Taste of Tri-County

Published 10:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Orchards Mall has added a children’s play area for mall patrons to enjoy. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

The Orchards Mall has added a children’s play area for mall patrons to enjoy. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

Orchards Mall offering a variety of special events and new amenities

BENTON HARBOR—Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the Orchards Mall, which is located at 1800 Pipestone Rd. in Benton Harbor, is looking for ways to renew its appeal and reconnect with the surrounding community.

Despite having been put up for sale last month, the mall’s marketing staff have planned a number of events designed to bring more foot traffic to the mall.

“We are very excited about this opportunity for new ownership,” said Brook Latham, marketing and events coordinator at the mall. “I came in around the end of November for a job as an event coordinator, and we spent the next three months developing a marketing plan.”

One of those upcoming events is the Taste of Tri-County, which is scheduled to take place at the mall from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 19. Organizers hope to showcase eateries from Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

“We sent out 250 invitations to local, Tri-County caterers, restaurants, delis, and to businesses of that sort,” Latham said. “We’re anticipating that they’ll bring a selection of items they’d like customers to try.”

Entry to the event will be free, and guests will then purchase tickets for food items.

“Each item will cost a certain number of tickets, and ticket amounts per taste will be set by the restaurant,” Latham explained. “Then, a percentage of the ticket sales will be split between the restaurant and the mall.”

Another element of the event will be the judging of the various food items available.

“Guests will vote, and then also there will be three guest judges,” Latham said. “There will be voting for the Best Main Dish, the Best Appetizer, the Best Dessert, as well as a Green Plate Award, which would be for vegan, all-natural, gluten-free or organic dishes.”

Organizers have invited restaurateurs big and small to participate in the Taste of Tri-County.

“We really want to highlight the hidden treasures. We really want people to come and show us what they have,” Latham explained. “It may be hidden out on the back roads somewhere, but they may have the best apple turnover there is, and we want them to come out and show that.”

While this is the first year for the event, Latham has high hopes for the future.

“Taste of Tri-County really is about bringing local restaurants here,” Latham said. “We expect it to be small this first year and then to grow each year.”

Events planned for the remainder of the year include a Travel and Tourism Show later this month, an End-of-Summer Antique Road Show-styled event in August, and a 35th Anniversary Celebration scheduled for October. A complete list of events can be found on the mall’s website at www.theorchardsmall.com.

In addition, the mall has been hosting Small Business Saturdays and Orchards Marketplace Saturdays on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. Those are days on which the mall showcases the offerings of small businesses, independent distributors, cottagers, crafters and local farmers.

“Shopping local is really the only way we can encourage people to come here,” Latham said. “We have to increase foot traffic in order to attract larger stores to the mall.”

With approximately eight open spaces in the mall, Latham and other mall support staff hope that the increased activity will draw in new retail businesses.

“Giving back to the community is so important,” Latham said. “The goal is to reconnect with the community. That’s been our focus, and it will continue to be our focus.”

Other changes that have been taking place at the mall include the addition of new signs and updated training for the security staff.

“We’ve made some tremendous changes this year, like the new signage outside,” Latham said. “Our security is going through a lot of updated training for confidence and control.”

More information about the Taste of Tri-County and other upcoming events at the Orchards Mall is available on their Facebook page. Businesses interested in participating in the upcoming events can also register through the mall’s web site.