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Trader Marc's vendors move to Fort Mill's Plaza Fiesta

Equal parts of acumen, common sense and flexibility should make shopping at Plaza Fiesta in Fort Mill Township a better experience as the combination added 29 new stores to the eclectic mix there.

The new stores represent almost one-half of the vendors at the recently closed Trader Marc's center, just down Interstate 77 from where Plaza Fiesta's location next to Carowinds amusement park.

Trader Marc's closed July 1 because it was too costly to keep the warehouse space open, said building owner Jerry Pettus. Trader Marc's was using about 30 percent of the more than 318,000-square-foot building. Pettus said he is in the process of selling the building and its 46 acres.

Pettus gave his vendors a month to find new quarters.

Twenty-nine have moved to Plaza Fiesta, said Melanie Lamb, the mall's property manager.

It wasn't as easy as moving and signing new leases for the former Trader Marc's tenants, however.

Plaza Fiesta likes its stores to be open five to six days per week with regular hours. In the past, they have discouraged people looking for weekend-only space.

But a scouting trip to Trader Marc's convinced Lamb that her mall would benefit from some of the Trader Marc's businesses, specifically those vendors who sold new merchandise. She was not interested in flea-market-type vendors.

J&B Embroidery Creations was one of the first Trader Marc's stores Lamb said she talked to. Other conversations and letters followed.

Plaza Fiesta decided to give most of the new tenants a good rent rate on the 100 square foot "mercado" stores with rollup doors, she said. Plaza Fiesta officials were even flexible on hours.

The new vendors are getting to know their neighbors and seeing how their businesses can complement each other, Lamb said.

"Plaza Fiesta, it's a village, it's not your typical mall," Lamb said.

Claude Mitchell, aka "The Spice Man," was one of the vendors who made the move.

"I'm the second-largest spice company in the U.S., second only to McCormick's," boasts Mitchell. While he has at least 25 square feet of spice for sale ranging from $1.25 to $2, he said his American-made knives are his best-seller.

Closing his business was not an option for the 76-year-old Mitchell.

"I can't sit still," he said.

"It's going to work out," he said of his new location. "We just need to get the word out. Most people don't know we have moved."

Melissa Balk of Frugal Formality said her new location at Plaza Fiesta has good foot traffic, and the mall management seems to be supportive of its new tenants. She said the emphasis on new goods should help her business, which sells tuxedoes.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," she said. "It will take a while to rebuild, for people to find me."

Other Trader Marc's stores making the move were Kangan Water, Gold N Scents, Pucker Butt Pepper Company, Pappdelle's Pasta, Captain's Treasures, Creative Imaginations, Verma's Leather Goods, Pam's Place Jewelry, My Dog House, Gold Rush, Plum Crazy Prices, Bless Motorsports Diecast, Nacre Fashion Handmade home decor and jewelry, Skateboards, Handmade All 4 U, Let's Make Up, Xtreme Wireless, Tonya's Silk Flowers, Harper Sales, Gifts Unlimited, Medical Mart, T&M Collectibles, Vicky's Place, Technology Solutions, The New Girl Avon and Natural Health Solutions.

"This is great for the mall, and the other tenants," Lamb said. "Everyone feeds off each other."