With your shopping hopefully out of the way, Laser Time takes a look at our rapidly disappearing retail institutions. But it’s not all doom and gloom! With special guests Jason and George from GenXGrownUp’s Drawn and Paneled podcast, we’re also reflecting upon the Mall’s heyday by looking back on the pop culture institutions that defined it.
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12 thoughts on “The Slow, Painful Death of the American Mall – Laser Time #361”
I really enjoyed this episode and thought it was interesting. I live in the San Diego area, or east of it about 30 minutes away. Though our malls are still thriving, we have it feels like quite a few still around. Though a couple are more at the high-end mall and the rest are more my speed. But I still go to them quite often, it’s nice there are a couple inside mall’s and a couple outside malls. I mean I still go to the mall to buy most of my clothes, and I’ll occasionally go to the food court to get something to eat before I watch a movie and I always stop by F.Y.E to see what’s new.
Man I used to LOVE Suncoast…well browsing at least, cause like you guys mentioned, the prices were absurd. Also when I was younger, I’d always call/frequent Walden Books to see if the latest Goosebumps was out. Hard to believe that chain’s gone too. Oddly enough however, our local malls are sorta thriving. They’re definitely an upgrade from when I was a kid. Interesting tidbits about how arcades were owned by specific gaming companies, never knew/realized that. We had a tilt in one of our malls, but I don’t recall if it had a lot of atari games. I remember it had Area 51 though.
All my malls nearby are still doing well, (I do live in Michigan though so maybe the weather is a factor.) One thing majorly upset me though our local mall SOUTHLAND MALL had an amazingly cool food court. It had sky-lighting and architecture that was a facsimile of Alex Calder. The star of the show was the Mcdonalds though, which was dinosaur themed. Pterodactyl hung from the ceiling and it even featured a close to real size T-REX! (Think like the one in Batman’s cave.) Here’s the only picture I could find of it online though.
Over here in the UK (where we call them shopping centres) retail is struggling too — although by recent figures still taking 82% of business. It is quite sad seeing long loved shops close but it’s the unfortunate nature of capitalism (especially late stage). Competing against Amazon on price and convenience is practically impossible, the tax rules only compound the problem.
Great podcast and took me down memory lane to the 90’s when the Mall was the biggest and best place to be. One thing you guys mentioned is the lack of band t shirts these days but I would say they are actually having a bit of a renaissance. Merch shirts, hip hop music in particular are very popular at the moment. I live near a big University and you see plenty of college kids wearing shirts with artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Kanye and many more.
As someone who spent pretty much their entire life in the town until quite recently I have half remembered memories of Vicarage Fields Shopping Centre opening in 1990, when I was just 9 year old. The whole of Barking, a small town 6 miles from London, England, seemingly came out to welcome it and partake in its free peppermint lollies emblazoned with the logo. The centre had a lot going for it, a cool bookshop on the top floor and the video game shop Whizz Kids selling the latest system and offering playable Atari Lynxes with Chips Challenge.
Now it seems like an empty shell with cheap clothes stores and stalls selling phone accessories and plugs…. A shadow of the promise it offers in its youth. I recently played a Night in the Woods and the game rang true on so many levels for me: coming back to a place to see how much yet how little it has changed, how people you knew have moved on or not at all and how tough life has been for some people. Nearly a decade after the economic crisis Barking in East London is a crap hole but it was my crap hole, it had issues but it did have a sense of community amongst its high rises, empty shopping centre and prevalence of gambling, cheap barely edible vegetable bowls and pound chicken shops. Now, it seems just seems like any other commuter town on the fringe of the Big City and the shopping centre is a skeleton crew of sad or empty shops.
Funny you should mention Northgate Mall in Seattle being one of the first malls in America, it’s being “remodeled”.
There are still a few malls in the suburban cities that continue to survive. Most have a their own Multiplex movie chains and now new bowling alleys with arcade cabinets and redemption centers. The main shopping mall closest to Microsoft HQ (Bellevue Square) has gotten rid of everything but hipster clothing stores, Nordsrtoms, Macy’s, Apple, Microsoft, and a Tesla dealership…in the mall itself.
It is insane when a store is going out of business, not only are all the inventory heavily marked down, but so are the shelves and racks they sit on.
Anyone remember Mervyn’s? B. Dalton and Waldenbooks?
I worked at a Sears from 2014-2016! It was an end cap store to the shopping mall that I believe is still in business today. We sold tools, exercise equipment, electronics, appliances, mattresses, clothing, and had an eyeglasses outlet. The photo studio had shutdown before I got there and we took down the electronics department in 2015. A big issue I remember us having was a massive backroom of overstocked goods that were impossible to get onto the sales floor. There were a number of items that went from the backroom directly to clearance racks or back to vendors. They didn’t transition well into the age of online shopping either requiring us to hunt through the store for products people ordered from ANYWHERE to then box up and ship out in a limited time window. Sometimes said product did not exist thanks to theft or inaccurate inventory information. The Craftsman Lifetime Warranty also became an issue as customers who originally bought tools decades ago were able to exchange them for free, leaving us with buckets of broken tools and other warrantied goods like leaf blowers and chainsaws. Past Sears really screwed Future Sears on that one.
The Sears in my mall used to be the entire center of the complex. It was a two-story behemoth of a store that sold everything. It closed in 2015, and they didn’t have anything to replace it with so you always just had to walk through the corpse of Sears to get from side of the mall to the other. Now it’s been completely torn down and turned into a really tall hallway with the highest ceiling in the mall as a testament to man’s hubris or something.
Hm. My comment didn’t post. Anyway, I used to be the assistant editor at deadmalls. com for nearly 10 years. I quit due a blowup with someone I was close to, and the emails were becoming more cringey. I’m happy that people now are doing it on their own and taking and shooting professional grade videos and photos to preserve these buildings.
The Sears in the town I grew up in (Newmarket Fair Mall / NetCenter in Hampton, VA) was finally put out of its misery this year. It was there since day 1, 43 years ago when the mall opened. The mall was an early dead mall, and became offices for the phone company and the Newport News Shipyard back in the late 90s. The only thing left is a Piccadilly Cafeteria for the office workers.
Brown Derby Restaurant. I ate their on my honeymoon! It actually has pretty good food if you like steak, which I do, but the decision to build it Disney-MGM studios was definitely a 1989 decision that has lingered. That was a time when The Golden Age of Hollywood was still something that theme park goers still cared about (and I say that as a classic movie fan) but Disney closing the Great Movie ( a salute to that era, more or less) shows that day is passed.