EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was produced as part of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University’s South Jersey Information Equity Project fellowship and supported with funding from the Independence Public Media Foundation.
BY AHNYAH PINCKNEY | For AC JosepH Media
MOORESTOWN — Moorestown Mall has been a Burlington County fixture for nearly six decades. The one-floor mall currently houses some 90 stores and businesses, including recognized names like Michael’s, Planet Fitness, Victoria’s Secret, and H&M.
At least eight retailers located at Moorestown Mall are Black-owned. And within the last year, the mall has welcomed two new Black-owned businesses, which makes some entrepreneurs hopeful about opportunities to reach a broader clientele base through onsite mall kiosks and storefronts.
One example is Nika Corbett, the owner of Curate Noir, which opened its mall kiosk in May of 2021. The subscription box company showcases and sells the products of nine other local Black- and brown-owned brands listed on their website.
Corbett says that the mall has been supportive throughout the onboarding process. She has hosted expos there and featured businesses like women’s clothing shop Vixen Culture Boutique and event photography vendor Selfie Design Lab. Both have opened up kiosks of their own in Moorestown Mall.
Painting titled “Bantu,” is one of the gallery options that guests can use as templates for Pop-In Paint sessions at The Remixx, a Black-owned art and design studio in Moorestown Mall. Photo courtesy of The Remixx
“Seeing black-owned businesses in an open, receptive space encourages other business owners to say maybe I can do it too,” said Corbett.
Moorestown Mall is located at 40 Route 38, just shy of four miles from Cherry Hill Mall. Both malls are owned by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), a publicly traded real estate investment trust that mainly invests in malls throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. And both locations attract shoppers from South Jersey and Philadelphia, though Cherry Hill Mall boasts a larger retail plaza and selection of high-end retailers.
Amid recent store closures and financial struggles, Moorestown Mall has been undergoing construction that PREIT hopes will revitalize the property. This effort stems from a 2010 agreement between PREIT and the township to build a 112,000-square-foot hotel and three apartment buildings, including 213 affordable homes in the mall’s parking lot.
As plans for redevelopment play out, entrepreneurs like Lena Watson are bringing their businesses to Moorestown.
“We’re family owned and operated,” said Watson, who opened Theremixx, an art and design studio, at Moorestown Mall in April. The shop offers paint and sip events, private parties, and pop-in paint sessions. The glass doors make the vibrant artwork colors pop, so it is hard to miss if you are walking by.
Watson has been painting for six years and runs the studio with her daughter Mieko Watson. “It’s just the two of us that do everything. All of the artwork, all of the painting and marketing.”
Over at the Day Play, visitors entering the children’s playhouse are greeted with a smile, treats for the kids, and possibly the sound of two massive bounce houses being filled with air. The quotes that decorate the walls remind children how smart and valued they are.
The Day Play is a children’s playhouse and new Black-owned at Moorestown Mall in Burlington County. Photo by Ahnyah Pinckney
“What I provide is a safe small intimate space for kids ranging from 12 months to seven years of age,” said Jakeya Pearce, who also opened her store at the mall in April. She said Watson and other business owners in the mall have been supportive. Watson and her daughter even produced two paintings for the Day Play- one of their logo and the other of The Lorax.
“I always had this thing of working with kids,” said Pearce, who, as the eldest, helped raise her seven brothers and sisters. She’s worked at a hair salon and then a car dealership and, at one point, even ran a water ice stand before moving from Northeast Philadelphia to South Jersey for a fresh start.
“Me and my dad teamed up and got the water ice stand in Philadelphia, and it was doing good… and then my heart made me start giving out free water ice to the kids,” said Pearce. “I know that’s not how you do business, but God knows my heart…God’s plan, you start one thing thinking it’s about the money, but then He puts you in something else, and it’s like this is what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Despite a few logistical challenges that caused some delays, Pearce says that through hard work, dedication, and prayer, she was able to successfully open her business.
“My babies motivate me every single day,” says Pearce of her children, nine-year-old Khloe and two-year-old Sebastian.
“When my daughter goes to school she says, ‘my mom has her own business,’” said Pearce. “It’s just so exciting to see the look on your kid’s face and know you did something or you’re doing something to make them proud.”
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