🛍️ Get married, play baseball and record an album inside this Central Florida mall

With popularity of online shopping, malls are repurposing retail space

The Oviedo Mall has included some non-traditional storefronts to compete with e-commerce, such as an indoor batting cage and production studio.

Central Florida is reinventing the definition of ‘mall.’

The age of e-commerce and online shopping is causing retail stores to consolidate and close, leaving empty malls. Some people may even describe malls as being irrelevant, but that’s not stopping some business owners from revamping and repurposing the indoor shopping centers.

“We are a very different mall,” Oviedo Mall Director of Marketing Josh Gunderson said.

If you’ve visited the Oviedo Mall lately, you’ll agree. The nearly one million square feet of space includes the traditional retail shops along with some nontraditional storefronts.

“A lot of people are shopping online and e-commerce and that’s great, so what do malls have to do? We have to adapt. We’ve now become a live work and play center. We may not have the typical stores you’re looking for, but we’ve got your entertainment,” Gunderson said.

The Oviedo Mall is home to over 50 locally-owned businesses and some are far from anything you’d expect to be at a mall.

You can work on your hitting skills at KC Baseball, an indoor batting cage facility, or record an album at Gizmo’s Productions studios.

“It is a little shocking to some folks that we’re in a mall,” Gizmo Productions Owner Michael Janiero said.

You can even take dance lessons at Imagine Dance Academy.

“At first it was really different. When I first told people I had a dance studio in the mall they were like, ‘Okay, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,’” Imagine Dance Academy Owner Sarah Fanok said.

Fanok said it didn’t take long for parents to get used to the unique venue.

“Parents have expressed to me they feel comfortable in the mall waiting for their kids and there’s other stuff for them to go do,” Fanok said.

What’s really unusual is the Oviedo Mall has a wedding venue. Yes, you can exchange vows with a small group of guests inside the mall.

Unlike most malls with a major department store as an anchor, the Oviedo Mall has a large brewery, Oviedo Brewing, as an anchor to the mall.

“We’ve discovered how to be different and we’re rolling with it,” Gunderson said.

The Oviedo Mall also using social media as a strategy. Gaining interest through tweets, some calling out other malls.

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If you’ve ever seen the movie Mean Girls, you’ll understand this tweet.

The Oviedo Mall posted a tweet that reads, “We’ve started a mall burn book because we clearly have too much time on our hands.” The post includes a photo of the Altamonte Mall.

“I guess we’re adding the iPod to the ever-growing list of things that we have lasted longer than,” the mall posts in another tweet.

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“Thinking about starting beef with another mall on Twitter just to feel something,” another post said.

The official Minnesota-based Mall of America account responded with “Good luck.”

“To have it be something that’s fun and lighthearted, it gets people talking about the mall,” Gunderson said.

The Oviedo Mall used to be the talk of Central Florida, opening in 1998 as Oviedo Marketplace. It was full of chain retail shops and department stores.

“It was built as a green mall, so it featured a lot of plants inside the mall, ivy growing outside the mall. With all the green, you couldn’t see it from the highway so it was causing problems,” Gunderson said. “It also brought a lot of bugs and people didn’t like that.”

Over the past few decades, some malls across the country have become vacant buildings. Stores are closing and moving to online retail. In Central Florida, we’ve seen a few malls doing a refresh and turning old vacant box stores into unique attractions.

For example, at the Seminole Town Center, the old Sears building was transformed into a multilevel entertainment complex with go-karts and virtual reality games.

In Titusville, plans were recently announced to revamp the old Searstown mall. New animations of the project show new apartments, dining and shopping options as part of the proposal.

“Are malls going away? I don’t think so. I think if a mall is willing to adapt and do different things they’ll be sticking around for awhile. Is it shopping, entertainment or dining? If you can adapt, you can overcome,” Gunderson said.

Business owners at the Oviedo Mall said there are perks to being located in a mall.

“We offer music lessons. The real plus for me is that foot traffic is going to get more potential for lesson clients,” Janeiro said.

There are also several summer camps for kids and families that are being offered at the Oviedo Mall that include music, dance and even Taekwondo.

“It’s an easy landmark to tell people where we are,” Fanok said. “If the mall is not being used for something, what is it for? It would be a waste. Who says it has to be a retail store?”

Mall officials added there are special discounts at the mall offered for Seminole State College and University of Central Florida students, according to their website, which reads:

“THE OVIEDO MALL IS THRILLED TO OFFER THE FOLLOWING DISCOUNTS FOR UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA AND SEMINOLE STATE COLLEGE STUDENTS AT THE FOLLOWING VENDORS: (must show student ID at time of purchase to receive discount).”

Asian Express- 10% off your order

CupPasta Pizza- 10% off your order

F&S Cell Phone Repairs- 10% off repairs | free tempered glass with purchase of any cell phone case (does not apply to tablets or iPads)

Legacy Taekwondo Academy- 10% off first three months tuition

Our Suite Village- Purchase one day of co-working space ($10.65), get two days free (value $21.30)

Oviedo Brewing Company- 10% off your purchase

Vagrant Traveler- 20% off bags & accessories (excluding clearance items)


About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a multimedia journalist who joined the News 6 team in February 2020. Crystal comes to Central Florida from WKMG’s sister station, WJXT in Jacksonville, where she worked as a traffic anchor and MMJ.