05 May 2013

Harper Square, Corinth, MS

A relic of retail

In complete defiance of most of the world's opinion, I've always loved Memphis. Having worked for Northwest Airlink, I spent quite a lot of time in the Tennessee city. Fortunately enough, the trip there was usually spent tens of thousand of feet in the air where, during the entire thirty minute flight between my hometown and The Bluff City, there appeared to be a whole lot of nothing. One time, however, after I had separated from the airlines, my partner at the time and I decided to make the trip by car. On paper, the drive between Memphis and Huntsville seemed to be all right except for one thing - Mississippi. Don't get me wrong, the Magnolia State isn't all bad. The casinos at Tunica and Biloxi are doable. Also, it was in the small northeast Mississippi stop-over town of Corinth where I made quite the serendipitous discovery- Harper Square.

TL- The layout of Harper Square. TR- Sears and the main entrance. BL- The north end including Sears. BR- The south end including the other anchor, Save-A-Lot grocery store. I love the lighting apparatus.

My partner was such a good guy. I don't think he quite understood my passion for shopping mall history, but he gladly went along with me whenever I found something that I wanted to document. So even though we were in a hurry to get to Memphis, he was more than willing to stop for a while as I excitedly explored this new discovery.

Corinth is a small town of just under 15,000 but is the only settlement of any significance between Florence, Alabama and Memphis. We had stopped at your average small town strip mall to fill up on gas and to get a bite to eat, but I noticed something different about the place. There was an arched portico just off center on the main strip which turned out to be an entranceway to an indoor common area. Like a moth to a bug zapper, I was drawn to this fascinating feature and couldn't wait to find out what was behind those doors.

L- The big blue message board just inside the mall. R- Wooden benches and stone floor treatments lent the corridor a Main Street, sidewalk-y look.

It was tough trying to find any history of Harper Square on the internet. After a two minute search on Google, I gave up and just decided to make shit up. From what I can surmise from the architecture, it probably opened sometime in the mid to late seventies. There was a small Sears anchoring the north end and a Save-A-Lot grocery store at the south end. Toward the middle was the small enclosed portion. Inside was a dark, narrow passageway with a couple of seating areas. The floors were made of concrete speckled with small stones all underneath a drop ceiling and flourescent lighting. No skylights interrupted their monotonous pattern to let in any natural light. At the end of the corridor was what we agreed had to be the zenith of Corinth nightlife- the Tri-State Bingo.

L- Bingo! R- View from the back of the mall to the front entrance.

I love making discoveries such as this. Without an eye for retail-detail, I would have never seen Harper Square as anything more than a tired old strip mall. But what I discovered was so much more- a tired old indoor/outdoor hybrid thingy. I only ever visited that one time in 2004, so I can only hope that the relic still stands to this day. I mean, what the hell else are the poor Corinthians supposed to do on a Saturday night?

Harper Square's website

1 comment:

  1. I believe the Save-a-Lot was originally a Piggly Wiggly.