11 November 2011

What’s This All About?

As a kid, there were few things more exciting to me than visiting a mall to which I had never been. On first sight, their expansive size seemed to stretch over the entire horizon, only growing larger as we approached. From my young vantage point, they were huge, monolithic castles centered in a moat of asphalt. They were quiet and lifeless on the outside, but inside, I knew it was a different story. I couldn’t wait to walk in through those double door vestibules and discover something new.

My folks were department store people, so we’d always enter through an anchor (Montgomery Ward, Sears or Woolworth used to be favorites of theirs.) As they shopped, I’d gaze forlornly at the large, open entrance to the mall with the dark, cavernous common areas contrasting with the colorful store labels; the lush greenery creating a buffer between the shoppers and harsh, cylindrical incandescent lights. That’s where I wanted to be, not browsing endlessly, in my dad’s case, in the hardware section or, in my mother’s case, in the fabrics section.

Finally, we’d walk through that opening where the real excitement was. I’d take note of the skylights, whether they were translucent or clear; boxy or vaulted. I’d commit the court areas to my memory, loving the sunken ones with seating areas full of smoking husbands waiting for their wives to finish shopping at Benetton. My first destination, however, was never a toy shop or a music store, but to a mall directory. I wanted to see the mall’s layout, how it spread itself out over hundreds of acres of formerly pristine exurban land. I wanted to see the mall’s footprint; its signature. I’d gaze at the locations of the different anchors, punctuating each concourse like enormous bookends. Where was center court? Where was the food court? And, most importantly, where was the customer service desk?

While most kids were happy to be walking out of a mall with the latest Spiderman comic or the coolest new Transformer, all I wanted was a mall directory. If the mall didn’t offer them, I hated the place and didn’t want to go back. But if they did, my parents were assured of a silent trip past the strip malls and soccer fields back to our home in suburban hell as I concentrated on every square millimeter of that mall map.

Over the years, I collected over a hundred of those glossy brochures. They’re aged from the mid-eighties up to recent years. Unfortunately, these souvenirs are getting harder to find. It seems like they have become victims in an effort for management to save a few dollars, much in the same way most airlines no longer offer printed timetables (another thing I collect.) Luckily, the internet has made up for their absence. Since the mid-90s, I’ve been downloading just about any mall map that I’ve come across. I realized that retail is a dynamic industry, constantly changing to stay both relative and competitive. So I’m glad to have these reminders of they way things were. After all, as I get older, it’s getting harder to remember on my own.

Still, there’s nothing like unfolding one of those old mall maps. I took care of them like someone would a family heirloom. That’s what this blog is- mainly, I just want to share these two page time capsules with those who hold a similar interest. I was always more attracted to a mall’s exterior and layout rather than the interior, and that’s what I’ll be spotlighting. The information I provide will be mainly anecdotal with basic, non-in depth history of each place. I figure there are enough sites in which one can find facts and figures. I’m also going to throw in some original mall designs, some of which have me wondering what the hell I was on. (Since the earliest ones were from age 10, probably a lot of Jolt Cola.) All in all, I just want to share what I’ve collected over the years Hopefully, you’ll find all of this at least slightly interesting. If not, at least my shrink says that it should be therapeutic.

As a kid, I thought I was alone in this shopping mall schtick. Thanks to the internet, I know that there are a lot of people who share the same interest. This is my contribution to compliment the wealth of information found at sites like deadmalls.com, Labelscar, Sky City and Mall Hall of Fame, all of which I owe the existence of this blog to.


1 comment:

  1. I collected mall maps too in my youth (funny, I thought I was the only one) but most of them were never scanned in for whatever reason. I've been collecting ones that I can find on the Internet too. Some of the ones I'd like to find somewhere on the Internet would include pre-Mills Forest Fair Mall or Northwest Plaza (post-enclosure). I know I need to update the things that I have. And yes, I know that I made my own malls too. (I have a "prototype" that I've "perfected" these days, but in the old days, circa 2003, it was all underground for some reason)