VERNON - After four decades the Vernon mall still offers something you can’t get with online shopping: a social, community atmosphere.
Much has changed at the Village Green Centre since its grand opening Aug. 6, 1975. Now, friends can meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee before strolling through the automatic doors. You can use a plastic gift card to make your purchases and you can even take a selfie with Santa at Christmas.
Going to the mall is still an experience, an activity, an outing — that much at least has stayed constant after 40 years.
“The thing you can’t get online that you can get here in the brick and mortar is the social aspect,” marketing manager Darren Robinson says. “People can come and meet their friends and see what’s new.”
On any given morning, you’re sure to find a number of people congregating in the hallways as part of the mall walking program. Later, you’ll find the food court busy with groups catching up over coffee.
Tenants have come and gone over the years — although the Bay has remained — and Robinson says the centre has grown and adapted to the times.
“You need dynamism to be a success. We’re trying to stay true to the people who rely on us every day while also trying to be appealing to those who yearn for newness,” he says.
And while some shopping habits may have shifted online, he says many people still prefer the customer service they get from walking into a real store. That’s where you can get recommendations from employees, try things on, and avoid the security risks of online shopping.
“The only way to get that face-to-face is coming into the stores,” he says. “I believe the greatest opportunity for the retailers is to take advantage of that value added opportunity, to deliver something they can’t get in an online experience.”
There have been significant changes at the mall over the last couple of years with the closure of Zellers, followed by the opening — and prompt closure — of Target. A longtime fixture of the mall, Ricki’s also closed its doors as part of a company-wide restructuring plan. But exciting things are on the way, Robinson says, including the opening of Canadian Tire in the former Target space sometime in 2016. Several other new shops are also coming in the near future which will add vibrancy, and fill up vacant storefronts, Robinson says.
The centre is also excited to unveil an elaborate new Christmas feature this winter, Santa’s Village, which will include festive floor to ceiling decorations mall-wide.
Robinson says the Village Green Centre is still going strong after 40 years, and notes its success comes down to two things.
“One, the convenience of every day shopping — the offering of those every day items people need and don’t have to leave town for,” Robinson says. “Two, people have a lot of fond memories of this place. People have grown up with this mall. There’s all that nostalgia of watching the mall evolve. You couple those two things, and that’s where you see how the mall fits into the community.”
You can join the celebration for the Village Green Centre’s 40th anniversary — and enter to score some prizes — on Saturday, Sept. 26. The event is happening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature a bouncy castle, face painting, a photo booth, kids games, live entertainment, prizes, and birthday cupcakes.
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