The Shoppes at EastChase offer the River Region a lot more than rows of retail therapy options. This shopping site has blossomed into a true community gathering spot.
The Shoppes at EastChase is rolling out the welcome mat for the community and, in doing so, is filling a need for entertaining activities in the eastern part of town. “With a city this size I think it’s so important to have multiple venues where we can give the community and community organizations something to do,” said Suzanna Wasserman Edwards, Vice President of Marketing for Crawford Square Real Estate Advisors, which manages the center. “With Montgomery, you have downtown, but on the east side, there really was never an open venue that could provide that kind of entertainment for the community.”
In addition to impromptu gatherings among shoppers, the team at the center has stepped up opportunities to partner with community organizations to host events. For example, free outdoor yoga classes are offered on Saturdays for about half the year—from April to September or October, depending on the weather. The center also hosts movie nights in the shrubbery-enclosed green space along EastChase Parkway. “We typically do one in the spring, one in the summer and one in the fall,” Edwards said. To enhance the gathering area, they’ve recently added picnic tables and café lighting.
The weekly Farmers Market held on Saturdays from May to September had a record-breaking year again this year from its new location at the heart of the shopping center. “We love the opportunity to be able to bring in over 40 local farmers and makers that are from throughout Alabama,” Edwards said. Harvest Jam is another annual event held in the fall that features live music, local food vendors and special deals. In addition, a craft beer tasting presented by Pies & Pints donates proceeds to Child Protect Children’s Advocacy Center.
Part of the center’s emphasis on gathering comes as providing outdoor seating increased in value during 2020 and into 2021. “We started taking even our smaller spaces and making them friendly for people to come and hang,” Edwards said. At Pies and Pints, she noted, they had very limited outdoor seating, but the center management was able to add picnic tables in the parking lot to create a beer garden that has now become permanent.
Along with this focus on gathering, vacancies have been filled with new leases for strategically selected tenants. Grocery store Aldi and beauty supplier Sephora are among the recent new tenants, as are Buff City Soap and Buffalo’s Café. Trek and Ashley Home Store Outlet have also been added to the mix.
Edwards said the leasing team for The Shoppes at EastChase knows the community well and works hard to find retailers that fit the area’s needs. “What does well in the shopping center, what is already doing well, what is trending in retail in general,” she said, are some of the factors leasing agents consider.
Securing Sephora, for example, was a big success for them, especially since the retailer had not been looking to Montgomery for a location. After a visit to EastChase, however, the decision-makers changed their minds. “It’s going to be a really great addition,” Edwards said. “Beauty is a big, big component to retail, and it really does well.”
The same is true for restaurants. In choosing Buffalo’s Café, she said, “We looked at a lot of things for that space, and that was what was needed for that location.” Although the center already had wonderful restaurants, this added option provides a great place for after-hours sports fans to get together or for big parties to enjoy lunch following their Saturday sports activities.
Ahead of the café’s July opening, a new entrance was added in the back, and Edwards and another team member even painted a mural on a wall to welcome visitors through that new entrance.
The community emphasis also extends to supporting small, local retailers through seasonal pop-up shops. By making use of a vacant space, The Shoppes at EastChase can offer a place for makers or small retailers to get traffic during the all-important holiday season. “It gives small businesses or online-only businesses the opportunity to have a presence at a shopping center,” Edwards said. Bailey Brothers Music Company is an example of a local retailer who set up in a small vacancy as a pop-up and will be continuing through the holiday season.
“We really put our heart and passion in this shopping center,” Edwards said. And shoppers are taking notice—whether dining, shopping or just hanging out. As of summer 2021, traffic on the property was higher than it was during that same period in 2019. “We love to see families coming out here and enjoying the amenities we offer. We’re really the only location on the east side of town that has the ability to be able to do this,” Edwards said.
Check out theshoppesateastchase.com for upcoming events.