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Let the shopping begin: Some retailers open in Forsyths outdoor mall
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When they held the grand opening for Chocolaterie last week, co-founders Elizabeth and Michael Ashworth thought they would have plenty of promotional truffles for what they anticipated would be a small crowd. After all, The Avenue Forsyth’s grand opening isn’t until May 17.

"We only opened with about 10 other stores," Michael Ashworth said. "It has been going very well, and we’re very fortunate to be in The Avenue community."

While The Avenue Forsyth’s opening festivities are more than a week away, a quiet ribbon-
cutting is slated for Wednesday, when more than 40 companies will open.

Stores range from clothing and accessory shops to restaurants and a bank. More than 50 leases have been signed at the 500,000-square-foot retail development, created by Cousins Properties, on 108 acres at Ga. 400 and Peachtree Parkway.

While many tenants at the outdoor mall are nationally recognized companies, including Victoria’s Secret, New York & Co. and Circuit City, there are also some locally owned businesses, such as Chocolaterie.

"I think we really complement the presence of those big chains," Ashworth said. "We appreciate the traffic that they attract and we tried to build a store that’s consistent with the expectations of those kinds of customers. According to what our customers are telling us, we seem to be right on track."

Lisa Plumkett, manager at the center’s Barnes & Noble, said employees are still stocking shelves, creating display tables and fine tuning the store in anticipation of its Wednesday opening.

The store features a Starbucks Coffee café and is stocked with nearly 200,000 books, compact discs, DVDs and magazine titles.

The store is holding a public preview party and ribbon cutting ceremony from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. A portion of the night’s sales will benefit Forsyth County Schools.

Plunkett said the store will continue to work closely with the school system on "anything we can do to promote the school system and literacy in schools."

"We’ve been well received in Cumming, from our interview process all the way to being a week away from opening," she said. "(Forsyth) is a great community with a lot of schools, and it just looks like it’s going to be a great community for us to partner with."

Avenue Forsyth’s grand opening celebration, set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 17, will feature children’s activities, Radio Disney and giveaways.

Many of The Avenue’s tenants will open with a bang, offering free products, discounts and giveaways of their own.

The first 100 customers at Chick-fil-A received a one-year supply of combo meals. The First 100 Fans promotion began in 2003 and became such a popular event that it has continued with all new openings throughout the nation.

Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said more than $7 million in free food has been given across the country to "raving fans who’ve braved snow, wind, rain and triple-digit temperatures to help us celebrate the opening of each new Chick-fil-A.

"It’s been attracting a wonderful group of customers, and people are really happy that the whole center is opening, and they seem to be happy we’re here."

AMC Avenue Forsyth 12 movie theater will give out one free small popcorn with every ticket purchased on opening weekend, beginning May 16.

The first all-digital theater in the area, AMC Avenue Forsyth 12 will produce images with more than four times the resolution of high definition television. All auditoriums have stadium seating, and the theater offers online advanced sales.

Rack Room Shoes opened its doors last week. As part of a special promotion, customers can register through June 8 to win a two-minute shopping spree.

Origins will offer a $200 shopping spree in a drawing that runs through June 7. Dreamy Gelato also is having a drawing for one free small gelato or two free truffles every week for one year.

Natural Body Spa & Shop is offering a special Mother’s Day drawing, which includes a two-hour massage and facial package. Registration is Friday through Sunday.

Sweet & Sassy is giving away a runway party to winners of its contest, while Jos. A. Bank is awarding a $1,000 wardrobe.

The giveaways and prizes won’t last nearly as long as the jobs and economic impact.

Brett Berto, chairman of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said the Avenue is "going to really add a whole new level of shopping for the community."

"Plus, it goes a long way to balancing out the tax digest ... and it does bring a significant number of (well-paying) jobs," he said, adding high school students will also be able to work close to home.

"Because of the way Cousins designs their property, you’re going to be able to shop, eat and play in a community-type setting."

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