Photo by George Lauby
Brittany Jepsen, at right, with Aaron Adams.
The Platte River mall is showing signs of life, six months after JC Penney closed.When the Penney store pulled out, it left a large retail area empty in the middle of the mall.
That space is not yet filled, but a hometown woman and her fiancé are taking the bull by the horns and opening a women’s clothing retail store in the space formerly occupied by Vanity.
Early this year, Vanity declared bankruptcy and closed all its 150 shops, including the shop in the mall.
That made the North Platte manager, Brittany Jepsen, determined to go one better.
After months of preparations, Jepsen will open her own store, Brittany’s, on Thursday, Sept. 14 in the space formerly occupied by Vanity. She will sell women’s clothing and apparel to young and old, catering to customer’s tastes and choices.
“We turned it (the closure) into the best thing we could,” she said.
Jepsen managed the previous store for five years. She has worked in the business for 11 years -- six of them in Kearney. She grew up in Shelton.
Jepsen plans to capitalize on her ability to serve customers. She said customers believe in her to make them feel good about themselves and the way they look.
She made the decision to reopen two weeks before the old store closed, buying most of the fixtures during the final days.
Then, serious preparations followed during the next five months. She secured an operating loan through Hershey State Bank and the federal government’s Small Business Administration.
Jepsen has built good relationships with several vendors, mostly U.S. companies, and selected clothing and apparel that is aimed to please her individual customers.
She plans to run a store based on family friendliness. The store will have a corner with kid’s toys as well as a couch and table for husbands and boyfriends.
Brittany’s will be open during regular Mall hours – 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and noon-6 p.m. on Sunday.
To her, it is all about families and taking care of customers.
“I’ve watched families grow over the years; helped mom from pre-baby to post-baby, and helped their children,” she said.
She said preparations have been challenging, and when her spirits sagged, her fiancé Aaron Adams convinced her to not give up. She’s glad she didn’t.
Her SBA loan application was approved on the first try, which is something of a rarity, and confirmed that her financial plan is solid.
She also found the Mall management good to work with when negotiating rent for the space.
“I’d encourage anyone who is interested to talk to them about rent,” she said. “It is far from ridiculously high like some people think.”
“Mom and pop stores are the best,” she said. “I hope people will jump onboard and start something.”
“I’m ready to get back.”
Brittany’s opens for the first time at 10 a.m. on Thursday Sept. 14, with an open house celebration from 3-9 p.m., featuring wine and beer by Pal’s Brewery. People are invited to come in, look around, sip and shop.
Jepsen said she will employ four of the store’s former employees.
Overall at the Mall
Things are still headed in a very positive direction, Mall Manager Cassie Condon told the Bulletin Sept. 5.
“Several deals (with tenant stores) are still being negotiated, and I feel we are in a good position moving forward,” she said.
“I was able to see a sneak peek of Brittany’s merchandise, and I am very excited for the store to officially open,” Condon added. “North Platte is going to love what she has hand-picked for the community.”
Condon said another new tenant is slated to open in the space at the main entrance, across from Riddle’s Jewelry, where a coffee shop used to be. The opening is slated for Oct. 1, she said.
And in October, a circus will set up on the south side of the mall, in the field across from the AMC Theaters.
The show, called Cirque Italia, has become the greatest version of a traveling circus, the company says, “a creative mix… a ‘never-seen-before’ production that combines acrobatics, dance, contortion, and even high-performance BMX and roller-skating.”
“Mermaids and dinosaurs are expected to make dreamy appearances while awakening the inner child within. With laser lights and bubbles, aerialists, acrobats, and contortionists take the human body to the next level – one you never thought possible,” the company says.
For more information, visit www.cirqueitalia.com. Tickets can be purchased starting at $10-$50, depending on availability. Cirque Italia offers one free child admission with every full priced paying adult ticket in levels 2 or 3.