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NEARLY READY TO GO

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With 20 days to go, work is going around the clock at outlet mall

By Shelley Spillman

By Ashley Wilkins

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Landmark News Service

With less than three weeks until opening day for The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass, construction workers on the property are hard at work.

The 365,000-square-foot retail center located just south of Interstate 64 in Simpsonville is scheduled for a VIP opening on July 30 and the grand opening July 31.

“This shopping center is a hundred percent leased. That is very rare, and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Gina Slechta, Vice President of Marketing for Horizon Group Properties.

And while many stores look empty, Slechta assures that the nearly all the stores will be ready to open on time.

“I have watched stores literally transform in a 24-hour-period,” she said. “What this shopping center looks like today will be totally different tomorrow. You can imagine twelve hundred workers and what they can do in one day. It’s amazing,” she said.

While the majority of the stores will be ready on time, Slechta said she expects a small handful – mostly the newest lessees – won’t make it on time.

“We think that [there will] probably be a few stores that leased in the end that wont make the grand opening day, they’re on a big push to open as fast as they can,” she said.

Slechta said she expects only four stores may not be ready: Tumi, a luxury luggage company, Toys ‘R Us, Kate Spade and Gucci.

“This is one of seven shopping centers in the United States that will have a Gucci store, right here in Kentucky,” Slechta said.

But for the most part, Slechta said everything will be ready by their grand opening.

“This time next week…the construction crews that will be doing the finishing up touches [will be here]. And we’ll start having the employees and people coming in and stocking,”

Construction also is underway in the area dubbed living room, located adjacent to the food court, which will contain a gas fireplace, a fountain and a patio area.

“Every direction that you look there’s something to make you feel comfortable,” Slechta said.

In addition to the installation of comfortable settings, Slechta said there are also plans to place statuettes of Louisville Slugger baseball bats and plaques around a corridor where many sports apparel stores are located. Slechta said the bats and plaques are similar to the ones located in downtown Louisville.

“We’re going to put a little bit of flavor of Kentucky in this area,” she said.

And there’s plenty of flavor to enjoy while shopping at the outlet.

More than retail therapy

Culvers, which is nearly complete and Bob Evans, which has not started construction are restaurants that will be located on-site, surrounding the parameter of the outlet.

There are also food areas scattered throughout the shopping center and three fast-food restaurants in the food court.

But you will find more than just things to eat in the food court. There is a stroller and wheelchair rental, as well as children’s play area.

At guest service, also located within the food court, AAA members can pick up a free coupon book. For those who are not members, books can be purchased for $5 each with the proceeds of those coupon book sales going to a good cause.

“Our proceeds go to the Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation, which is a foundation that does research for anything that has to do with mental illnesses and brain injuries.

It covers a wide variety of things like PTSD that affects our soldiers, bi-polar and schizophrenia, any type of depression illnesses or brain injuries that might have happened in any type of an accident. We are very proud sponsors of this, we are one of their few corporate sponsors…all of our proceeds from the sales of those coupon books goes 100 percent into research,” Slechta said.

VIP night

On July 30, the night before the Grand Opening, the outlets will host a preview night. VIP passes for admission are $50 per person and include $300 worth of coupons, with the funds going to support the James Graham Brown Cancer Research Center.

And while the outlets are providing funding for research throughout the country, they are also providing income for more than 1,000 locals.

Slechta said the center will employ about 1,500 on average and nearly 2,100 people during peak seasons. But not all employees will work in retail. In addition to operation and housekeeping positions, Slechta said The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass will also employ bus drivers.

“We have our own shuttle and the shuttle is used to go back and forth to hotels and tourist sites [in Louisville and Lexington] to pick up customers that don’t have transportation and bring them to the shopping center,” she said. “The number two thing people do on vacation is shop,” she said.

Slechta said they work very closely with hotels and will know when groups and conventions are coming into town, explaining that they will provide a free shuttle service for large groups.

“If it’s a group, they can call us up and make a reservation,” she said.

Those shuttles will also be put into good use on opening day.

“We’ll have shuttles going back and forth for [those parked in] spaces surrounding the property,” she said.

“As far as parking is concerned, we have made arrangements for the property to have three thousand, one hundred parking spaces -additional parking spaces at the property- we have parking areas that are over at the flea market and across the road, we got…two thousand, one hundred and fifty parking spaces that are actually here at the property, we will be bussing all of our employees off of the property for Grand Opening weekend, so we’ll keep all of those spaces clear,” she said.

And it would seem every one of those spots will be occupied on opening day with the number of visitors expected to top 20,000.

“We typically have anywhere between [twenty thousand] and forty thousand people that will come to the shopping center on the first day,” she said.