CHARLESTON, WV -- The Shops at Kanawha emerged from bankruptcy last year with its owners looking toward future improvements at the Kanawha City shopping mall.
Early last year, Donald Simpson, whose Johnstown, Pa.-based Simpson Properties Inc. had been managing the mall since 2002, joined a new team of investors — local businessmen Mike Thompson, Arno Paas and Joe Orlandi — to reorganize the shopping center into a new company, The Shops at Kanawha LLC.
The Shops at Kanawha LLC purchased the shopping center from previous owners KM Associates LLC for $18 million.
KM Associates purchased the mall for $11 million in 2007 with the idea of reconfiguring it from an enclosed mall to an open-air center with storefront parking. During the renovation, the country fell into its worst recession since the Great Depression, leading retail chains to cut back expansion plans.
KM Associates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2012 in order to restructure its corporate ownership and debt, which at that time was listed at $26.5 million.
With the cloud of bankruptcy out of the way, Simpson said the new company can focus on continuing with the improvements that began when the mall converted from an indoor to open-air facility.
"It's really a new day for the shopping center," he said in an interview last September.
"The focus now is finishing the job and improving some of the operational challenges we face, such as the parking lot, signage and lighting," he said.
Simpson said the mall has performed well over the last year. Seven new stores have either opened or signed on to open in the area, including Kelly Services, White Insurance, Orange Leaf frozen yogurt and Shabby Chic children's boutique.
Firehouse Subs and Massage Envy Spa both opened last fall.
Simpson and his new partners plan to continue growing the mall in the coming years. He said he thinks he has the right team now to accomplish that goal.
"Joe and Arno and Mike are all real estate savvy businessmen, so there's a tremendous amount to be gained from their input," Simpson said. "They are guys that visit the center regularly, offer up ideas on improvements, have a host of local contacts to get services done."