By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A proposed purchase agreement has averted the closure of the Atrium Mall next month.
A letter distributed to tenants in the mall said Atrium owner Don Vaupel has accepted an offer to sell the building to one of the mall's tenants, David Shaw, and that the Atrium will not close March 31.
Sharon Pollington, who owns Carousel Decor & Crafts in the Atrium, said she was given a copy of the letter on Friday.
"I was very happy, and we plan on staying right where we're at," she said. "We want to keep the downtown going, and the mall going, and we're very happy about it."
Pollington said that after she was told earlier this month that Vaupel planned to close the building, she faced a decision of closing her doors or finding a new location.
"The way it was looking, I maybe was closing," she said. "I couldn't find a place I could afford, or a location with good foot traffic."
Pollington said she is hopeful the Atrium will stay open indefinitely.
"I'm looking for good things here," she said.
Other business owners in the Atrium were cautiously optimistic.
John Davison, who owns Wolfer's Diner with his wife, Julie, said the couple found an alternate location for the restaurant after Vaupel announced the Atrium's March 31 closure.
The decision to move has "been put on hold," Davison said, but added that "a billion things could happen" before the sale is complete.
The letter distributed to tenants beginning Friday was written by Dick Bohn of Koefod Agency, real estate agent for Vaupel.
The letter was addressed to Shaw.
"Please be advised that Mr. Donald K. Vaupel has accepted your offer to purchase the Atrium Mall Building," the letter said. "Mr. Vaupel will 'not' close the mall as previously announced in his February 13th, 2004 letter to each of the tenants."
Shaw, who owns and operates Stellar Computer Consulting in the Atrium, declined to provide any specifics about the proposed agreement until the deal is finalized.
Vaupel referred inquiries about the letter and the proposed sale to Bohn, who declined to comment.
"I can't confirm anything," he said Monday.
Bohn's letter said Shaw will be granted "a reasonable amount of time" to close the transaction.
Vaupel's previous plan to close the Atrium would not have affected Office Equipment Co. or Hanson's Western Drug. The Atrium has 13 tenants and is about half full.
Vaupel said his decision to close the mall stemmed from a shortage of tenants and high utility costs. He said his highest energy bill this winter has been $10,000.
Business owners said finding new locations would likely be difficult and expensive. A number of the businesses have equipment and fixtures that would be costly and time-consuming to move, including a hair salon, a tanning parlor and several restaurants.
Shaw said during an earlier interview that moving Stellar Computer Consulting also would be expensive. All of his digital Internet service is fed through a tower on the Atrium's roof, and his customers' transceivers would have had to be adjusted if the tower moved, he said.
The Atrium has been an institution in Havre since it was constructed in the early 1900s to house the local F.A. Buttrey store, part of a chain of department stores founded in Havre.