BALZAC -- It’s been almost a year and half since New Horizon Mall opened but there are still an overwhelming number of empty units, making life difficult for the tenants that are there now.
In fact, only about 25 per cent of the units have been filled, which is just over 100 shops open in the vast retail space, which is the size of five-and-a-half football fields.
While existing tenants are still optimistic the mall, located north of Calgary in Balzac, will one day fill to capacity, it’s getting harder every day to make a living for some of them, to the point where even spaces that are rented are not open some days.
“People are suffering. Some people wonder why the other shops are not open. It’s because they are working somewhere else to pay rent and maintenance and everything,” said Farida Memon, of Gift Hut.
The sprawling $200M building opened up last spring. There are about 500 units and 26 food court units.
In mid-July a major store called The Best Shop, described as the Chinese Walmart without the groceries, opened its doors.
Store operators say the mall's first true anchor tenant was meant to help bolster crowds to the mall, and it did, but only temporarily.
They say that more anchor tenants are needed to help draw in the crowds.
Ekaterina Shagaeva’s Dream design and decor store has done well, but she has had to diversify.
“I sell from my website, I sell on Etsy and I do workshops,” she said.
Neil Gagne, who runs Zeek’s Gizmoz and Gadgetz, says his business is doing well, but believes the economy is a factor in the slow growth of New Horizon Mall.
“Calgary is hurting and we have for quite some time and it’s aggravated the growth of this mall," he said, "but the question, actually, (that we should ask) as a merchant is we can look for people to blame or or we can basically say what can I do to survive?”
Despite the challenges some shops have faced, many are still optimistic the mall will eventually fill up.
Angel from Angelic Decor and Accessories just opened her doors in the summer and says her business is still a good investment.
“They are giving us an opportunity and a discount so this is a good place for everybody to start their own business,” said Angel.
Others are reminding the public to remember they are open and to come by and support locally-owned businesses.
The general manager of New Horizon Mall, Scott Smith, refused an interview with CTV.