PINE BLUFF, AR -- If you're a regular at The Pines, you've probably noticed some meager signs of growth. An Arkansas college apparel store and a busy kids zone fill spaces that used to be empty. You can also eat soul food in the food court.
"This is a beautiful place and a beautiful thing because it helps the economics in this city," Lee Draggs, a regular shopper, said.
General Manager Scott Green hopes shoppers spread the word about the progress.
"More feet in the mall, that's what we want," Green said.
The mall changed ownership after steady years of decline, specifically with the departure of Walmart as one of the anchor stores. Now Green is courting other retailers to make up for the exodus.
"The mall didn't get this way overnight. It's going to take some time to rebuild it, but we strive daily to do whatever we can to generate new business," Green said.
He's offering space to local vendors like the three that just moved in.
"People that couldn't have dreamed of being here with a business can now be here," Green said.
City leaders applaud the mall's success, realizing the shopping center has a regional appeal.
"The owners of the mall did a great job in terms of looking at the community to purchase the mall and since that time it's been great," said Ted Davis, the mayor's spokesman.
But in order to keep the momentum, Draggs urges fellow residents to shop local.
"We can make this place as good as anywhere else, in Chicago, St. Louis, anywhere else," Draggs said.