Meet John Kislinger, the eternal optimist


This October marks the 20th anniversary of Seasons in Calhoun, currently the only kiosk to serve shoppers in Calhoun Square. While it may seem daunting to be the only kiosk in what appears to be a dying mall, John Kislinger has nothing but high hopes for all things Calhoun.

“We came into Calhoun Square for the first time in 1987 just to sell winter items, but were convinced by [then] manager Greg Hibbs to sell sunglasses and we’ve been here ever since.” The kiosk now carries 300 – 500 hats and up to 2,000 pairs of sunglasses. In fact, during the interview a woman was looking for some sunglasses to which Kislinger replied, “Come right over here, I’ve got 300 pairs.”

Kislinger is a soft spoken man, pensive but quick with a smile. When asked about his thoughts on the recent slew of stories placing bets on when Calhoun Square will die, Kislinger says, “If someone can run a kiosk for 20 years, things can’t be that bad. This is the fourth time we’ve been all alone on the floor but let me tell you, this mall is full of success stories.”

In 1987 when Seasons opened, there were 56 stores in the mall, which has now been whittled down to 21. Kislinger accredits that to a slow economy overall and goes on to say that the merchants are very positive and excited to see what new owner Blackrock has to offer. According to him, they’ve got a track record for bringing in stores and making things happen on a short timeline. “People are upbeat, we’ve got excellent management in the mall and I know I’m not the only store owner that feels that way,” Kislinger said. “You know, we’ve got six liquor licenses in here, it’s a great entertainment space and we have fantastic events.” Other long time tenants include Kitchen Window, Urban Traveler, Sox Appeal, Eyedeals, Bay Street Shoes and Figlio.

“The store owners are the heart of this mall, making it a much different environment than any suburban mall,” Kislinger explains. “It’s a melting pot where you never know who is going to come through that door. You don’t get bored here,” he chuckles. Kislinger lives in Spring Park, and although he says he could live in Uptown in a heartbeat, but his wife has other ideas. He is originally from Maple Grove and first thought to start a kiosk while he was downtown one day and saw a man selling scarves. “I knew right then I wanted a shop of my own.” He started with a kiosk in Riverplace, and was at the North Town Mall for a while as well as the Eden Prairie Mall before finally making Calhoun Square his home. His wife and two children helped out with staffing and he also has two employees.

Watching his kids grow up in the mall also meant watching stores grow up. Kislinger notes that Agan Traders started as a small kiosk and grew to a large storefront. Eyedeals has expanded and Kitchen Window has grown to be an award winning store. Kislinger has had offers from other malls, but has always opted to remain at Calhoun Square.

His dream would be to open a weather store in the middle of the main floor–to have a newspaper/convenience store operation and run sales based on the weather. As it is now, Seasons in Calhoun sells sunglasses for a discounted rate on cloudy days. Kislinger cites customer loyalty for his success, as well as the good service people get when visiting the shop. “There are a lot of great people in this mall, I would love to write a book about the things I’ve seen here in the past 20 years, things you wouldn’t believe.”

Seasons in Calhoun is open Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m. although he has been known to make a sale or two outside those hours.

Jacqueline Varriano is an ECCO resident in need of some new sunglasses.