New business reigns at Aurora’s Southlands

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AURORA | About four years ago, Michael Sandhoff chose the Southlands Shopping Center as the home for his new store, Savory Spice Shop.

Business went well enough during those four years that he opted to open another business‚ this one specializing in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars.

That search didn’t even require a car.

Instead, he found a home for his new store, Drizzle ‘n’ Dip, just a few doors down from the spice shop, right on Main Street in Southlands.

“I was always focused on being here,” he said last week inside his six-week-old shop.

Sandhoff is one of 10 business owners so far in 2016 to open up new businesses at the bustling mall near Smoky Hill Road and E-470, marking one of the best stretches in the decade-old mall’s history.

Joyce Rocha, director of marketing for Southlands Shopping Center, said the first six months of 2016 are among the busiest stretches in terms of leasing at least since the current management team took over in 2009.

“This is one of the better years that we have had,” she said.

Part of the reason for the boom, she said, is a steadily improving economy. But the mall’s location in southeast Aurora — an area that has seen the bulk of the city’s new home construction in recent years‚ has certainly helped, too, she said.

“With building and housing growth, and people moving into the area, its created a lot of activity,” she said.

Besides Sandhoff’s shop, the other new tenants at Southlands include Legends Coffee House, a 1,922-square-foot, family-owned coffee shop on East Commons Avenue; the 2,240-square-foot Massage Green Spa on East Orchard Road; Pie Five Pizza Co. and Platea Latin Eatery & Cantina.

A new Buffalo Wild Wings is set to open in July, as well.

The shopping center also added four new office tenants: Farmers Insurance, Grade Power Learning, Kennedy & Associates and Sedalia Energy.

“The addition of these storefronts and offices is a  testament to the area’s continued growth and Southlands is committed to serving and supporting the southeast Denver economy,” Jeff Nemec, general manager at Southlands, said in a statement.

Rocha declined to say what the mall’s vacancy rate is, but noted there are now more than 100 retailers, restaurants and offices there.

“There’s not that much left,” she said.

But the mall will have at least one substantial challenge in the coming months. Like many shopping centers around the country, Southlands is set to lose its Sports Authority location as the retailer shutters its stores and liquidates as part of bankruptcy.

In the case of the Southlands store, that could prove challenging. The store is one of the mall’s anchors and it sits in a high-profile spot on Main Street right at the entrance to the shopping center from Smoky Hill.

Rocha said Rocha said that because the Sports Authority location is such a high-profile storefront, she’s confident they will find a new retailer who is a good fit for that spot.

“This is the way the retail industry works,” she said. “Tenants come and tenants go, and we look at it as an opportunity.”