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Enter the Center

Seeking stylish boutiques, malls are courting entrepreneurs.

This story appears in the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Chains and department stores are mall staples, but developers are now seeking boutiques. "Upscale boutiques allow malls to brand themselves," says the International Council of Shopping Centers' Patrice Duker. The embracing of smaller retailers, which Duker first noticed during the fourth quarter of 2003, gives consumers new reasons to visit malls. It also gives entrepreneurs invaluable exposure.

Jennifer and Cristian Croll, 37 and 40, respectively, started riding the wave before it had even gained momentum. In 1994, the husband-and-wife team started Croll Corp., a Scottsdale, Arizona-based retailer of high-end men's and women's clothing, ranging from designer T-shirts to cutting-edge bridal gowns. Six years later, they were able to edge their way into an outdoor mall, where they opened their third store. At a time when Scottsdale malls didn't have boutiques, it took an innovative mall coupled with an aggressive effort by the Crolls to secure their place. Says Jennifer, "We helped [the developers] recognize they needed small independents to make [the mix] interesting."

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