Small business celebrates 25th Anniversary, survives changes to Southpark Mall

MOLINE, Illinois -- Locally-owned Exotic Imports is days away from celebrating it's 25th Anniversary.

What once was a small, seasonal kiosk in Southpark Mall in Moline, is now a 6,000 square foot storefront.

From candles and swords to bath bombs and amethyst rocks - Exotic Imports sells hand-crafted artifacts from around the world.

But during a time when big name stores have started to close, Exotic Imports continues to stand tall.

Owner David Cahoon has witnessed the closure of anchor stores like Sears and Younkers. His key to success? Staying on top of the trends.

"Years ago when the GAP closed, I go `Wow, I survived the GAP. How does that work?`," Cahoon said.

Still, he believes shopping malls, like Southpark, will persist.

"People like the experience of coming in on variety," Cahoon said. "Shopping online is awesome because it's super convenient. But at the same time, you don't know what you want. So you walk into a store like this to get a concept of 'Oh my goodness. I didn't know I wanted such a thing but that's perfect as a gift!' And that's why this will never go away."

In July, Southpark Mall management made a push to fill six empty spaces with more small businesses. Last year, the mall spent more than $20 million on renovations.

A long-time customer, Tom West, says he never leaves Cahoon's store without buying something.

"Right here? I've spent $10,000," West said. "I wouldn't doubt that in the least."

Through the ups and downs, it's that exact customer loyalty that has kept Cahoon in business for 25 years.

"You have to be persistent, you have to believe in what you do and you have to have people who love you and support you," Cahoon said.

Southpark Mall's newest addition, Ashley Homestore, opened earlier this year. Before that, the last big store to open was Dick's Sporting Goods in 2015.