Saturday, November 08, 2003

More on the Blog of America.

These days, there's a legal dispute about the ownership of the Mall of America. The shops open, the shops close, people come to the mall and business goes on -- a quarrel about who actually owns the place is as distant as a succession crisis in Togo, as far as the ordinary shopper is concerned.

The opposing parties in the spat are the mall's original development partners, Indianapolis-based Simon Properties (owned by the Simon family) and the Ghermezian brothers of Alberta, Canada. Both families control enormous retail real estate empires, so this is something like the Romans and the Persians fighting over Mesopotamia. I won't bore blog readers with the details, or offer any opinions about the case, but I will say that the Ghermezians won the first round. More litigation is likely, though. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in September, an article about the ruling in favor of the four Iranian-Canadian Ghermezian brothers in U.S. District Court said the following:

"In his ruling, Judge Magnuson criticized both parties for behavior that he called 'boorish' and 'behavior one might expect to see on a playground but not in dealings between sophisticated business partners.' " The judge might have been surprised, but I'm not.

I brought a Mall of America Map & Directory back from my trip, and I've consulted it to see what I missed during my hour-long flyby in the mall. Because I must have missed more than I saw. The mall is so large that the directory lists a good many stores twice -- that is, there are two locations in the mall. Two Claire's Boutiques, two Sunglass Huts, two Eddie Bauers, two Victoria’s Secrets, and four Mall of America Gift Stores, one for each compass point. Just to name some of the doubles, and not to mention permutations like Gap, Gap Body, Gap Baby and Gap Kids, all of which are represented.

And as much as I know about retail real estate, there are also chains I’ve never heard of, such as Zutopia (children's apparel); Torrid (women's “specialty apparel” -- all your dominatrix needs, perhaps); Bow Wow Meow, Dapy, Department 56, Dry Ice, Razz and Spirit of the Red Horse, all listed as gift shops; and Underground Station (shoes). The mall also has a full-service post office, an AARP office, classes at National American University (mall, mill), a dental clinic and a wedding chapel. The mall Web site claims that more than 4,000 couples have been married there. When I got back to my office, I told our assistant editor Angie about that. She's getting married next spring. "Why have a church wedding in Iowa," I asked, "when the Mall of America is available?"


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