BRITTNEY LOHMILLER/The Natchez Democrat — Johnny’s Pizza House in the Vidalia Shopping Center on Carter Street opened Nov. 19 and is the first business to open in the 15,000-square-foot addition to the shopping center.
BRITTNEY LOHMILLER/The Natchez Democrat — Johnny’s Pizza House in the Vidalia Shopping Center on Carter Street opened Nov. 19 and is the first business to open in the 15,000-square-foot addition to the shopping center.

Archived Story

Local shopping centers showing new activity

Published 12:05am Sunday, January 12, 2014

NATCHEZ — It’s always going to take work for Miss-Lou shopping center owners to fill their locations with successful tenants, but reputation and relationships remain a constant requirement for success.

Todd Broussard, owner of Johnny’s Pizza House, said he opted to locate in the Vidalia Shopping Center on Carter Street because the property owner, Jimmy Smith, sold him on the location and was willing to work with him.

Broussard said he feels Johnny’s Pizza will be successful because Smith was willing to build the site to suit his business. He also liked that the area had built-in traffic since a grocery store and hardware store are nearby.

“The other factor is there were some places available for lease, but nothing seemed to have the adequate parking or the facilities weren’t adequate,” Broussard said.

Potential small business owners sometimes lack the resources to construct stand-alone businesses, and Broussard said that makes the relationships between tenants and developers necessary.

Ernest Whitehead, left, and Charles Blanton make pizzas Friday at Johnny’s Pizza House.
Ernest Whitehead, left, and Charles Blanton make pizzas Friday at Johnny’s Pizza House.

“(I couldn’t build a) stand-alone because that is too expensive,” Broussard said. “You have to make a lot of pizzas to afford something like that.”

Broussard also thought about other factors in the community — such as recreation — before inking a deal with Smith.

“There are going to be a lot of ball teams coming to town, and pizza and ball kind of go together,” Broussard said. “We sure combed the area as best we could, talked to a few people who are building.”

Smith began construction in July on the 15,000-square-foot addition to the Vidalia Shopping Center.

At the time, he said the strip mall would cost nearly $1 million and bring the shopping center’s total area to nearly 70,000 square feet.

Construction included repaving the shopping center’s parking lot.

With the Johnny’s Pizza’s addition, the Vidalia Shopping Center still has approximately 8,000 feet remaining for businesses to rent.

In July, Smith said he was talking to a couple other interested tenants.

Filling shopping center space is a challenge Magnolia Mall owner Grover Yelverton knows well.

The location used to house a Walmart and recently added Kid’s Party Palace. Part of the property was also sold to Popeyes for future development.

Yelverton said it is difficult to get major companies to come into Natchez as tenants primarily because they think it is not big enough to support large stores.

“Some businesses set a criteria for how many people are in a town before they locate, and that figure varies with different companies,” said Yelverton, who purchased the development three years ago. “We are talking to some other people, but it is just in talks right now, to get some new tenants in.”

Yelverton said revitalization work at the location, including replacing the roof and clearing debris, has helped.

“We look for smaller businesses,” he said.” We look for people who are interested in a smaller trade area — clothing lines, tool lines that sort of thing. We have had some requests or people interested in this area here for different buildings, locals who are interested in getting in there now.”

Yelverton said, most importantly, the public and potential future tenants need to know activity is ongoing.