Mall momentum

Natasha Shelton

Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

Like shopping centers across America—and retail in general—Chico Mall has been struggling this past decade to remain relevant. Over the past several years, under the general management of Natasha Shelton, Chico Mall has expanded its offerings from traditional mall stores to include outside-the-box tenants like Chico Honda Motorsports and an online school, Oak Bridge Academy. In 2019, under the new ownership of Sacramento-based commercial real estate firm Ethan Conrad Properties, the mall is at an exciting precipice, Shelton told the CN&R. The plan is to diversify the center’s offerings while maintaining its family programming (like free family movie nights) and stores that are already doing well. Shelton, who grew up in Chico and has managed the place since 2016, sat down with the CN&R in her mall office—which, if all goes according to plan, will be demolished to make way for a restaurant with patio access—and offered a look into what’s in store for the shopping center.

What big changes are coming to the mall this year?

We hope to keep Forever 21, move them [out of the anchor spot] and then cut that box up into three stores. I can’t tell you who it is, but it’s an organic grocery store, a really popular home store and then we’re looking at either … a pet store or an eyeglass store. We are talking to Dave & Buster’s, I can say that. And then we’re looking at different options, likely demoing the Sears box, totally scrapping it, and then building a bistro-type theater. They would offer food so you can have dinner there and drinks while you’re watching your movie. We’re also looking at adding stuff to the pads [near Outback]. We’re talking to a bagel store, we’re talking to a coffee [store], we’re talking to Chick-fil-A. We just have so much interest. It’s nice.

Moving forward, what’s your vision for the mall?

We want to maintain our focus on the community always, through our marketing events and our specialty leasing program, to continue to reach out to local businesses and let them know that we definitely have opportunity at the mall to lease space, even if it’s just a temporary pop-up situation. Not everyone knows how many local businesses that we actually have and support at the mall. Also, with the [Camp Fire], it’s been really awesome to see that we’ve been able to partner with Paradise. There were people there that lost their homes and their businesses, and we were able to provide them a place here to open up their business at a really subsidized rent. … We’re really trying to expand our customer base. At this point, we have an opportunity to develop a center that builds a deeper place in the community and stimulates economic revitalization for the city of Chico.