Staff Writer|October 17, 2021 1:09 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — As Dave Knoll and Brian Knoll walk along inside the Silver Lake Mall on a Friday afternoon, they seem to know everybody.
And if they don’t know them, well, you can’t tell.
The Knolls greet store managers and employees with smiles and hellos. They chat with customers. When they come across mall manager Melissa Schock and senior maintenance mechanic Jason Berry, they stop to talk shop, of course. And they do the same with events coordinator Heather Roberts, who quickly outlines some plans for the holidays.
“We’re going to have almost as nice a Christmas display as the Hagadones down there,” Dave Knoll says.
“Better,” a smiling Roberts responds.
The Silver Lake Mall, they are confident, will be the place to go for the holidays. But it will also be the go-to place for shopping, for eating, for working out, for walking your dog and for just hanging out.
In fact, some say it's getting there already.
“Something for everyone is the goal,” Brian Knoll said.
Dave and Barbara Knoll bought the mall off U.S. 95 in north Coeur d’Alene earlier this year, and son Brian is the general manager.
It is the largest enclosed mall, 330,000 square feet, in North Idaho. It offers a mix of anchors like JoAnn Fabric and Craft, Macy’s, and other strong retail stores including Claire’s and Bath and Body Works, who have been in the shopping mall since it opened in 1989.
They’ll be moving their Black Sheep Sporting Goods anchor store from its Government Way site to the former home of JC Penney, which is being remodeled and modernized.
Angila Gleason, store manager of Harry Ritchie’s Jewelers, said the new owners and their management style have already changed things for the better.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” she said. “It’s what the community really needed. We’ve been wanting it for so long.”
Gleason said there’s a connection now between the mall owners, store tenants and customers that wasn’t there before.
“I really feel like family,” Gleason said. “It feels great to be part of it.”
Donna Buckley, an employee at Macy’s Men’s Store, said she has seen more customers at the mall in recent months than in a long time.
“People are just so excited there’s a local owner,” she said. “They have a good business head and are going to make a success out of it.”
The mall has faced past struggles. There have been many vacancies. Sears closed in 2018. JC Penney closed earlier this year.
“It's obvious that our local mall, like many shopping malls across the country, has seen its share of ups and downs,” Brian Knoll said. “But Silver Lake holds a special place in the heart of the locals that have been around for a while. Since taking over we have been getting a tremendous amount of positive feedback from people in the area. People are rooting for the mall to succeed.”
He said many look back fondly on their experiences at Silver Lake over the years.
“They want to see the shopping center return to its former glory days,” Brian Knoll said. “We, too, want to see Silver Lake succeed. We are very excited about the potential of Silver Lake, and we look forward to working hard to create an environment that brings the people back.”
The Knolls are longtime locals that have operated retail stores throughout the Northwest for many years. They are perhaps best known as the owners of Black Sheep Sporting Goods, which was founded in 1975 in Coeur d’Alene.
Their purchase of the mall gives them what they’ve long been after — a chance to expand products and brands, showcase them well, and create a unique shopping experience.
But it’s about more than people buying things. It’s about providing atmosphere, environment and attitude. It’s about helping business owners and about giving customers what deserve.
Perhaps that explains why the mall seems to have a new spirit about it, relaxed and light.
Marlene Brannan walked her American Eskimo, Pandora, around the mall Friday and stopped to chat with Jeni Brooks, sales lead at Work Wear by Black Sheep.
Brannan has noticed changes with storefronts filling and a comfortable atmosphere.
“And I love the fact that they are animal friendly,” she said
While the Knolls know there are challenges ahead, they are confident.
“There’s no question that online retail has become a major factor in the way we shop as consumers,” Brian Knoll said.
At the same time, the Knolls have decades of retail experience and know as well as anyone what works, and what doesn't.
“We feel strongly that brick and mortar retail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” Brian Knoll said.
Expansion had to happen, he said.
“To last in retail, you have to create an experience for your customers,” he said. “With approximately 32 acres and around 330,000 square feet to work, with we intend to utilize all of this space to create an experience worth putting down the laptop and getting off of the couch for.”
If the coronavirus taught us anything, Brian Knoll says, it’s that people are social beings, social creatures, not meant to be isolated and stay home.
“We’re excited about the opportunity all this extra space creates for us as a retailer and opportunities for other members of the community as well,” he said.
The Knolls have other stores at Silver Lake. Black Sheep Knives and Optics features a larger selection of knives, optics, and related accessories.
Black Sheep Drinkware (The Hydration Station), specializing in all things drinkware related, including a large selection of Yeti, HydroFlask, Nalgene, Camelbak and Stanley.
Timberline Trading Company carries Northwest T-shirts, hats, stickers, sweatshirts, plus cute and fun pajamas for the whole family.
Life Is Good Coeur d’Alene moved from its current location across the street (formerly Jake’s Dry Dock), specializing in Life Is Good brand apparel and accessories from the lifestyle brand founded in 1994.
And the mall has an array of other businesses and services, including Planet Fitness, Bear Paw Cookies, Belle Niche Boutique, Boho West, Macadamia Coffee, Elite Tire & Suspension, Strategy & Games and The Pantry Specialty Market.
American Heritage specializing in patriotic apparel and accessories will soon have its own store and See’s Candies will be there in time for Christmas.
The goal is 100% occupancy within the next year.
Brian Knoll says when Black Sheep Sporting Goods moves into its 40,000-square-foot new home replacing JC Penney, partially by Christmas and completely by next spring, plans are to have even more of the outdoor lineup it already offers, including expanded footwear.
He said Black Sheep has re-invested nearly every nickel it has ever made since 1975 into its ever-growing inventory.
“Having this extra room here at Silver Lake has created a lot of opportunity for us,” he said. “We’ve got a great selection, but we wanted to push it even further."
Barb Strader, owner of The Pantry Specialty Market, has enjoyed seeing the mall change and grow with the new ownership.
“It functions as part of a family,” she said.
Kirsten Ridgewell, manager of Life is Good, loves life at the mall.
“Everybody is super happy,” she said, then added with a smile, “All is good.”
Dave Knoll chatted briefly with Lily Weber, owner of Boho West, which offers new collections of women’s wear and accessories.
“She’s putting her whole heart and soul into this business here,” he said.
All of which leads to what the Knolls are confident will be key to the success of the Silver Lake Mall.
"We believe the future of retail is about experiences," Brian Knoll said.