04 May 2013

Greenbriar Mall, Atlanta, GA

A relic of retail

26 December 2021

I always liked the name Greenbri(a/e)r for a mall. The first Greenbrier with which I was familiar was a new (for the eighties) second generation facility in Chesapeake, Virginia. I was thrilled to find out that there was another in Atlanta (albeit spelt with an A instead of an E.)

Greenbriar Mall Mallmanac ca. 2003. View the full PDF version here.

Greenbriar Mall was another of those road-trip malls that would catch my attention as we flew by on the interstate. Trips south on Atlanta's beltway, 285, would bring us in close proximity to the unassuming boxy building that seemed to stretch out for miles along the horizon. All I could see was the JCPenney, a few skylights and elements of mid-century modern architecture that I had developed an appreciation for. They all combined to make Greenbriar look much larger than it actually was. In fact, I was pretty disappointed when I found out just how relatively small it was.

A 2003 view of Greenbriar Mall, when Rich's was still around.

Greenbriar, although opened in 1965 when malls were still a new concept, was aleady the third enclosed shopping mall to be built in greater Atlanta. This was a primary indicator that the metroplex would one day be extensively overmalled, which it quickly became. Greenbriar Center, as it was called at the time, premiered with a JCPenney and a Rich's bookending the cavernous common area. But perhaps the mall is best known as the home of the very first mall location of Chik-Fil-A, a name ubiquitous to even the most run down of southern shopping malls.

L- Greenbriar Mall at its 1965 opening. R- Greenbriar as of this writing.

Although I first saw the mall from my back seat vantage point in the mid-eighties, I never actually visited it until 2003. It had one of my favorite elements of these first generation malls- a lower level basement dedicated to non-traditional mall vendors and service providers. It was dark and a bit spooky down the long and wide staircase, but it may just have been that I was visiting so early in the morning. The rest of the mall featured wide corridors, high ceilings and an overall scale that one simply does not find in modern centers.

-UPDATE- Greenbriar Mall pamphlet ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.

Greenbriar Mall has fallen and risen over the years, adapting to and capitalizing on the changing demographics of the surrounding neighborhood. It still seemed pretty healthy on my one visit a decade ago, and hopefully Greenbriar will keep bucking the trend of these early generation malls within diverse trade areas simply being left to rot.

Greenbriar Mall's official website

1 comment:

  1. This place is hell and you seem to get the aire of it right when you hit 166 and confirmed when you get off the exit to this place.

    Visited Greenbriar Mall as a retail historian's perspective on my way into Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. This place has fallen on very hard times, evident by pictures I later looked up from the 60s, this neighorhood has also changed drastically. None of the stores are chain anymore except the anchors, who seem like impostors. The Atlanta police has set up shop here and the crowd is very low-income, depressed. I immediately stuck out here as I was the lightest skinned but that's not even why as immediately setting foot in here, I noticed several what gangs of threatening men walking around here on a Monday afternoon.

    The highlights of this mall can't be ignored: the famous Chick Fil A but also an original 1960s clock still on hanging from the ceiling at the former Rich's. I wanted a pic, but the clock is on a very high ceiling often fixtures of vintage department stores. Nonetheless, this place is by far the most uninviting mall in very rough shape yet still intriguing for its history. I am shocked at the Google reviews which led me here, but it's undeniable -- this place needs to come down.