I know you’re terribly busy today with so much going on in these chaotic times. However, it might be interesting, educational and even entertaining to invest a few moments to sit with your children and discuss the history changing events that are currently taking place in your community.
Discuss the days when downtown was the happening place to be. I live not far from the capital city of our state, and I can vividly remember how busy and vibrant the crowded streets were at any given time. Eight downtown theaters and two bowling alleys provided entertainment day and night. Today, they’re all gone. Sears, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Wards, S.S. Kresge, F.W. Woolworth, W.T. Grant, Cunningham Drugs, Ben Franklin and many more lined the cobblestone streets. Today, not one of those gems has survived the ravage assault of that treasured landscape. Twenty-one restaurants (without bars) were always packed. Today, we have nine bars which happen to serve food. What happened?
Strip shopping plazas and centers starting popping up in the suburbs, providing easy access to those who once had to travel into town to shop, eat and entertain themselves.
It wasn’t long until the mammoth shopping malls emerged on the scene allowing you to shop to your heart’s content, safe from inclement weather conditions, enjoy every type of food available, and see your favorite movie at any one of 20 screens.
Today, we’re witnessing the fall of the mall as online shipping provides us with a wide variety of products, discount prices, and free shipping from most anywhere in the world—all without leaving the comfort of our living rooms.
It’s all well and good for consumers but mall culture in the United States—at least as we know it—is coming to an end. As malls across the country start to fade into obsolescence, what is to become of these massive structures which were once home to our favorite retailers? Well, keep your eyes peeled because the transformation has already begun since landlords simply can’t afford to board up storefronts day after day. Not only are they losing precious income but those abandoned stores are sending a bleak message to shoppers that times are a-changin’.
While numerous shopping malls have actually closed their doors due to the exodus of their occupants such as Steve & Barry’s, others have focused on creating a more useful, long-term multipurpose community space in hopes of luring local shoppers back to what was once a family comfort zone.
Some have chosen to add pedestrian walkways, outdoor dining, and even residential units to those retailers who are still operating under the hope that the market will return. Colleges, churches, bowling alleys and even museums have all found their way into the mall community. Look for insurance companies, law offices, doctors, dentists, financial institutions, tattoo artists, hair stylists, photographers, day care, and auto repair shops to fill the ever-increasing vacancies. Batting cages, amusement rides, and paint ball battlegrounds have invaded some mall sites. There have even been reports of hospitals, funeral homes, and car dealers taking advantage of the reduced real estate opportunities.
The mall is changing … of that there is no doubt. How may be another question as we are currently witnessing both the fall of the mall and the sprawl of the mall. Watch closely as history unfolds in shopping meccas as it seems to be doing everywhere else.