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Fingerlakes Mall finds new kind of success: How did they bounce back after the pandemic?

Business is good at the Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius, located on the edge of Auburn, according to Marketing Director Elizabeth Hebbard. She has been with the mall for ten months, and does small-tenant leasing, social media marketing and holiday decorating.

“Right after this interview I’m gonna start putting up 14-16 Christmas trees throughout the building and I have cute little wall signs,” Hebbard explained of what’s a normal day at Fingerlakes. “We’ve also got banners and ornaments at our entryways.”

Halloween at Fingerlakes Mall

Hebbard stays positive and enthusiastic. Despite the challenges faced in the mall business Fingerlakes has worked hard to carve out a niche. Great Northern Mall in Onondaga County is closing in the coming months and the property will be redeveloped.

For Fingerlakes Mall it all comes back to being as accommodating as possible for tenants and patrons.

“A lot of businesses are unfortunately still feeling the effects of Covid, so to be able to bounce back form that has been fantastic,” Hebbard continued. “So much better than we expected. A lot of our small businesses are doing quite well. I know malls throughout the country have seen quite a bit of struggle especially because of the pandemic. They were some of the hardest hit areas due to restrictions.”

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Combination of new and old tenants finding success with customers

There are 36 tenants in the Fingerlakes Mall. Many of them are thriving, Hebberd says.

“Bark by Beth, our dog training service, she’s booked out eight months to a year already,” she explained. “She is busy. We’ve got Absolute Dance who has their studio and has recitals here. Especially in this area we weren’t expecting to bounce back so effectively and quickly, so it’s fantastic.”

Dilly’s, an American-style restaurant opened just last week, and is working to open a bar area. 

“We also have Honey’s Hoagies here and they are a local sub and sandwich shop,” Hebbard said. “So it’s been nice to have food back in the food court especially after Covid”

Other new tenants include Vitale Tax Services, a longstanding local company that moved in a few months ago.

How did the mall push forward after COVID-19?

“My personal theory just getting to know the tenants here, they’re fantastic people who have developed a community,” Hebbard said. “They treat each other like a friendly neighborhood. When one is struggling they come together to help them.”

Absolute Dance also serves as an event space. The studio is on one side, and the other side is for events like concerts and local vaccine clinics.

And some of the events are a little eccentric. 

“We have rabbit shows,” Hebbard explained. “We just had one last weekend. There are breeders and family farms, so anyone who has rabbits can come. Like show horses, there are show rabbits and show guinea pigs. They come in, the set up, there are massive rabbits and guinea pigs.  One girl had a tiny little rabbit dressed up as a burrito. It was adorable.”

“The holiday craft fair is December 3rd and 4th, it’s also a vendor market. We try to make our events inclusive and price them as cheaply as possible. That has got more than 90 vendors.”

Hebbard wants to make it clear, malls are not a thing of the past.

“The malls-are-dead perspective that a lot of people have, if you look into what we’re doing here, we’re not even close to that,” she continued. “Fingerlakes Mall is proving that there are different ways to be successful in the mall space in 2022.”



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