Traffic at Uptown Scottsbluff Mall in Nebraska is almost as busy as nearby Scotts Bluff was in pioneer days.
In the early 19th Century, tens of thousands of pioneers passed the 800-foot-high Scotts Bluff journeying westward on the Oregon Trail. But in the 21st century, traffic has been light at the nearby Uptown Scottsbluff Mall, and a third of its stores closed.
Then COVID-19 came along and changed things—for the better, in this case.
“I think a lot of people during COVID found their niche ... and had the time and energy to put into their small business. There’s probably only one or two spaces available right now,” the mall’s GM Christa Pelter told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald.
Eleven of the mall’s 36 stores opened in 2021, six of them in just the last two months.
Interestingly, many of the tenants opening at Uptown Scotsbluff in this town of 15,000 people 20 miles from the Wyoming border have something in common with many new tenants opening at super-regional malls. They’re locals.
Ben Salazar, who opened the Locos Restaurant at the property last week, grew up in the area and based his menu on recipes he got from his grandmother.
“There are so many stores opening up now, and they’re local stores. That’s going back to the old grassroots,” said Salazar in the Star-Herald. “Your little cities are going back to mom-and-pop stores again.”