'I think the economy in Lauderdale County is definitely picking up. We've shown sales increases this year already. So, we're looking for a really good 2012.'
An outlook of optimism is the best way to describe Renee Williams view of the mall.
Williams is the mall's general manager. She says each year, Easter proves to be a pivotal time for sales.
'Easter is generally one of our bigger seasons, along with Mother's Day, Father's Day and with graduations, but of course you're not as busy as with back to school and during the Christmas holidays.'
Within the last year the mall has undergone a number of changes: two of its largest retailers, Hollister and New York and Company closed; the Shoe Department underwent major expansion, and a number of other retailers opened. Catering to 13 counties in East Mississippi and four in West Alabama, Bonita Lakes mall averages 6 million patrons a year. In terms of occupancy, officials say it's currently more than 94% filled.
"The future is strong. We have retailers express interest everyday; they're looking at the mall. Some of these things take a little time to work out, but we've got a lot of excitement going on and we look forward to a great 2012 and beyond,' says Williams.
Home to more than 80 specialty shops, Bonita Lakes Mall is the only enclosed regional shopping center within a 90-mile radius.