When the Payless ShoeSource at the St. Lawrence Center closed this spring, it could have been just another statistic in a grim year for retailers, one more struggling shop gone in a dilapidated mall. For Erica Leonard, the mall’s manager, it was a call to action. Frustrated by a wave of store closings and suggestions from discouraged shoppers that they “just burn the place down,” Ms. Leonard went on the local radio station to urge listeners to stop the “negativity” and to start shopping there again. She turned over vacant storefronts to local merchants who sell bourbon maple syrup and wood sculptures carved with chain saws. Near the mostly empty food court, a local Mohawk tribe member opened a specialty popcorn stand. And in the space that used to house a Sears store, residents of the area created a “winter wonderland” — an elfin village fashioned from discarded cardboard boxes that once held refrigerators. “We are not going to sit and wallow,” said Karen St. Hilaire, who helped open the store selling locally made goods. “We need to figure out a better future. Don’t tell me it can’t happen.” The decline of shopping malls and brick-and-mortar stores is well documented, reflecting the ascension of e-commerce and changes in how Americans shop. Nearly 7,000 stores closed in 2017, the most ever in a calendar year, according to the research firm Fung Global Retail & Technology. Read more at The New York Times.