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After the dramatic shutdown of Orlando’s Artegon 'anti-mall,' the artists and vendors wonder how it all went wrong

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PHOTO BY CHRIS TOBAR RODRIGUEZ
  • Photo by Chris Tobar Rodriguez

Multiple Artegon shop owners told Orlando Weekly that several times, Artegon told them a new restaurant or business was coming that never materialized. Different owners also complained that they never understood the marketing of Artegon as an "anti-mall" and believed it confused people. OW reached out to Artegon management and the Lightstone Group for comment but did not hear back from either by press time.

Still, Snider says he liked his work, and last December he signed a six-month contract with Artegon that lowered his rent slightly.

"But I thought I smelled a rat when they negotiated to lower it," he says. "My lease started on Jan. 1 and they gave us notice of termination on Jan. 12. This has cost me approximately $50,000 to $60,000 in lost revenue and additional equipment and decoration I purchased after I renewed my lease. It's inhumane."

Artegon was more successful for some than others, like Jeffrey and Kristin Howard, owners of Kick Bright Shop & Buttons.

"It just doesn't make any sense that it shut down because everything was better," Jeffrey Howard says. "Traffic was better, money was coming into my business, my neighbor's business. We stuck through the times when Artegon wasn't doing so great and just when it was hitting its stride, they just stopped."

Some well-known stores, like Gods & Monsters, have found new locations after the mall closed, but smaller shops like Kick Bright are still looking for a home a month after the shut down.

"I'm still booking orders out of the house and pop-up markets, but we can't open a physical brick-and-mortar," Kristin Howard says. "We couldn't afford that type of rent."

It may never be clear why Artegon failed, but what we do know is that it's part of the decades-long trend of the declining mall.

"Places where you built a mall before have entirely different communities and markets than what was there 50 years ago," Kirn says. "Populations change, income levels change. ... Virtually no enclosed malls have been built in the last five years. That style of shopping is going away."

Heidi and Tony Wentzell opened their first business knowing they would be evicted in two weeks.

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