Renovations at the food court in Aberdeen Mall will bring more eateries, more space — and divert more food to pigs on area farms.
With the exit of Sears and a few new additions, mall operators have seized on an opportunity to revamp and expand the food court.
Aberdeen Mall operations manager Rick Bischler said the change will expand the number of eateries to 11 from seven and reconfigure the space to allow for better access.
“We busted open the walls [into the former Sears area] and now the food court will flow through and around the former space,” he said.
Once open, the larger food court on the first level of Aberdeen Mall will seat up to 263 patrons, including in new soft-seating areas and a bar area with stools.
Lighting will also be improved, with brighter accent lighting and suspended ring lights above, all from energy-efficient LEDs.
Another initiative with the renovation is further diversion of food waste from going to landfills.
Bischler said the norm these days is to have patrons leave their trays at a central collection station, but not have them dump leftovers into the garbage. The new-look food court will include a central tray collection station.
A mall employee will occupy the station and sort all incoming waste — mainly separating out hard plastics and organics. Garbage cans in the food court will become a thing of the past.
“The public will no longer dump anything,” Bischler said.
The mall already collects more than 500 pounds of food waste from vendors per month, which goes to a local pig farmer, who uses it for feed.
Soon, that amount of waste will grow. Aberdeen Mall marketing manager Kristi Williams said the facility is considering bringing on another local farmer looking to benefit from the food waste.
It is provided at no cost and the mall benefits by meeting its waste-diversion goals. An on-site digester to create compost is also being considered, Bischler said.
As for the identity of the new food vendors, Williams said the mall is looking to add food options not currently met.
“We don’t have Mexican, we don’t have pizza, we don’t have sushi,” she said. “So, rather than bringing in something similar, we want to expand for more food offerings.”
The former Sears space has mostly been consumed by the renovations, although there remains a 12,000-square-foot space for lease on the first level.
The remainder has gone to Fresh Street Market grocery store and the food court on the first level, and to Marshalls, Old Navy and a remaining 7,500-square-foot space for lease on the second level.
Food court renovations are expected to be completed in April, but another new addition to the mall will open sooner than that. Marshalls will open at 9 a.m. on March 10, according to Williams. The department store — part of the Winners family of stores — will operate its own hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Old Navy, meanwhile, does not yet have an opening date, but it is expected to be in operation later this year.
Fresh Street Market also does not have an opening date for its 30,000 square-foot space, which is the first the company is designing for itself from scratch, Williams said.
Building permits for each of the three stores have been approved by the city, according to Williams.