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Winter 2010 Carts Across America, Winter 2010

These specialty leasing operations in Alberta, Canada and across the U.S. give a snapshot of what’s selling in North America.

Funlayo Alabi’s Shea Radiance in The Mall in Columbia, Columbia, MD

by Duffy C. Weir

When their children had severely dry skin, Funlayo and Shola Alabi started making natural skincare products using shea butter imported from their native Nigeria. These products spawned their family business—a company called Shea Radiance.

The Alabis opened their first RMU at The Mall in Columbia in Columbia, MD, as an outlet to sell Shea Radiance products. Based in Ellicott City, MD, the Alabis also sell their products in local green and
farmers’ markets, and from their website

Shea Radiance products are made with shea butter and other ingredients from sustainable sources in Africa. Botanical extracts are blended with the shea butter using basic principles of aromatherapy. Price points range from $6 for soap to $30 for their best-selling pomegranate whipped body butter.

The Alabis import shea butter from West African women’s cooperatives that produce the oils from shea nut trees. The couple shares an ongoing commitment to the welfare of women and children in Africa. By doing business directly with these African women they add value to the local economy, and empower the women to improve the lives of their families.

Funlayo Alabi has this advice for retailers looking to pick an ideal location: “Start with a mall you like and understand the demographics [including] mall traffic, and interview other vendors about their experience in the center.”

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William Gierman’s Germack Pistachio Company in Great Lakes Crossing, Auburn Hills, MI

by John Callard

Germack Pistachio Company has been in business in Detroit since 1924 operating out of the famous Farmer’s Eastern Market. The company also has a seasonal cart operation at the Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, MI.

William Gierman, president of the company, says the cart provides a beautiful display of nuts, dried fruits, candies, and snack mixes, all roasted and packaged at the Germack facility in Detroit. Packaging includes bags, jars, gift boxes and gift baskets. The one-pound paper bag of pistachios, which retails for $6.50, is the best-selling item at the RMU.

Their only other retail outlet is a storefront location in Detroit’s Eastern Market, near the company’s roasting plant. Gierman says mall management has been very helpful in providing design expertise and other suggestions based on their experience with other retail carts at the center.

Gierman has this advice for fellow retailers: “Make sure your product selection is varied to attract the attention of as many people as possible. Also, the overall appearance of the display must be attractive, clean and eye catching at first glance.”

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Terrell Downing’s The Key Stop in North Point Mall, Alpharetta, GA

by Starr Cumming

After recently leaving a corporate position, Terrell Downing was on the lookout for a franchise opportunity. He found just the right fit with The Key Stop and opened an RMU at the North Point Mall in Alpharetta, GA.

The Key Stop sells decorative key blanks.

Top-sellers include guitars, Disney characters, Hello Kitty, NFL and Collegiate logos. Keys can also be personalized with a photo. Painted keys range in price from $5.99-$7.99 and the personalized photo
keys sell for $14.95. The keys are cut at the RMU in minutes.

Downing says his experience with mall management and The Key Stop team have been great. He plans on opening a few more RMUs in the metro Atlanta market before the beginning of this year’s holiday season.

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Qaiser Ahsan’s Style in Shades and Santa & Me in CrossIron Mills Mall, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

by Andrea Tombrowski

by Qaiser (pronounced “ke-ser”) Ahsan from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, sells two very different products that allow him to operate his successful cart business year-round at the CrossIron Mills Mall. From January to September, his carts, called “Style in Shades,” sell high fashion sunglasses. Then, from October to December, the carts are converted to become “Santa & Me,” selling personalized Christmas ornaments.

“It’s a combination that works very well,” says Ahsan, adding that seasonal best sellers like the Christmas ornaments make up for higher mall rents in November and December.

Ahsan is the exclusive Canadian distributor of Santa & Me products, owned by Rudolph & Me, Inc. based in Florida. He has carts in most of the major malls in Calgary, as well as in Toronto and British Columbia. He expects to have at least twenty locations selling Santa & Me ornaments by the end of 2009.

The entrepreneur, who holds two Masters degrees, encourages owners to spend time with their carts so that they look attractive to customers. His company prides itself on having carts that stand out in malls and places strong emphasis on customer service.

“Ivanhoe Cambridge has played a major role in my success as a retailer,” says Ahsan. “They gave me my first opportunity in 2006 and since then I have grown significantly.”

Santa & Me’s best selling products are their family ornaments. Single ornaments are typically $18-$24, Canadian, which translates to between $17-$23 in U.S. dollars; their average sale per customer is $100-$150 Canadian or $95-$142 in U.S. dollars. One of Ahsan’s future plans is to become the Canadian distributor for Style in Shades’ sunglasses.

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Sam and Cathy Rahman’s Sam’s Mini Mart and Bling Bling Wireless in Foothills Mall, Tucson, AZ

by Stephanie Pendrys

When you walk into the Foothills Mall in Tucson, AZ, your eyes are greeted by rows of brightly colored phone accessories, mouth-watering snacks and Cathy Rahman’s smiling face. Cathy and her husband Sam own two carts at the mall: Sam’s Mini Mart and Bling Bling Wireless.

The Rahmans entered the specialty retail business during the summer of 2007. “Sam came home one day from the mall with a stack of papers and announced that we were going to do it,” Cathy said. They opened Sam’s Mini Mart two weeks later. While working at the Mini Mart, they heard mall patrons repeatedly ask about cell phone accessories. After doing their homework and realizing that the cell phone industry was booming, they opened Bling Bling Wireless in March of 2008. The Rahmans carry accessories for more than 300 different cell phones at Bling Bling Wireless. The best-selling items on the Bling Bling cart are the full line of Blackberry protector cases and Bodyguardz screen protectors, which retail from $15.99 – $28.95.

The Rahmans are doing quite well. “Concession items are really always in demand,” Cathy says. Their best-selling product at the Mini Mart is Takis Chips (especially the Fuego flavor), which retail for $1.99 a pack.

One key to the Rahman’s success has been the management at Foothills Mall. “We would not be in business without the support of our management and our mall manager, Regina Harmon,” Cathy says. “Regina has helped us every step of the way.”

Cathy and Sam Rahman have some advice for fellow retailers: treat your customers as a priority and work hard to exceed their expectations.

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Useful Links

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