Explore Artegon—The Anti-Mall Retail Destination

Goodbye flea market, hello innovation. Orlando’s Artegon Marketplace engages Etsy-esque local artisans and customers in a colorful, design-minded indoor shopping experience.

By ERIN M. LOEWE


Read any articles lately about a mall that wasn’t “dying?” Much of the news is negative, but there are bright spots. One concept that’s generating buzz is Artegon Marketplace, an 865,000-sq.-ft. “anti-mall” that is putting the artisan movement on center stage in a unique indoor shopping environment.

Artegon Marketplace is anchored by a few big names like Bass Pro Shops, Ron Jon Surf Shop and a Cinemark movie theater, as well as an indoor ropes course and trampoline park. But what sets it apart is its Village Marketplace in the heart of the mall, which emphasizes local craftspeople selling their wares. Entry-level spaces range from 200 sq. ft. up to 800 sq. ft. and larger for more established entrepreneurs.

But what started as a revamp of Orlando, Fla.’s Festival Bay Mall on the famed International Drive in November 2014 needed a bit of inspiration before it really took off. David Miskin, chief creative officer at New York real estate company The Lightstone Group, came on board in May 2015 and quickly transformed the Artegon Marketplace from booths divided with steel-grid walls to each vendor having its own unique dry-walled storefront and visual merchandising plan. Six months later, Artegon held its grand re-opening in November 2015.

Miskin says the original iteration of Artegon Marketplace almost had a flea-market vibe and was a confusing concept. “When I came on, we established a true visual merchandising team of people,” he explains. “We wanted to get inspired, to do things like we would have done 20 years ago.”

Miskin (who started his visual merchandising career at the Gap during the Mickey Drexler days) tapped Amy Higgins to be the vice president of leasing for Lightstone and to help create a winning experience for Artegon’s vendors and shoppers alike.

“These are true artists who work out of their homes, but they take this concept and can be there all day and continue with their craft,” Higgins explains. “In Orlando, where there’s so much competition and stimulation—I-Drive (International Drive) is one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions—they love the concept of being in an ‘anti-ordinary’ mall.”

Katie Tlaseca-Moreno, senior leasing representative with Artegon Marketplace, says leasing at Artegon is kind of like a one-stop shop for small businesses, many of which have only ever had an online presence or festival booths. “We turn small business dreams into reality,” Tlaseca-Moreno explains. “A requirement to be part of the marketplace is to sit down with our visual team and come up with a visual plan (for a small fee). It’s a process build from the ground up.”

Polished concrete floors and exposed ceilings provide a modern yet neutral backdrop for all of the colors and textures of Artegon. Customized visual merchandising for each vendor makes for very creative storefronts, with façades that extend out into the public domain, ranging from a beehive to a subway car to a dog house, just to name a few.

Aiming to be hospitable to the local community, Artegon Marketplace is pet-friendly and hosts theme days not only related to peoples’ four-legged friends, but also beer and wine strolls, bead making and art nights, and other events. The center also reaches out to area schools for art field trips and student art shows.

Given Orlando’s international appeal, Artegon also features “From Artegon with Love,” a wall where people can fill out an Artegon-themed postcard and mail it anywhere in the world for free. “We have a pimped-out mailbox, and we collect thousands per week,” Miskin says. “Our receptionist stamps them and mails them all out.”

Higgins notes other fun interactive areas include ping-pong tables, life-size chessboards, and a coloring area for the kids. To further get shoppers interacting with artists, there are two demo stages where artists can display how they make their art. A huge chalkboard wall encourages people to write and draw. “We have actually had two couples get engaged in front of the chalkboard wall so far,” Higgins adds.

Something else unique to how Artegon operates for its vendors is that it offers ongoing support to help them build their businesses, like training in customer service and brand building. “Some people who started with us have seen sales increase dramatically, and it’s so cool to see these smaller retailers now wanting to expand into larger locations,” Tlaseca-Moreno says.

Going forward, Miskin says Artegon is slated to open Eat Street during the second quarter of 2017. It will be a 27,300-sq.-ft. food hall inspired by Seattle’s Pike Place and Boston’s Faneuil Hall and will feature events like cooking classes and a farmers’ market.

As for future marketplaces, only time will tell. “We definitely have our eyes on locations like this around the country,” Miskin says. “It has been a breath of fresh air to do something out of the norm.”

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