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Small businesses team up with Mall of America to weather the pandemic storm

Learn about the relationships between MOA and the 100 small businesses under their roof on this week's "Sunrise Spring Refresh."

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The pandemic has been tough on small businesses, as they’ve navigated the shutdowns and a change in the way Minnesotans shop. It hasn’t been easy,  but a collaboration between the Mall of America and these business owners has helped both weather the storm. 

The big anchor stores in Mall of America are familiar to everyone but it’s the relationship between MOA and the 100 small businesses under its roof that makes up the backbone of the mall. 

MOA Senior VP of Business Development and Marketing Jill Renslow realizes the importance of embracing small business, saying “It makes us who we are so we really needed to recognize the change in consumer behavior and the fact that we needed to launch new services to connect with consumers.”

Open communication between these businesses and the Mall led to innovations like livestream shopping and curbside pickup. Business was still negatively affected by Mall closures and CDC guidelines limiting public gatherings, but Original Popcorn House owner Stephanie Warner feels the way MOA worked with its tenants strengthened an already solid relationship.

“We have a good relationship with the management. They’re good to work with," she said. "They allowed us to work in our kitchens and do deliveries and curbside.”

Business owners worked tirelessly with Mall of America to gain perspective on what was needed from both sides to make it easier to keep a connection with their customers. 

With the change in consumer behavior Renslow understood MOA would play an important role in helping tenants launch new services, providing a platform for those who didn't have the resources to invest in the new innovations needed to reach shoppers during the pandemic. 

Over at Baking Betty’s, owner Emily Osterberg remembers how quickly it went from business as normal to no business at all when the first lockdown was mandated by the state. “So immediately my mind is like how can I pivot, what can I do to sustain the business?” 

She leveraged MOA’s website to create a new revenue stream for her specialty cookie business: Delivery. She now offers free local delivery to anyone within 15 miles of the Mall. 

Other small businesses in the Mall have also started delivery services and in many cases, it’s been so well received it will become a permanent fixture in their business plans. 

Renslow admits sometimes it takes extraordinary circumstances to accelerate business practices that have been talked about for years.

“This is the perfect time to see what is going to stick because a lot of these changes that have been put in place, the customer wants, and they’re going to be here long-term.”

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