Virtual Mall to aid brick-and-mortar stores opens Monday – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

What may be the first Virtual Mall in the United States is slated to open Monday.

According to a news release, this venture into virtual reality is the brainchild of entrepreneur Art Lieberman, who owns several companies in Central Pennsylvania, many of which deal with credit card processing.

The idea came along as Lieberman took notice that brick-and-mortar businesses in his locale were being devastated by COVID-19. He thought creating a mall where people could order from locals without leaving their homes might help the stores survive.

Lieberman found his software provider in Exhibitor Connect with an agreement that video chat would allow for the communication vital to such a market.

Next, store owners would have to agree to take stores in the mall. Lieberman wanted to make it as inexpensive as possible and suggested a price of only $100 a week or $400 a month. But after almost 2 months, only one store had committed to the project. Fortunately, it was a huge furniture store, Plaza House Furniture, with a branch in two locations.

But it wasn’t long before it became apparent that even $400 a month was too much for pandemic-stricken stores to afford and Lieberman decided to give stores away for two months, at no charge, the news release said. This also included the design of the store and actually paying for the store’s placement in the mall software. Then, with the help of media company Seven Mountains Media,