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Mall Scheels

Retailers in Rimrock Mall said they haven’t seen a noticeable dip in traffic since Scheels closed.

Scheels Sporting Goods has officially closed in the Rimrock Mall, but mall retailers say they are optimistic after losing a major anchor tenant.

Retailers said they haven’t seen any noticeable dip in foot traffic since the outdoor gear seller left the Billings mall Aug. 24. And while they’re concerned about the big gap at the mall, retailers aren’t panicking about the mall’s future.

“I don’t think anyone is going, ‘Oh my God, I’m getting out of here as soon as my lease is done,’” said Joe Rand, owner of the Cinnabon shop in the center of the mall.

The Scheels closure has been in the works since 2011, when the Fargo, N.D.-based company announced it was building a new 220,000-square-foot store at Shiloh Crossing on the West End of Billings. That store opens Sept. 6.

Officials at Rimrock Mall, owned by Starwood Retail Group, indicated the former Scheels space will likely remain vacant through 2014 but offered few other details.

“There are many discussions underway for replacements and new retailers in 2015 but we are unable to provide details until leases are fully executed and the retailers are ready to announce their new stores to the market,” mall spokesman Tom Krause said.

Possibilities include a large department store like other anchor tenants, JC Penney, Herberger’s and Dillards, or a group of smaller shops.

Rand, who opened Cinnabon in the mall five years ago, said the mall remains a destination for many shoppers.

“It’s still outdoors. It’s still Montana. When it’s really cold and raining, they’re going to want to run inside and shop. I don’t see them ever replacing Rimrock Mall as the place to shop,” he said.

While Scheels attracted a lot of customers to the mall, retailers noted that many of those people only shopped at one store.

“When you go to Scheels, you park at Scheels, you walk into Scheels, you shop at Scheels and you leave at Scheels,” said Keegan Watson, owner of Fuddruckers Express in the mall’s food court.

He added that he expects Rimrock Mall, and retailers throughout Billings, to take a hit during the Scheels “honeymoon” period after the new store opens. He said he’d like to see one or more businesses that encourages shoppers to walk all over the mall.

“We’ve dealt with losing major tenants before, but I look forward to the next chapter,” said Watson, who’s owned Fuddruckers for seven years.

Sean Robinson, manager at Buckle clothing store, said foot traffic has held steady in the mall, and it’s too early to tell what the departure of Scheels will mean.

“We’ll do everything we can to maintain our business,” he said.

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