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by Jeff Matthews

The mall isn’t just for shopping anymore.

Take a walk through the Alexandria Mall, and you will see the usual array of retail and food options. But you also will see people taking acting classes at Lagniappe Theater Company, receiving martial arts instruction at Bull’s Gym and watching their kids bounce, jump, throw and run through the games at Slinkee’s Family Fun.

Like a lot of malls and shopping centers, Alexandria Mall has been affected by the national recession. Like a lot of other centers, it is filling the void by turning to businesses you might not expect to find in a mall.

“It’s absolutely a trend due to the recession,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. “As vacancy rates rise, centers have had to be more innovative and creative in utilizing that space. By bringing in nontraditional tenants, it allows centers to collect rent as well as provide a unique and interesting tenant mix.”

“Honestly, we just had different individuals approach us with different ideas, and we felt the ideas had merit,” said Lynn Sanders, marketing director for the Alexandria Mall. “We have space like any other office building, and we want to capitalize on any opportunity out there to lease that space. That might be with nontraditional tenants.”

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