That decision means that this end of the county will end up with two Rich's -- a regional store at the Mall of Stonecrest and a community store at South DeKalb Mall.
Joseph Haile, general manager of the South DeKalb Mall store, said there will be no reason to close the store if it continues to enjoy the record sales it has seen over the last two years.
"We have had double-digit sales increases in 1998, 1999 and so far this year," he said. "If customers continue to shop here, we will stay open."
Rich's announced in May that it will be the fifth anchor at the Mall at Stonecrest, where it will join Dillards, Parisian, J.C. Penney and Sears.
At South DeKalb Mall, where Rich's has been one of two anchors for more than 20 years, an urban store concept is being pioneered. Haile said the changes have driven the sales increases.
"We are listening to our customers," Haile said. "We are being smart merchants and getting people what they want."
In the store's home department, shoppers can find bed and bath accessories and even dishes in bright colors and with African-American motifs. There are blow dryers designed for the African-American hair, clothes by African-American designers, more styles and larger size shoes, and Tommy Hilfiger and Polo lines across the store.
Hattie Marshall, who lives within five minutes of the store, has noticed the changes.
"I can find things to fit me and things that I like," said Marshall while shopping for sandals recently.
Kareema Barr, who lives off River Road, was on her second trip in two days to the store after seeing the improvements.
"They finally got some designer shoes in here," she said, "They've finally figured out that black women will spend money on nice shoes."
By popular demand, Haile said, in women's lingerie they now carry larger-size bras and have tripled the number of styles available in black.
Ron Howard of Decatur appreciates the wider selections in the men's department and he likes that they have put men's fragrances in the men's department.
"That was pretty smart," he said.
The interior of the store is also changing. Columns are painted in teal, reds, yellows and other colors, and graphics and pictures throughout the store now depict African-American children and adults. And Rich's responded to customer complaints recently when it rescinded plans to close the gift wrap department at South DeKalb.
Customers have responded with their wallets. The South DeKalb Rich's enjoys the biggest margins in percentage sales increases in the metro area for the last two years. Sales at the store are reportedly up 10 percent in 1998, 11 percent in 1999, and are climbing again this year.
"Customers are telling us they are happy with the changes," Haile said, "and we are not done yet. This is just the beginning.".