====The mall used to be stronger but since a new outlet mall has just opened in the city (40mi away) traffic here is down to a stand-still. =====
40 miles seems pretty far for a mall to be competition. I do understand your problem as an empty parking lot indicates that there may be something wrong inside. Your thoughts about a hosting a car meet is a good one. Take the idea farther and consider hosting a motorcycle meet too. It seems that there are more bikes on the road than hot rods.
Is there any motorcycle traffic driving past you? I ask this as there are usually groups of people riding together. The best example that I have is on RT 7, in CT., you will see MANY folks on bikes riding up this road. It isn’t that scenic of a drive, but they all drive to Marcus Dairy’s little restaurant. Folks in leather,(Middle-aged moms and dads actually) drinking milkshakes, coke and eating burgers.
How about renting a movie screen and projector and having a drive-in in that empty lot…