SUMTER, S.C. — The Sumter Mall is trying to reimagine the typical shopping mall experience by bringing in a couple new tenants. Construction is currently underway for Planet Fitness and Liberty STEAM Charter School locations.
"The mall is not bad," Sumter resident Terry Clark shares. "I can't really say nothing bad about it."
Clark has lived in Sumter his whole life, so he’s watched the Sumter Mall on Broad Street change throughout the years.
"It used to be alright but its kind of like going downhill now," Clark says. "It can be better, you know, but even...I mean, hey, nothing wrong with it."
It's a trend resident Darnell Harris has noticed is starting to change.
"It's been here my whole life usually it’s been pretty empty," Harris explains. "But now they're trying to upgrade and have stuff for the younger generation to participate in."
The vacancies are not unique to Sumter, says John Mulherin with Hull Property Group, which owns the mall.
"It's not indicative of any particular community, it's certainly indicative of the changing nature of the shopping habits and internet shopping, Amazon Prime, things of that nature," Mulherin details. "So what you got to do is you've got to adapt."
Adapt by thinking outside of the box and introducing businesses that aren’t just retail, like a gym.
"I've been looking for location in Sumter for quite a while, over probably five years," Planet Fitness franchise owner Bob Bobenage shares. "I think Sumter just with the location, its demographics, it needed something like a Planet Fitness."
Bobenage says he found that perfect spot for a Planet Fitness in the mall. It’s going to be his sixth location, which he tells me is likely to bring more business.
"The number of people that come through our doors probably rivals a grocery store. The amount of people per day, maybe even more but perfect to increase traffic into a mall," Bobenage tells me. "They come in and they can look at the mall and take care of some of their other businesses as well."
This is part of what Mulherin calls an “adaptive reuse” of the traditional mall, as it’s also bringing in a new location for Liberty STEAM Charter School.
"We're seeing a lot of government use, we're seeing medical use, we're seeing charter school use and we're seeing entertainment and include fitness with entertainment," Mulherin says. "And we think if we remain disciplined, and we bring the right tenant that complements everything else we have will be successful, but we're not going to go chase somebody just for the sake of trying to fill some space."
People like Kelly Outen, who’s visiting from manning to get some shopping done, are supportive of this.
"I think that's good, good idea," Outen believes. "Make more people come out."
Bobenage says the Planet Fitness is set to open in mid-June, with the charter school’s expected opening by the start of the next school year this August.
"We think there's a lot of opportunity that these great tenants are going to provide for us in the future," Mulherin hopes.