Colorado Mills making a post-pandemic comeback

Retailers say crowds have been returning to Lakewood shopping center even as challenges remain

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/9/21

After a year in which even the act of shopping was beset with precautions and anxiety, those who visited Colorado Mills mall on the last Friday in May and first in June found a scene that was …

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Colorado Mills making a post-pandemic comeback

Retailers say crowds have been returning to Lakewood shopping center even as challenges remain

Posted

After a year in which even the act of shopping was beset with precautions and anxiety, those who visited Colorado Mills mall on the last Friday in May and first in June found a scene that was surprisingly, well, normal.

The mall was crowded with shoppers — particularly going into the Memorial Day weekend — and most walked without masks, which are no longer required by mall management for the vaccinated, and oftentimes in large groups of clearly unrelated people (read: the teens are back).

The vast majority of shops big and small had also reopened for business with some new businesses even having sprung in the places of old favorites and only a handful of vacancies breaking up the activity. Even the neighboring Regal UA Colorado Mills movie theater, which was closed entirely for well over a year, has turned its screens back on and is again screening new releases.

Sure, if you looked closely their were some things you wouldn’t have seen two years - the children’s play area was closed off and covered in plastic and some stores required shoppers to wait outside before entering to allow for social distance.

But by and large, those changes were subtle and provided only a few clues that America is still coming out of a pandemic that completely altered the mall and most other facets of everyday life.

At Colorado Hat Co., owner Pat Sanner said he has noticed significantly more activity at the mall.

“We are definitely noticing the weekends are quite busy,” he said. “I would say weekends are probably on par to what they were before the pandemic but weekends are much better off.”

That seems to be paying off for Sanner’s business, which he said has actually been doing better recently than it was before the pandemic.

He said he’s not quite sure if that’s a result of the busier mall, the ongoing Nuggets and Avalanche playoff runs or other factors but says he welcomes the business after what he describes as a “pretty tough year” that led his store to close for 89 days at the start of the pandemic.

When it comes to the long-term future of the mall, Sanner said he’s “not totally bullish” given the struggles malls were experiencing even before the pandemic thanks to such challenges as the ever-increasing popularity of online retail. However, he feels his shop is in decent shape for the time being and won’t be going out of business anytime soon.

“Some of the really big spots in the mall are still empty but the small spots seem to be doing OK,” said Sanner. “Just next door a new Italian spot opened up.”

That spot is Bravo’s Italian Restaurant, a counter specializing in fresh and authentic Italian food that opened at the end of May.

Bravo’s owner Tony Lombardi, who owns two successful Bravo’s standalone restaurants in the north Denver metro area, said he decided to give opening a Bravo’s in Colorado Mills a shot after receiving a call from mall management after taking over one of the spaces that became vacant during the pandemic.

“It’s been pretty slow,” said Lombardi. “But we are trying.”

Among the bigger spaces in the mall that have welcomed a new tenant was the former Sak’s Fifth Avenue space, which is now home to the Rodz & Bodz, a car museum showcasing cars that were used in the filming of movies.

Rodz & Bodz owner Zack Loffert said his company provides cars for movies and commercials as well as weddings. Loffert said he had been planning to eventually open a museum so the public could see the cars but decided to accelerate the process once COVID hit thinking that opening as the pandemic was ending would make sense because “everybody is going to be wanting to get out and about.”

Loffert said he chose to open inside a mall, rather than as a standalone museum, in large because he wanted to create something that would normally never be seen in a mall and also put his business in a place where “people who are never going to drive to a museum” could access it.

So far, that decision seems to be paying off.

“We will have been open for two weeks tomorrow and things are going great,” said Loffert on May 28. “Our traffic is doubling almost every weekend and people seem really excited.”

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