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CEDAR FALLS — A handful of area businesses have taken up residence at College Square Mall.

Jenny Bagenstos and Janelle Wilks expanded — and combined — their downtown Cedar Falls businesses, Here’s What’s Poppin’ and Main Street Sweets, respectively, into the mall at the end of September. The pair share a space off of the food court between Claire’s and Villa Italian.

“We wanted to have a presence here, so we talked with the people at the mall and they were amazing,” said Bagenstos. “They were willing to work with us.”

“We thought we would minimize the risk by coming together,” Wilks said. “And we work so well together.”

“And what goes better together than popcorn and candy?” Bagenstos said.

The pair did their homework before launching the joint venture.

“We did counts,” Bagenstos said. “We wanted to gauge the traffic, the number of people coming to the mall.

“People ask why we would want to go into the mall,” she said. “Why not be the first person who takes the step? Maybe our leap of faith will make someone else consider coming here.

“We don’t know what the future of the mall will be, and we aren’t getting rich on this. Not yet. But we certainly aren’t losing money.”

The women split responsibilities at the new store and each have lined up their own staff. And they split the costs of operating the College Square site.

Having Bagenstos as a partner has been especially helpful to Wilks, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

“I am very hands on, so it is hard for me to have my time divided,” Bagenstos said.

“But we have really good people around us who are very supportive, and we are able to offer employment to more people,” Wilks said. “And all of our people are cross trained on popcorn and candy.”

Both women are enthusiastic about their added location.

“It was a fairly easy build out,” Bagenstos said of getting the site ready.

“It has gone so smoothly. There were no major glitches,” Wilks said. “The toughest thing has been people not knowing we’re here.”

“Obviously, we would like to see the mall full again,” Bagenstos said. “And not necessarily with chains. I would like to see some mom-and-pop stores here.

“It’s a good place for someone wanting to start out,” she said. “The rent is much more reasonable than you would think, and the people here have been so accommodating.”

A few steps and a left turn will get shoppers to another new College Square business.

In the Mall is the domain of Amy Schmitz, who calls her store “an abundant trove of treasures.”

Schmitz, of Parkersburg, recently sold a shop she owned in Aplington and is a regular at area farmers markets. She sells handcrafted items, including jewelry made from crystals, glass beads and gemstones; and crocheted scarves and hats. She also carries an eclectic variety of canvas prints.

In the Mall opened Nov. 1, and Schmitz is excited to see more local businesses opening at College Square.

“I love Cedar Falls. I love College Square,” she said. “It is a good environment. People can stay out of the weather. It’s a community. It’s a whole experience.”

In addition to Here’s What’s Poppin’, Main Street Sweets and In the Mall, Just Dough, an offshoot of Natalie Brown’s Scratch Cupcakery, opened last week and is partnering with Sidecar Coffee at 6607 University Ave., next to Slumberland.

Patsy Ament, College Square Mall property manager, said the new businesses are a great addition to the mall.

“It’s very exciting to see new businesses coming in,” she said. “They are a very good fit and people have been very complimentary. They bring a sense of energy to the mall.”

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Copy Editor/Staff Writer

General assignment reporter and columnist at The Courier

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