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After nearly three years of speculation, conversation and construction, the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass officially opened its doors Thursday morning, greeting a swarm of eager shoppers.
Crowds were expected to come by the tens of thousands, but throughout the opening day traffic, parking and lines moved smoothly. Shoppers had minimal complaints regarding crowds and mostly offered compliments on their opening day experience.
The morning started with a performance by the Shelby County Community Children’s Choir singing “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Then officials from the city, county, state, and mall spoke.
Simpsonville City Administrator, David Eaton joked, “Make sure your pockets are full when you get here and empty when you leave.”
Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden said, “In my 21 years of being mayor we’ve had a lot of exciting things happen, but I’d have to say this is one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to the city of Simpsonville.”
Once the speeches concluded, a blue ribbon was snipped, store doors opened, and crowds parted.
Shoppers quickly lined up outside of stores like Coach, Nike, and Michael Kors, hoping for sales and gifts for the earliest customers..
Following an athletic style huddle by store employees, the Nike store held their own ribbon cutting ceremony before opening the door for patrons.
After the doors opened, lines remained short in most stores, with the exception of Coach, which only allowed a handful of shoppers in the store at a time.
Some visitors shopped, some tried new restaurants like Taqueria Tsunami and Chicken Now, while others snapped photos of men from Lexington Ice Sculptors using chainsaws to carve ice cream cones and fish ice sculptures.
Children weren’t left out of the fun either, as many children’s stores offered fun games. Several had their faces painted at Carters, received balloons from Fox, and pinwheels from OshKosh B’gosh, all before hitting the new playground.
While overall, the outlet seemed to bring a positive response from the community, some shoppers visiting the Michael Kors store expressed discouragement that the store only seemed to carry purses and not the popular designer’s watches or clothes. However, employee Victoria VanWinkle said the store expects their next shipment to have jewelry and watches.
Also disappointing, some stores were not ready in time for opening day.
The doors of high-end retailers like Gucci, Kate Spade and Tumi remained closed, promising to be opened by fall.
Several of the open stores were still understaffed on opening day, with many managers bringing in employees from other stores all over the country.
Stores like Johnston and Murphy and Vera Bradley are still seeking employers, and were forced to open with staff from other states. Yankee Candle and Francesca's, among others, continue to list job openings on the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass’ Facebook page.
But the few closed or understaffed stores didn’t discourage shoppers or mall employees.
While patrons enjoyed their warm shopping day, some stood back and enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
Harvie Tubbs Project Superintendent at Vratsinas Construction Company (VCC) was still hard at work, but trying to enjoy the day after working on the project for more than a year.
“We had a rough winter that rushed us a little at the end,” he said, explaining that the unusually cold weather cost them several weeks’ worth of work.
“The biggest challenge was the six weeks we lost this winter,” he said.
Tubbs said the project had a few small hiccups along the way, but in the end everything “worked out great.”