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With the deal sealed, new Atrium owner has plans

The new owner of the Atrium Mall in downtown Havre has finalized the purchase and is now planning improvements and prospecting for additional tenants.

Dave Shaw, owner of Stellar Computer Consulting in the mall, said he closed the deal Monday to purchase the mall and part of the parking lot south of of the mall from owner Don Vaupel.

Vaupel told the tenants in February that he was closing the mall March 31, citing a shortage of tenants and increasing costs, including a one-month power bill of $10,000.

The emergence as Shaw as a potential buyer in February prompted many of the building's 13 tenants to put on hold plans to relocate.

"It was suppose to close the 31st, but it's still open," Shaw said Wednesday.

Vaupel said the attached building housing Office Equipment and Hanson's Western Drug and the parking lot south of that building are still for sale. He is not planning to close that building.

Vaupel said he thinks Shaw will be able to make the Atrium a profitable business.

"You've got a young person there and he'll go to town," Vaupel said. "It will be a good thing for Havre."

Vaupel had owned the Atrium since the Buttrey's department store that once filled the space closed in the 1970s.

Shaw and Vaupel declined to disclose the purchase price.

John Davison, who owns and operates Wolfer's Diner in the Atrium with his wife, Julie, said he has confidence in Shaw's ability to run the mall.

"Dave has a lot of good ideas and a lot of energy, which is what this building needs," Davison said. "If anybody can do it, he can."

Donna Mangold, who owns and operates The Hair Co. in the Atrium, said she is happy the mall is staying open.

"I think that things will really work out well," she said.

Mangold said she had already made arrangements if the Atrium closed. She said she bought the Oasis Tanning Salon at 16th Street and Fifth Avenue. She will add a couple of hair stations there, as well as keeping The Hair Co. in the Atrium.

Shaw said he will manage the building while operating Stellar, which provides high-speed Internet access in the Havre area.

"If I could get this (building) full and cash flowing, I would put a full-time manager here," he added.

Shaw said he is negotiating with five prospective tenants and is trying to contact at least one new person a day about moving to the mall.

His next project is to reduce heating costs.

He said he plans to reinsulate the building and convert from electric forced-air heat to radiator heat, which should be more economical.

He said he also plans to make the Atrium into an "Internet hot spot," where anyone with a wireless connection on their computer could connect to the Internet.


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