For those who haven’t heard Macy’s is closing 68 stores this year. Sears and Kmart are closing 150 stores. I pass a Macy’s department store enroute home and the images of clearance posters are haunting. And now Payless Shoes has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It seems like the mall as we know may be dying.
All of this has made me nostalgic. I think back to my childhood and teen years and think about how much fun I had going to the mall. Even if all the mall had was a few discount outlets, a coffee or ice cream shop, and some benches, you could still have a nice time. A few years ago, I visited a Barnes and Noble that I grew up near. I had spent my pre-teen years all the way to my early college years at this store. I even remember the day it opened. It was ironic and haunting when I heard recently it had closed. This was the bookstore I visited to find my 5th grade science experiment idea. It was the same one I sat in while writing short stories and poetry while I waited for my mom to pick me up when I was in high school. It was also the same one I met several first dates for coffee during my brief attempts at online dating in college. Not to mention, this was the place I bought all those countless books, journals, bookmarks, and coffees over the years.
I’m not sure what this now closed Barnes and Noble is now. Maybe it’s become an outlet store. Maybe it’s a series of holiday shops that change every season. However, it’s part of a bigger picture. It’s attached to a modest tiny mall that never really got bigger than having a Target and a Nordstrom Rack. I haven’t been back in a few years, but I can’t imagine it could take more closing stores for it to stay afloat.
Hearing all these major stores close down – ones that usually occupy the malls of the suburbs – reminds me that the mall as we know it has changed and may longer part of our future. To be honest, I can’t afford to shop anymore. I would love to support the place of my nostalgia, but I’m barely making ends meet as it is.
In fact, quickly Google search abandoned malls and you will find a creepy walk down suburbia lane. In fact, there’s a whole website revolved around it.
According to NPR, many malls have returned from their watery retail grave as churches, medical centers, schools and disaster recovery centers. About a year ago when I was venturing down the path of my obsession about abandoned malls, I found an CBS article about how one mall became “Plaza Fiesta” which had everything the local Hispanic neighborhood needed.
I feel a tad worried about what this means for neighborhoods surrounding closing malls or malls down to minimal stores. I recall one mall I used to go to that had an amazing arcade, some cool stores, good food shops and now is down to a theater and an empty retail walk through experience. I read recently it may be revived thanks to a developer that purchased it, but I’ve seen it go down that path before and I have little hope for that actually happening.
What do you think can be done about the malls of the past that seem to be going by the way of the dinosaurs? Do you work at a near empty mall? Do you live near one? Have you seen a mall return from its retail grave? I want to think that some innovative person will come along and revive these old relics the same way you will see old furniture piece turned into something new. Or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking.
UPDATE: Yesterday I watched a TED video that talked about America’s “Dead Malls” and the guy makes short films based on the dead malls of America. Well, I highly recommend you watch this but you know he made an interesting point. Late in the video he wonders why malls don’t just build a bar and add a ton of seating and then the stores will come. I was thinking that same thing. Maybe add a space for food carts, healthy options, and add a TON of better seating and I think the stores will return. Maybe the malls are going away because they aren’t advancing with the times and the interests of people anymore.