It’s a Thursday evening and roughly 100 empty chairs are scattered around the food court at the Diamond Run Mall in Rutland.
One lone food vendor still has their sign alight. You can hear the hum of fans and the faint sound of elevator music. Do a 360 and you’ll be lucky to catch a glimpse of maybe three or four other life forms. It’s so eerily quiet that you can almost hear the echo of your own footsteps.
“I’ve never seen a mall like this before,” said William Mergenthaler, a jewelry consultant at the Sears store in the mall. “I’ve seen empty malls still thrive, but I’ve never seen…this.”
Sears, one of the mall’s main anchor stores, announced on Thursday their doors will close in December. X Bar, Thelma & Louise and the Toy Factory also made the call this week to leave the mall.
This will leave roughly two-thirds of the storefronts in the 400,000-square-foot mall vacant and dark. So what exactly is going on in this ghost mall?
“The rents are too high!” said Jodi Kent-Sejdiu, another Sears employee. “People can’t afford them because they don’t have enough income coming into the store to pay their rent.
Kent-Sejdiu remembers a time when the mall was flourishing, but in her time, she has seen store after store leave, and they haven’t seen much of an effort from mall management to fill those stores.
“We’d love to see them put in more effort to draw more local businesses,” Meshach Tourigny of Mountain Man Jewelry said. “There’s no outreach. There’s no public relations. There’s very little good will toward this mall.”
Attempts we’re made to contact Mall Manager Jay Morel, but mall management chose not to comment on the current state of the mall or its future.
Castleton senior Emmy Hescock said she’s watched the mall go downhill since her freshman year and hardly ever visits anymore. There’s nothing there for her.
Mergenthaler and Kent-Sejdiu said there are all sorts of rumors flying around about what will come of the vacant mall. There’s talk of Target and Wal-Mart bidding on the large space Sears will leave behind, and there’s a reoccurring rumor that Castleton has their own plans for the mall.
Director of marketing and communications at Castleton, Jeff Weld said there is “nothing in the works,” but that Castleton’s expansion into the Rutland community in general is a very real possibility.
Spartan Arena is already located at Diamond Run Mall, and this summer the Spartan Dome will be placed next to the arena.
“Certainly we do have plans and things that are already in place that bring us into Rutland, and the mall being the space that it is and given its location to the arena doesn’t make it an undesirable location,” Weld said.
As for specific plans for the mall, there is nothing yet.
“Every time the mall has something going on, the rumors fly up about us as a potential enterprise to be involved,” Weld said. “I think that people sort of look at that as a progression that makes sense.”