Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Southlake mall invites public to test out business ideas

Customers wait for Clark Street Sports to open at Southlake Mall in this file photo. The mall is staging “The Challenge: Battle of the Pop-Up Contest" and will give those with the best ideas four months free rent.

Have you been tossing around an idea for a store?

You might be able to test it out at the central hub of shopping in Northwest Indiana, the Southlake Mall.

The super-regional mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street in Hobart is asking local entrepreneurs to pitch their best ideas for "fresh, fun and innovative retail concepts" for “The Challenge: Battle of the Pop-Up Contest.”

Southlake Mall is accepting ideas through March 30, and will notify contest winners by April 23. The winner or winners will get everything needed to open a turnkey retail business: rent-free space at the mall for four months, use of mall fixtures, free utilities, and a $500 merchandising package that includes interior signage, table-printed displays and graphic design services.

“Supporting local businesses and community ideas is important and vital to the success of our mall as well as the financial health of community overall," Southlake Mall Marketing Director Kristi Jackson said. "We’re delighted with this contest idea as it’s available to both established and budding entrepreneurs who may have new, existing or online concepts to test."

The mall will select winning entries based on how creative the idea is, whether there's a solid business strategy and the likelihood of profitability, among other factors. Entry is free, but anyone who enters must be able to get a business license by June 1, which can be done online at

The winner would have to be prepared to operate their business during regular mall hours — 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday — from June 1 through Sept. 30.

People can obtain the entry form online at, fill it out, and email it to or drop it off at the mall's management office.

Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.