Editor’s note: Think Local is sponsored content written by Collegian staff members.
The regal Manhattan Town Center mall has kept watch over Poyntz Avenue since its inception in the 80s. As the cornerstone of the downtown business district, Manhattan Town Center has provided for Manhattan residents for decades.
Jeff Sutton, marketing manager for Manhattan Town Center, said the implementation of a mall in Manhattan was a long-awaited project.
“The mall opened in October of 1987,” Sutton said. “Developers had been wanting to bring a mall to Manhattan for years, going back to the 70s, you know, and a decade more before that. Finally, the city agreed, but the mall had to be placed in downtown, which is a unique situation for most malls.”
Unlike run-of-the-mill shopping centers that normally sit on the outskirts of towns, Manhattan Town Center mall was dropped in the middle of a dying downtown district — and with it came new life and business. Sutton said the mall is the perfect size, not too big or too small, and the location was well thought out.
Downtown grew as the mall gained popularity. As a result, there are thriving businesses up and down Poyntz today.
“Being in downtown, we have a lot of synergy with other great businesses,” Sutton said. “And so a lot of times, people will maybe want to go out to grab a bite to eat and enjoy Bourbon and Baker or Tallgrass, Tap House, and then go catch a movie at the movie theater.”
Students frequent the mall for top-notch shopping, movies and more; many even work at the mall. Manhattan Town Center is a place for Kansas State students and Manhattan residents alike.
“Our mall takes really great pride in being a community mall,” Sutton said. “Starting with the very first year the mall opened, we would host the high school prom. We’ll have 600 juniors and seniors dancing in the center court. The promenade is right here on the plaza; they all walk in and are introduced.”
The mall has won awards through the International Council of Shopping Centers for its involvement with the community. It hosts at least one community event each month, and will partner with Alpha Delta Pi sorority in October for Pumpkin Patch, a large-scale charity craft sale, Sutton said.
The shopping center is not only home to chains but also local businesses.
“We really support local business owners and entrepreneurs, and we have 17 locally-owned businesses inside the mall,” Sutton said. “We’ve got some pretty cool unique ones … We host the farmer’s market every Wednesday night and Saturday morning, and so several of those vendors have opened up stores inside the mall, [like] Fragrant Blends Candle Bar and Galaxy Girl Coffee. There’s only two places in Manhattan that roast their own coffee: Radina’s is one, Galaxy Girl is the other.”
Sutton said there’s a misconception that the mall is too expensive for local vendors and small businesses.
“Every business that comes to the mall, we work with,” Sutton said. “We just figure out, like, what’s best for their business model, because it doesn’t make sense for us to overprice. We work with each business to develop, and then we have a lot of different tools that we can use to help them get started.”
Exciting new things are on the horizon for Manhattan Town Center, including the new Sinker’s Lounge mini golf bar that will open in October. The mall, Sutton said, has helped entrepreneurs open the businesses of their dreams, despite challenges like the pandemic.
Sutton said though many believe the stigma that malls have a shelf life, Manhattan Town Center will remain a staple for the people of Manhattan because of the memories made there.
“Whether they came to prom here as a high school student at Manhattan High or they just really enjoy the different shops or the events that we have or the movies, I think that’s definitely an important piece,” Sutton said. “We are strong and vibrant and have a great future ahead.”