Meridian Mall Fights Back After Devastating Pandemic

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This is a photo of the front of the Meridian Mall

Annie Heeder

Meridian Mall on 1982 W. Grand River Rd. in Okemos is evolving into more of an entertainment destination, not just retail, said mall employees.

Imagine walking into the mall as a child and smelling the food court, there seems to be excitement in the air because of the shopping that is going to take place. Then COVID-19 hit and some people were feeling the urge to connect back to the mall setting that they once knew. Now, the Meridian Mall is open and ready to welcome back customers again, with a few changes.

After speaking to Schuler Books in the Meridian Mall General Manager, Amanda Strong, Schuler Books felt supported by the community during the pandemic.

“We saw our local community and the community at large put their money where their mouth is as far as supporting small business,” Strong said. 

When asked about the biggest change the bookstore had to make during the pandemic, Strong said that they had to evolve to online sales.

“Back in March last year, when everything started, shortly after that we saw, I couldn’t even give you a percentage. It was a massive increase in traffic to our website, A lot of people requesting books to be mailed to all over the country, not just in Michigan,” Strong said.

When Claire’s Jewelry Store Employee Nia Roberts was asked the same question, she had a different take on it.

“The only thing that’s really changed for us is like the, wearing the mask during piercings,” Roberts said. “We really evolved since the first part of it. So now we have like-new techniques and stuff,” New techniques include learning how to pierce ears with a mask on.

Henry Kwok, a member of the Economic Development Corporation and business owner in Meridian Township said the mall has continued to evolve.

“You’ve got a high caliber who’s expanded to a whole new wing,” Kwok said. “The mall is sort of evolving to more of an entertainment district than just traditional retail. And I feel like that’s the trend we’re going toward, a lot of big box stores are, are leaving just because of the shared overhead.” 

A lot of stores across the state have had to adapt in one way or another. And some of that was not always positive. For example, the Mask Mandate. 

“Not everybody was interested in being respectful of that (mask) policy. So as a person who deals with the public in a retail setting it was not fun to be verbally assaulted by angry customers. there was a lot of anxiety for all of us when we still had to enforce masks,” Strong said. 

When asked about going forward how the community can continue to best support the mall, Strong said,

“Just going to to buy a book when you can go to Amazon and buy the book for probably less. And you’ve probably already gotten an account set up because everybody has prime these days. that alone making that choice has been so positive and helpful, for morale for the staff, knowing that people care enough to go the extra mile, to make sure that the store weathered this whole fiasco, that’s been really positive.”

Kwok also spoke on how the Meridian Mall can continue to have some success in the future. And one of those ways is coming up with unique ideas to fill the spaces in the mall

“The mall owners and managers have to really think outside the box. Maybe we put office spaces in, or maybe, other non-traditional maybe even more entertainment spots in the mall,” Kwok said. 

For a short clip of Amanda Strong’s interview, access this link.