximately 50,000 square feet, with space for 20 stores in the JCPenney wing, including the Lower Level.
Aug. 1979 – JCPenney opened its 150,000 square foot store.
Nov. 21, 1999 – First annual “It’s a Wonderful Night” community shopping event (over $25,000 raised and over 4,000 people attended.)
June 7, 2000 – West Acres begins construction of a new food court by the Main Entrance.
Dec. 2001 – 1,000 gallon fresh water aquarium opens in the Sears Court.
Oct. 2, 2002 – New mall fireplace lit for the first time.
Brad Schlossman is the son of William Schlossman, one of the founders of West Acres. The mall has played an important role in his life. West Acres opened when he was 18. He then left Fargo to go to college, but was drawn back. He has now worked at West Acres for 34 years. Spotlight caught up with Brad to discuss how West Acres has remained such an important part of Fargo and what the mall means to him.
What did people think when they heard your father wanted to build a mall in the middle of nowhere?
People thought he was crazy… One thing that was missed in that analysis is that the mall is here to cater to the region and not just the local neighborhood.
Talk about your father and his vision of starting the mall.
It started in 1930 when my grandfather opened built the Black Building, George Black, had employed my father after World War II. The main tenant in the first three floors was Sears. They were only about 40,000 square feet total and they wanted to at least double in size…The first choice was to put them in a small shopping centre in the downtown area but the city turned it down. That’s when the sight went bigger to a regional mall.
What does it mean to you to see West Acres celebrate its 40th anniversary?
Whenever you hit a milestone date, it causes you to look back and reflect on where you’ve been and where you might be in the future. Looking back, we’ve had a lot of fun reminiscing on the various events, keydates and the history of the mall. From a certain aspect, it seems like the 40 years have gone by in a flash, and in other ways it feels like the mall has always been here.
What impact do you think the mall has had on the growth of Fargo?
The mall was a catalyst for additional retail development. Because the location was chosen at the proximity of the two interstates, other regionally focused retailers saw the value in that. So, naturally, the original success of the mall spawned addittional development.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face with handling 20,000 shoppers every day?
Each aspect of running a shopping center has its own challenges. Leasing: Being able to attract the stores that customers want.
Marketing: Staying connected with the customers, so that we hear what they want and we then deliver.
Maintence: Making sure when customers walk in the mall, they’re pleased with the physical appearance.
The overall desire to make sure the mall experience is what the customers want is a team effort.
Why do you think the mall has been so successful?
I give a lot of credit to my father and his partnership team, because the basic groundwork they laid is still in place today… I also think the success has to do with a formula that was laid out. You also can’t ignore the importance of the Fargo-Moorhead regional economy. If we don’t have a strong economy then we’re nothing. If people don’t have jobs then they don’t shop.