Friday, March 30, 2007

Westfarms Mall

Farmington, Connecticut - circa 1970s

The ambiance in this vintage Westfarms Mall (Taubman-designed) postcard is just so palpable! You can almost feel it. Hope you guys dig this one even half as much as I do. Here are some fun reader memories from, Rick, culled from a past Westfarms entry:
"This mall being in my backyard (CT is a small state), I remember vaguely when it opened. My aunt dragged my mom and me up to West Hartford to check out a shopping area called Corbins Corner, which turned out to be across the street from the spanking-new Westfarms Mall. My aunt had never even heard of the Mall; she was more interested in the strip mall across the street (anchored by a Sears).

Having been mostly exposed to Trumbull Shopping Park and Lafayette Plaza in Bridgeport, both of which were inviting in a dowdy sort of way, seeing Westfarms (then anchored with G Fox & Co on one end and J C Penney on the other) was a bit of a sea change. Clean, clean, clean; and upscale too. I vividly remember the piano and organ shop next door to Penneys, which had a better and pricier selection of Lowreys and Allens (my first experience with a digital pipe organ).

It's a big mall; if you put your mind and body to it you can work up a real sweat walking around it before the stores open at 10 am."
Mall history: 1974 - present
Current website: here
Current aerial view
Resource articles: 1, 2
Previous entries: 1

MOA Galleria - Mall Arcade

To compliment the cool '80s shopping mall arcade video below, here's a nifty looking screengrab image (via the fabulous CinemArcade) from that same animated short, that you can use as a desktop wallpaper if you're so inclined (and nostalgic), to relive a radical day at the mall back in the '80s!

The Daily Mall Reader: Mall as teen hangout

A daily dose of mall-related reading...

At shopping malls, teens' hanging out is wearing thin

USA TODAY - 8/11/2005

(Excerpt) BOSTON — Speeding through the corridors of the South Shore Plaza outside Boston, a pack of baby-faced teen boys clad in jeans and baseball caps draw angry stares from store clerks and customers. But they don't seem to care: They're hip, they're loud — and they like getting in trouble.

Hanging out at the mall for teens is as traditional as Friday night football games or the annual prom. It's an escape from chores at home and a chance to flirt and cut loose under artificial lights.

But some malls are saying, "No more." In an attempt to cut back on rowdy behavior and loitering that many establishments say has become unbearable in recent years, malls are implementing policies that require teens to be accompanied by adults after certain hours, effectively putting an end to a weekend routine long memorialized in classic flicks like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Mallrats."

Read the full article here.

Retro Mall Video - Mall Arcade '84

"Arcade '84"

Any '80s mallrat worth his or her salt, should certainly remember the groovy video game arcades found in many shopping malls around the country "back in the day". Some are still out there, sure, but it isn't quite the same vibe now.

A while back, on YouTube, I found this truly transcendent video homage to the '80s mall arcades that just knocked my socks off. If you were there, if you remember... then this digital animation rendering by Dave Dries, should bring back some fun times for you. It really captures the whole trip pretty well! Here's a snippet of the description I found on the video's website:
"They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Almost all shopping malls had them. Usually hidden away from the heavy traffic areas where all the electronic bleeps and screaming adolescents couldn't disturb the regular shoppers. Walk down the long hallway passed the J.C. Penney's, the Hickory Farms, and even the Sunglass Hut. There was the arcade. A small room bursting with the sights, sounds and even smells of technology, innovation and entertainment. A social atmosphere where a generation of kids who grew up in the late 70's/early 80's spent their time, allowances, and hard-earned fast food paychecks.

Arcade '84 is my attempt at recreating the atmosphere of the classic arcades. It's a 3-minute+ trip through an imaginary arcade circa 1984 entirely rendered in 3D computer graphics."

Golden Ring Mall sign

Rosedale, Maryland - October 10, 1986

he wonderful and quite distinctive(!) entrance sign at the Golden Ring Mall, in Rosedale, Maryland. A Hecht Co. store is also visible in the background as a bonus (the mall was originally anchored by Hecht's and Wards).

In recent years what was Golden Ring Mall, was razed and redeveloped into a generic Wal-Mart/Sam's Club anchored deal, now called the Centre at Golden Ring. (Nothing to see here, move along...)

Mall history: 1974 - 2000 (approx)
Developer: Simon properties
Current website: here (redeveloped)
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Resource links: 1
Previous entries: none

(Study image courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Old Towne Mall

Torrance, California - circa 1970s

Esteemed Malls of America reader (as you all are), "Don-O", sent me these nifty photos of Old Towne Mall, in Torrance, CA, along with some youthful memories of the place, which is now redeveloped and called Torrance Promenade. The frist image (above) is a postcard depicting the mall's locally famous Singing Security Guard. The second one below, is a shot of the kiddie play area featuring the "Old Towne Puppet Theater". Thanks for the great submission, and take it away Don!

"My personal story attached to this place is a bit spotty as during the times I lived in the South Bay, I visited the Del Amo Fashion Mall, the old South Bay Center and the beach more than this place.

As you see and might have heard, this place was closely modeled after Main Street in Disneyland and had strolling entertainment and was thoroughly decorated. It wasn't until around 2000 when I discovered that they had a indoor roller coaster, thanks to a then-new roommate who worked as the 'coaster operator. The central attraction was the two-story carousel, which I managed to ride many times.

Old Towne Puppet Theater

My only real attention I gave to the place was the Mann Theatre 6. I saw many late '70s cinema classics like The Jerk, Life of Brian, and, for some dumb-ass reason, Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy. Even dumber was that I saw Brian & Academy on the same day...both screenings overlapped each other by ten minutes...ten minutes of running back and forth like a desperate idiot. Ah, sweet hell of nostalgia.

The major stores, that I remember, were Federated & K-Mart. In the late '80s began the slow death of this wonderful mall. The detailed street design was slowly being stripped away, the carousel was moved twice until it was finally sold off and so on. Finally, the mall was turned into an outdoor strip mall and the Mann Theatre was turned into a Linen 'n Things store.

Too bad I couldn't spend more time and take more pictures, but it was located between Del Amo and SBC, which, no doubt, lead to it's downfall: location! location! location!


Mall history: 1970s - early '90s (redeveloped)
Current website: n/a
Current aerial view (Torrance Promenade)
Previous entries: 1

Retro Mall Video - 1986 Universal Mall Boat Show

Universal Mall, Warren, Michigan (1986)

In March of 1986, our family rambled over to our favorite local shopping mall, Universal Mall, in Warren, Michigan, to look at all the fancy new boats and other vehicles on display at their annual indoor sportsman's boat & car show, which was an event we always enjoyed digging on over the years. This time we had our new RCA video camera along (which was the size of a Buick in those days), and my dad and I took turns capturing all the hot boat-on-car action!

Though we were mainly focused on said groovy vehicles that day, we still managed to capture a few glimpses here and there of a circa 1986 Universal Mall, along with its overall ambience--including the Easter Bunny, who was visiting in the mall's center court area (where Santa always sat, too).

Some of the stores you can just glimpse in the background (helps if you knew the mall well), most of which are long gone now, include: Gell's Sporting Goods, Spencer Gifts (yeah baby!), Cambridge, Crowley's, Radio Shack, GNC (still there!), Leather Loft, So-Fro Fabrics, Hit or Miss, Montgomery Ward (One Store To Rule Them All), Siddens, Circus World, and even the faintest blurry hint of Woolworth's in the distance just to the left of Circus World.

This was all a couple years before Universal got some major structural remodeling in '89 (when the Mervyn's wing was added, among other lame stuff), so things were still at least a little groovy in there at this point--the mall had undergone a major decor facelift around 1981, however, so this still doesn't reflect its truly vintage era of the 1970s, unfortunately.

Finally, please, PLEASE, if anyone out there has old photos, maps, brochures, or films of Universal Mall (which was originally called, Universal City), anything at all, please contact me! Material from the '80s or before--and especially from the '60s or '70s--I'd love to see. Just e-mail me if you can help.

Mall history: 1965 - present
Current website: here
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Previous entries: none

The Daily Mall Reader: Memories Of Northgate Mall

A daily dose of mall-related reading...

Memories Of Northgate Mall - March 17, 2007

(Excerpt) Thirty-five years ago this March 15, Chattanooga’s first all-enclosed shopping center – Northgate Mall – opened.

Because it was the first local mall, Northgate – which was designed by architects Jerry Cooper and Rodger Dodson and built by general contractor Ed Jolley – was welcomed with much fanfare.

Here is how longtime Chattanooga News-Free Press business writer John Vass described the event: “Hundreds of persons gathered in front of the center to observe the grand opening ceremonies and to await the chance to view for the first time the colorfully decorated stores inside.”

Read the full article here.

MOA Galleria - Old Towne Mall Carousel

Torrance, California - circa 1970s

Here's an old postcard of the beautiful and popular carousel ride that sat in Old Towne Mall for many years! Remember when nearly every shopping mall had one? Good times. I know there are a few around that still do, but not nearly as many as there used to be. None of the malls around me here in metro Detroit have them anymore, yet back in the day most did up until about the 1990s.

Vintage retail ad: 1972 Cotton Twill

"Style 'Linda'. The new Spring Look, swingbacked A-line, in 100% Cotton Twill. Available in all season colours."

Vintage 1972 ad via the Chopes of Bideford department store website.

Sherwood Gardens Shopping Center

Salinas, California - circa '60s or '70s(?)

Aerial postcard view of the Sherwood Gardens Shopping Center in Salinas, California, which, according to the little bit of information I could manage to find online, first opened in 1985. Not all that vintage then, but hey, I like the shot anyway.

Edit: I've updated the opening date on this one. This shopping center is apparently a lot more vintage than the info I first found led me to believe! Which only makes this photo better now.

Mall history: 1956 - present
Current website: n/a
Current aerial view
Previous entries: none

International Malls: Broad Walk Shopping Centre

Harlow, Essex, England - circa 1950s

Let's detour over to England for just a quick second or two, so we can take a peek at this pleasant little scene. Depicted in this picture is a view of the old Harlow Broad Walk Shopping Centre, one of several swanky shopping "precincts", all located in Harlow Town Centre, in England. I'd certainly go back in time and shop there if I could.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Macy's Valley Fair Shopping Center

San Jose, California - 1986

OK, I'm gonna keep the Valley Fair ball rolling here a little bit longer with these two photos. I highlighted the mall's great entrance sign in my last post on this classic shopping center, and here we see said sign again, but this time in color(!) and in a slightly updated incarnation (above) from its original design, with alternating pole heights. So if this is how you remembered it years ago, you weren't dreaming.

San Jose, California - 1986

The second pic above, is another sign found elsewehere in the Valley Fair Shopping Center parking lot. Both snapshots were taken in 1986, right before these swanktastic signs were torn down. Thanks very much to the donor of these photos, who wishes to remain anonymous. Much appreciated!

Edited for spelling.

Mall history: 1956 - 1986
Developer: R. H. May & Co. Inc.
Current website: here (redeveloped)
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Resource links: 1, 2, 3
Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

MOA Galleria - '50s Belk-Hudson Store Salon

Spartanburg, South Carolina - circa 1954

Vintage snapshot of all the Far Side women getting their collective hairdos done in the beauty salon at the Belk-Hudson store in Spartanburg, SC. Thanks to, Pat Richardson, for this fun submission!

Retro Mall Video - Menudo In A Shopping Mall

Menudo "In A Shopping Mall" - 1983

Like a really cruddy signal from some long-lost UHF channel comes this colorfully crazy and rather loud(!) music video clip from 1983 (Ricky Martin didn't join till '84), of Puerto Rican boy band sensation, Menudo, singing a groovy song about shopping malls. Inside a shopping mall.

My work here is done.

The Daily Mall Reader: Mall Walkers

A daily dose of mall-related reading...

Make Way for the Mall Walkers

TIME Magazine - Sunday, May. 26, 1985

(Excerpt) Sweat-suited and sneaker-footed, with pedometers clipped firmly at waists, they appear, sometimes before dawn, and slip quietly through the shopping-mall entrance with a wave to smiling guards. Early-bird bargain hunters? Well, no. These are not sales stalkers but a growing breed of fitness faddists, the mall walkers.

Walking is the preferred exercise of more and more Americans, especially the aging and ailing. "It's aerobic, it burns calories, and it's less intense than jogging," says Gary Yanker, editor of Walking World. "More people are regular walkers than runners, about 55 million compared with 34 million." Malls--conveniently located, climate controlled and security patrolled--have rapidly emerged as the ideal site for stress-free strutting. "We don't have to bother with dogs, traffic problems, rocks, hills or pollen," exults Helen Gulledge, 69. An arthritis sufferer, she and her husband Luther, 75, who has heart trouble, tick off up to two miles daily at the Haywood Mall in Greenville, S.C. Overweight adults, pregnant women and mothers with infants are also now walking the malls.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Macy's Valley Fair Shopping Center

San Jose, California - circa 1956

Here's another snazzy vintage photo of Macy's Valley Fair shopping center, this time including the mall's entrance sign in the lower-right corner, which is really sweet! This shot dates back to when Valley Fair had just opened in 1956, so it was still brand new here.

I thought it would also be fun to take a closer look at that great signage there, so I blew it up considerably and am including it at left, if you'd like to study it in more detail. She looks nice, don't she? Me thinks so. :)

And from the looks of those fancy globes at the top of the posts, it appears the sign probably lit up real nicely in the evening, I'm guessing. Now that's something I'd love to see a color photograph of now! I'll start looking around...

Mall history: 1956 - 1986
Developer: R. H. May & Co. Inc.
Current website: here (redeveloped)
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Resource links: 1, 2, 3
Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4

Retro Mall Video - Robert Hall Fashion Centers

Robert Hall commercial (1970s)

Here's a very groovy retro TV commercial for Maryland area Robert Hall Family Fashion Centers. Really captures that swanky vintage retail vibe perfectly. And dig that great Robert Hall song jingle muzak in the background! Ah, bliss...

Malls of America on the radio!

Actually on web radio that is, but at any rate, I just now found out that this blog got a really nice little mention on The Overnightscape, a talk radio show hosted by Frank Edward Nora (a man of impeccable taste, obviously, hehe), way back in December of 2005. Yes, somehow it took me this long to finally notice it! Duh.

Anyway, Frank was very kind to Malls of America, which was at that time, still quite wet behind the ears and finding its legs, and I really appreciate his early enthusiasm and support of the site--even though I was completely unaware of it at the time, unfortunately.

But I thought what he had to say was so nice I'd share it here on the blog today. I guess it's about time, right?! :D Anyway, I've 'scoped the show down (in radio parlance) for this excerpt clip, so that only the bits about MOA remain.

Again, a much belated thanks to Frank, and
The Overnightscape, for the kind mention. Pay close attention to his obvious excitement, btw... that's exactly how I feel about it too, and it's with those kind of emotions that I started this blog and continue to do it! I can tell Mr. Nora obviously "gets it", in just the way I'm always hoping people will when they visit Malls of America. :)

So click right here for my edited mp3 clip of The Overnightscape (show #347, Tuesday, December 13, 2005).

The Daily Mall Reader: Mall Makeovers

A daily dose of mall-related reading...

At Malls, the Trends of Change

Washington Post - Friday, November 29, 1996

(Excerpt) When they first walked into Montgomery Mall in 1989, architects saw a worn, dark, 22-year-old building, as fixed in time as a hippie wearing bell-bottoms.

Drywall, cheap and bland, was all around. The floor was laid with dark paving tiles. The high ceilings receded into blackness at night. Everywhere was dark oak -- benches, handrails, trim -- the color of oak one might associate with a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse or an old town hall.

Two years later, after the architects from RTKL in Baltimore were done, high-buff marble floors shone underfoot. Glittering brass handrails picked up the shimmer. There was glass everywhere. Lights were thrown up to the ceiling at night, emphasizing, rather than trying to hide, the spacious interior.

Like movie stars trying to keep their youthful looks, Montgomery Mall had gotten a face lift, a change in architecture inside and out. These make-overs usually happen about once a decade.

Read the full article here.

Vintage Northwest Plaza ad

St. Ann, Missouri - 1983

Above is a cool 1983 print ad for Northwest Plaza shopping mall, that regular Malls of America contributor, J, came across and scanned for the blog recently. By now you may know J's work well from his great Kentucky malls submissions of recent months (here & here). He continues to send good stuff my way regularly (you'll see more soon), and I really appreciate it! Here's his commentary for this submission:

"Thought I’d get away from Kentucky this time and send an ad I found in a hotel travel book for St. Louis from 1983. I don’t know much about Northwest Plaza, but what I’ve found so far indicates that the Famous-Barr opened in 1966, so I’d assume that was the opening year for the mall. (A newspaper article I found actually puts it at 1964. --Keith)

Jeff mentioned Northwest Plaza in the comments for the Oakbrook post of 8/21 on MOA. An entry about Northwest in the travel book says:

'Northwest Plaza, one of Missouri’s largest shopping centers, is a shopper’s paradise. This extraordinary marketplace is set in 120 acres of parks, plazas, fountains and sculpture.

Northwest Plaza offers 125 stores, including four major department stores: Famous-Barr, J.C. Penney, Sears and Stix, Baer & Fuller, as well as many fashion shops, fine restaurants, and even a 12-story office tower. The shopping center resembles a park with colorful gardens. Northwest Plaza also features one of St. Louis’ most famous water sculptures, Genesis, which was created by Aristides Demetrios of San Francisco.'

I also cropped and added the two photos of the mall from the ad."

Thanks again, J! I'll add that from what I've been able to find online regarding this mall, it was a Westfield-owned property until last June, when they sold this, one of their "nonstrategic properties", to Somera Capital Management LLC. They're currently planning a major facelift for the mall (to read the current redevelopment proposal in PDF form, click here). To read more about the recent sales developments and whatnot, check out the Resource Links below.

Mall history: 1964(?) - present
Developer: Hycel Properties
Current website: n/a
Current aerial view
Resource links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Previous entries: none

Monday, March 05, 2007

Country Club Centre

Sacramento, California - circa 1950s

This is a beautiful shot of the Country Club Centre (which I've blogged about before on Malls of America), including a view of not only a few of its stores (Rhodes, Leed's, Singer, and of course, Woolworth), but also the shopping center's super-groovy entrance sign touting their "easy parking"! This image comes courtesy of bayswater97's flickrset.

And speaking of the Rhodes store, I've taken the liberty of pasting below some great history on the retail chain that was originally posted by MOA reader, Hushpuppy, in the comments section of my last Country Club entry. I think the mini-essay will compliment this post nicely, and I thank Hushpuppy for taking the time to write it!:
"Prior to 1960, there were 3 chains that made up the Western Department Store Company: Kahn's (Oakland and Concord), Olds & King (Portland and Gateway Shopping Center) and Rhodes (Tacoma, Lakewood, Fresno, Country Club, and Florin Road in Sacramento). In September 1960, all stores were consolidated under the Rhodes name, and the parent company was changed to 'Rhodes Western'. During the period between 1960 and 1969, additional stores were opened in Phoenix (Camelback), Albuquerque, San Antonio, and Mountain View, CA.

In 1969, the 13-store Rhodes chain was sold to Honolulu-based Amfac, owner of Liberty House department stores (and new owner of the Joseph Magnin specialty store chain). Under Amfac ownership, new stores were opened in Jantzen Beach, OR; Tacoma Mall; Dublin, CA (a conversion of the failed RhodesWAY discount chain); El Paso, and Phoenix (Metrocenter). I believe it was during this period that the downtown stores in Tacoma and Portland were closed.

In the early 1970's Amfac opened Liberty House stores in San Jose (Eastridge), Hayward (Southland) and Sacramento (Sunrise). Then in 1972 they bought the failed City of Paris department stores in downtown San Francisco and Stonestown and renamed them City of Paris by Liberty House. They tore down one of the City of Paris buildings and built a new Liberty House store in 1974. Stonestown was closed in 1973, less than a year after it opened.

Their mainland stores bleeding red ink, Amfac then decided to consoldate all their department store operations under the Liberty House banner. It didn't help much since the old Rhodes stores were smaller and hopelessly outdated while the new Liberty House stores were large and ultramodern. Unlike Hawaii where they had no competition and a rich history, mainland shoppers had no idea what Liberty House stood for and stayed away in droves.

In the late 1970's, the Pacific Northwest stores were sold to Frederick & Nelson and the Southwest stores were sold to various companies. The San Jose store was sold to The Emporium in 1977.

Liberty House tried bolstering their Northern California presence with new stores in Santa Rosa, downtown Sacramento, Reno, and San Mateo but the chain was almost never profitable. They sold the Hayward store to The Emporium (now named Emporium-Capwell) and closed the Dublin and Florin stores but Amfac threw in the towel in May 1984, selling the remaining stores to archrival Macy's and leaving the mainland altogether (having earlier sold off Joseph Magnin at a loss).

The only exception was the San Mateo store. Required by the lease to continue operating, it was treated as a branch of the Honolulu division and stayed open until 1987 when it was sold to Whole Earth Access. The entire shopping center was bulldozed a few years ago and replaced with a power center."
Mall history: 1952 - 2003 (dead/redeveloped?)
Current website: n/a
Current aerial view
Resource links: 1
Previous entries: 1

Retro Mall Video - Shoplifting

"...So I took it!" (1975)

Vintage Sid Davis anti-shoplifting educational film from 1975. I find this of some weird interest--especially for the gloomy scenes shot inside some dreary old department stores. If you can stand it till the end, there's some neat footage of old merchandise, displays, and murky retail interiors contained in this 11 minute film--you can even hear a little vintage '70s Muzak droning in the background if you listen closely, which I really dig as well!

MOA Galleria - Macy's at Valley Fair

Macy's at Valley Fair (acrylic on canvas)

Colorful painting by, Mike Carroll, of the 1950s-era Macy's store exterior at the Valley Fair Shopping Center in San Jose, California (you can just barely see the roof-deck's ferris wheel here too!).

More Valley Fair: 1, 2, 3

Macy's Valley Fair Shopping Center

San Jose, California - circa 1957

Feast your eyes on this wonderful aerial photo of the Macy's rooftop fair (or carnival) at the Valley Fair Shopping Center back in the swanktastic 1950s! My thanks go out to an MOA reader who wishes to remain anonymous for this, and other, recent submissions for the blog. You know who you are and I really appreciate it! :)

Here's some background history on Valley Fair's rooftop "fair", courtesy of a great website maintained by Mike Carroll Jr. Productions:
"Seven carnival type rides, included a merry-go-round, small train and a 40 foot Ferris Wheel soon began to appear. A familiar icon, the giant Ferris Wheel could be seen several blocks away as it peered over the walls of the department store. Macy's Sky Terrace Cafe, located along the edge of the deck, offered shoppers a coffee shop type diner. Tables with colorful umbrellas lined the outside of the eatery. Patrons could look out and watch their children play on the 'Sky Rides'.

Various events were held on the roof deck. Small children would often partake in fashion shows, after which Macy's personal allowed them free access to the amusement center. According to a 1956 San Jose Mercury News article, during the Christmas that year, a Santa Claus was lowered onto the roof deck from a helicopter to greet the children.

San Francisco's Emporium gave Valley Fair the idea for the carnival, according a center manager who had been there since 1958. He said that shortly before he came on board, the rides were removed because it wasn't making enough money. The San Jose Mercury News ran their last ad for the fair during the Christmas season of 1957.

After the rides were removed, the cafe and roof deck were blocked off from the general public and used as a break area for Macy's employees. Around 1963, a second floor was added to the store as originally planned."
Mall history: 1956 - 1986
Developer: R. H. May & Co. Inc.
Current website: here (redeveloped)
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Resource links: 1, 2, 3
Previous entries: 1, 2

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