A dead mall
I only ever made it out to Gwinnett Place one time, but it was one hell of a one time. It was early on New Years’ Eve, 1995. The next year, I would be turning 21. I was a sophomore in college and there were endless possibilities ahead of me.
My buddy and I had just made the trek to the Atlanta suburbs from his place at Auburn University. He and I were there to meet his girlfriend who lived in Duluth and would be celebrating with us downtown later that evening to ring in the new year. Besides the prospect of a great time partying, I was stoked as hell to find out that we’d be going to the huge shopping mall to the northeast of Atlanta to meet her.
The weather was a bit chilly, overcast and rainy that morning as we pulled into the still empty parking lot. It was just a few minutes before the mall would be opening, so we pulled into one of the many vacant parking spots just outside of the Parisian. We waited in the vestibule until 12:30 when they finally unlocked the doors for us.
The Parisian itself was glamorous in a nineties sort of way, as were most of their best stores. Parisian was the Nordstrom of the deep south, if you will, although they were never really able to effectively penetrate the Atlanta market. I still miss the hell out of their teal nameplate with the diamonds elegantly separating each letter. But I really couldn’t wait until I made my way into the mall itself so I that could grab my own treasure- a mallmanac.
It wasn't long before the two of them ran off for some time alone and I used that opportunity to nerd the hell out at a new mall. The corridors were wide and accented in the basic pastels of the day. Bright and airy, it was your archetypical 1990s mall, and I was absolutely loving it.
Gwinnett Place opened in early 1994 in the fast growing northeastern suburb of Duluth. The main corridor ran from the west-northwest to the east-southeast with Rich's on the west end, Sears on the east and Davidson's in the middle. In 1986, the short concourse to the southeast opened along with new anchor Mervyn's and Macy's took over the Davidson's spot. In 1993, the mall grew to its present footprint when Parisian opened at the end of the second spur built off of the northwest of the main concourse.
We left the mall not long after and I haven’t been back since. At midnight, the three of us stood watching the Great Peach drop from Underground Atlanta. It was a fantastic night; definitely one of the best New Years’ Eves I’ve ever had, if not THE best. Unfortunately for Gwinnett Place, even it’s behemoth size couldn’t save it from the fact that Atlanta was terribly over-malled.
New competition from the Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf Mills pulled customers away from the super-regional. Belk took over the Parisian in 2008 not long after Macy's moved their location to what was then the former Rich's. Today, Macy's remains but the only other open anchor is in its former location, now housing a Mega Mart. The interior stores are mainly vacant except for a few locally owned establishments.
What was the main shopping attraction for metro Atlanta during the nineties is now, for all intents and purposes, dead. Though this made it the perfect setting for the "Starcourt Mall" in the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things, there isn't much hope for it in its present incarnation. Gwinnett County purchased the property in 2020, but no plans have been announced yet for the site.