13 May 2013

Santa Rosa Mall, Mary Esther, FL

An extant asset

Truth be told, I was never much of a fan of the Gulf Coast. Having grown up in actual oceanside cities, I thought that the "redneck riviera" coastline paled in comparison to the beaches of California, Hawai'i and the Atlantic Seaboard. But one visit to Destin, Florida changed my opinion.

I must have visited my sister at least a dozen times when she was living in the Fort Walton Beach area while stationed at Eglin Air Force Base. We made side treks to the town of Seaside, the planned community where The Truman Show was filmed, as well as to Pensacola Beach, over an hour away. But, during those many visits, we may have gone to the city's only enclosed shopping center, Santa Rosa Mall, once or twice.

Santa Rosa Mall Mallmanac ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here.

Santa Rosa Mall was fairly unremarkable and pretty much followed the standard for a late 1990s and early 2000s enclosed facility. In fact, I don't remember much about the place. It really must not have been unique in any way or have made that much of an impression on me. The complex opened in 1976 with three anchors, Sears, JCPenney and Gayfer's. A new wing and a fourth anchor, McRae's, was added in 1984. Since then, there haven't been a whole lot of changes except for McRae's becoming a Belk while Gayfer's was taken over by Dillard's, leaving the mall with the same four department stores found at most mid-size market malls in the southeast. But at least they had mallmanacs.

L- Santa Rosa Mall at its opening. R- Santa Rosa Mall as of this writing.

Since my last visit in 2004, there has been a building boom of new retail facilities in Okaloosa County, most of them open-air to capitalize on the region's sub-tropical climate. All of these are filled with businesses aimed at the many vacationers who make their way to the Emerald Coast each year. Santa Rosa Mall, containing nothing distinguishing itself from any other mall in the region, fills the needs of the local population fairly well, but not much else. But, yeah, at least they had mallmanacs.

Santa Rosa Mall's official website


  1. Since your last visit, the Belk's wing past the food court has been completely abandoned. There are no stores past 55 or 56 on the 2000 directory. Belk's shuttered a few years ago. There are also a number of stores that shuttered in the Old Navy wing as well. I think what it is people are driving to Destin to go to the Destin Commons. It's a fairly good sized outdoor complex with a lot more to offer. It's sad to see malls like this one start declining over an outdoor complex. I would choose to be inside rather than out. Weather being the main factor.

  2. Update.....Sadly there is practically no mall here anymore. No food court and maybe 6-8 stores.