Independence Center mall’s financial problems worry shoppers, residents

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A long-standing shopping center in Independence is facing an uncertain future.  The owner of Independence Center, Simon Property Group, is about to default on a major loan.   The situation is concerning to many in the community.

Independence Center is more than just a mall to Jody Kahlich.

"I've worked here 19 years myself. This is my livelihood," said Kahlich, operations manager of Jewelry Doctors.

Her store has been inside the mall 21 years, first starting as a kiosk before moving into a store front in 2014.

"We care about the customer and care about what they need.  We listen and we learn," Kahlich said.

Jewelry Doctors continues to grow and has 17 employees.  But in its two decades at Independence Center, the store has certainly seen plenty of other businesses fail.   And that could be part of what's leading the malls parent company, Simon, to the brink of defaulting on a $200 million loan.

"It does make us nervous.  We're anxious to hear what solution they have in place," said Kahlich.

Barbara Ervin comes to the mall every week.  Her dad even helped build it more than 40 years ago.  While many are quick to point the downturn of malls to online shopping, Barbara's not convinced that's the problem.

"Unfortunately we had a shooting here a couple years ago.  We've got the police officers down here now which have made it a safe mall to come here and shop.  And I advise everybody to come here to shop," Ervin said.

But Ervin says the mall is much more than a good spot for a little retail therapy.  It's a community gathering place and economic lifeblood.

Both shoppers are stores are optimistic the mall's owners realize that, and will be able to turn things around.

"I don't think they're going to let our community suffer.  This mall means a lot to a lot of people,'" said Kahlich.

We've made several calls to the mall's parent company, Simon, for comment about the financial challenges it is facing.  But they have yet to respond.