A specialty leasing program has been instituted at the South Towne Center, and so far 24 new merchants have taken advantage of it.

Created are locations containing between 200 and 400 square feet of space for local small entrepreneurs, and already 12 merchants have opened shops. The other 12 have located carts or kiosks in the center of the mall to ply their wares.The types of products being offered under this program include silk flowers, baby furniture, handbags, dolls, plush animals, gift wrapping and shipping services.

Although the merchandising concept is new to the center, it has been used in other areas by the center's manager, Equity Properties & Development of Chicago. Sharon Polonia, vice president of speciality leasing for Equity, said the new program will provide a wider variety of businesses in the center and minimize the capital investment of the local entrepreneur.

In addition to the sites, H. Bradley Stucki, specialty leasing coordinator, also will provide assistance with visual merchandising, inventory control, merchandise purchasing or any other retailing practices.

Because most of these leased spaces are contracted on a month-to-month basis, Equity anticipates some tenant rotation. T. Michael Diffendal, senior vice president of management for Equity, said this is good because it allows the center to maintain a variety of products to meet the current demand. Some of the products could be seasonal.