Alexandria Echo Press – BUSINESS January 31, 2020
Although he doesn’t work at any of the stores, Charlie Burger has unique insights into the coming and goings at Viking Plaza.
You could say he knows its rhythms.
Burger, a musician and performer who played in Las Vegas for about 15 years, strums a guitar and sings a wide variety of tunes inside the mall. He’s been doing the gig – with permission from mall management – since the holidays.
He’s there five or six days a week, spending three or four hours each time, playing for tips.
He focuses on his music – he calls his selections a “Minnesota mix” of country and rock – but he also has time to do some people-watching. He’s noticed that the activity at the mall ebbs a little in the afternoon but gets busier at the end of the work day.
“There’s quite a flow of people on the weekends,” he said during a break from his music on a more casually paced Thursday afternoon. “There will be waves of people at times during the day.”
He also senses the mood of the shoppers as they browse and the walkers who get in some exercise as they roam the hallways. Mall-goers often strike up a conversation with him. Sometimes, they’ll put some money in a jar by his guitar case.
“People like to sit and enjoy the music,” he said. “The acoustics here are good.” He added that the mall is kind enough to turn off its music system when he’s playing so people can hear his music better.
Burger moved to Alexandria about five months ago after his mother died here and he’s in the process of fixing up and selling her house. He’s played other venues in the area, including Christmas in the Fort and on the Jingle Bells telethon, where he said he “worked really hard” on his rendition of Ave Maria.
Although Viking Plaza no longer has two of its anchors, Herberger’s and JCPenney, Burger noticed that shoppers are still coming to the mall and it’s lively at times. He hopes his music will be good for business.
“It’s a nice place to play,” he said. “And I like to be creative. Maybe I can spark some life.”