Reopening of Lucinda perks up mall business

By Chris Nelson

Things are changing on Lucinda Avenue.

The often-used road has just recently been reopened to two-way traffic after months of reconstructive surgery. The result is a wider road, with several turn lanes and a landscaped median.

The end of the construction could not have come quickly enough for business owners located in the Village Commons Mall.

According to Richard Boardman, general manager of the Village Commons property, the construction work had a profound effect on many of the mall’s businesses, particularly the smaller ones.

“Yes, it hurt,” Boardman said. “No question about it. The whole thing wasn’t a lot of fun.”

Boardman speculated that many potential customers were discouraged from visiting the mall by the construction clutter that made entrances look impassable. The result was a decreased flow of consumer traffic for shop owners.

Presently, the mall has a number of vacancies. Boardman, however, said he is optimistic about the mall’s future now that the roadwork is complete.

Boardman said he had “several interested parties” wishing to open business in the mall.

As for now, the newest establishment to enter the mall is La Salsa, a restaurant that specializes in authentic Mexican grill food.

James Watson, one of the three owners of the new eatery, is excited about the prospects of operating so close to NIU. The facility takes the place of Rick’s Red Apple/Cugini’s Pizza, which closed last year.

Watson said the week-old restaurant has enjoyed brisk business. He mentioned one of the primary objectives of the facility is to appeal to the needs and desires of NIU students.

Watson said the restaurant welcomes students to come in to eat as well as sit and watch TV or do homework.

“Most places feed you and then throw you out,” Watson said. “We want people to feel comfortable here.”

Watson also said the restaurant plans to be open 24 hours a day during finals week. He added students are welcome to use the area to study and take advantage of the free tortilla chips and drinks the restaurant will be offering.

Despite the fact the mall has seen many shops come and go, Watson said he feels the key to his business’ success lies in providing a welcome atmosphere and the “best Mexican food in town.”