Story by Hannah Broady
How does a popular place of business go from crowded to dead? Why do faithful customers decide that they no longer want to go and visit their usual spots? This can happen anywhere and it’s happened right here in Salt Lake City.
The Gateway Mall, located at 18 North Rio Grande Street, West of downtown, has seen a significant decline of traffic and business. The decline of steady business has become such an issue for the mall that stores have been forced to close down and either relocate or go out of business. Just a few years ago, this area was bubbling with families and frenzy. Now the Gateway is all but deserted.
One of the main reasons for the decline in business is the opening of the City Creek Center. This mall is larger, up to date and located at the heart of downtown Salt Lake. City Creek also offered its vendors two years rent-free. With all of these business perks, it’s easy to see why popular vendors such as the Apple Store and Forever 21 decided to move to City Creek.
Aubrey Farnes, manager at Urban Wear at Gateway, stated that City Creek has caused all of the big name brands to move and has left many open vendor slots throughout the Gateway mall. Sara Senior, manager at Francesca’s, stated that because of the lack of stores, the mall cannot attract enough customers and stores are being forced to close. Both of these manager’s stores are closing or will be relocating by the end of the year due to lack of profits.
Another huge problem Gateway faces is the location of the mall. The area around it has developed to be a less desirable neighborhood and has the homeless shelter located just across the street. Some of the homeless come and sit within the mall along with panhandlers and drug users. Farnes said, “Security had to be increased because of people using mall bathrooms and entering stores and causing trouble.” She recalled how security would constantly be finding drug addicts using in the restrooms and had to be arrested.
Farnes also said how frequent theft had gotten in stores, making it more difficult to obtain a profit. Senior said, “The South side of the mall has way more problems because of how close that side is to the homeless shelter.” All of these piling issues make it even harder to create that safe family feeling that the Gateway once held.
Despite all of these issues, the Gateway security is taking measures to fix these reoccurring problems. They took action against drug users and made the restrooms only available to Gateway shoppers. Non-customers are escorted out. The security also increased its staff by 30 percent to help monitor the mall more consistently.
The mall is also going to add its own unique flair to help compete with the new modern City Creek. Farnes said that the Gateway would be getting a face lift and would have a more retro feel such as one of a kind stores and more colorful décor to attract customers to something different that they can’t find anywhere else.
Farnes also said that giving people a reason to come to the Gateway such as getting those big name vendors or making the Gateway and outlet mall could help bring the Gateway back to life. Senior said that they should make the Gateway an entertainment area or adding more unique stores related to Utah to help create an exclusive feel to the mall.
Whatever the solution to this slump may be, the Gateway staff and vendors will likely need to think of a plan and put it into action soon. The Gateway area should be a proud place local Utah residents suggests to incoming tourists, not a place they shy away from and try to forget it exists. This area should be a reflection of everything Salt Lake City has to offer, alongside City Creek. Both malls should add to the experience of Salt Lake and create the fun, unique and family friendly atmosphere that this city holds.