A dead mall
On my second visit to the capital city of California in 2017, I was dismayed to see that Downtown Plaza, which I was lucky enough to have seen for myself in 2008, was all but gone. However, not far away was another grayfield shopping center in the nearby town of Woodland. I had discovered it while researching destinations in the area, and I was more than happy with what I found on East Gibson Road.
Exterior shots of County Fair Mall, including the Gottschalk's label that looks like the store could still be open.
Named for its proximity to the Yolo County fairgrounds just to the north, the single level structure runs primarily north to south with one anchor space at either end and two more anchor spots located along the main corridor to the facility’s northwest and southeast. Unremarkable from the outside, I was actually pretty happy to see that the Gottschalk’s label from the long defunct department store still appeared pristinely on the outside of their former location.
Inside County Fair Mall
On the interior, it was clear that County Fair Mall has seen an update earlier in this millennium. But the beige ceramic tiles were showing cracks and wear even though there were few shoppers walking over them. I entered on the southern Gottschalk’s end and was greeted by an endless row of vacant storefronts. Turning onto the main concourse, I saw that the interior entrance to Gottschalk’s was still labeled with the former anchor’s nameplate.
1- A rear entranceway. 2- An example of the mall's greenery. 3- A festive, yet vacant, kiosk.
The further north I walked, the more active County Fair Mall became; relatively at least. The former Target/Burlington on the southeastern part of the property had long been closed but just past center court, the mall’s two remaining anchors were opened for business- a Walmart Neighborhood Grocery and surprisingly enough, a JCPenney. There were fewer vacancies as the anchors acted as a draw to the complex’s northern end, though most businesses were of the local variety with few to no national brands represented.
Skylights, tiles and JCPenney in County Fair Mall.
County Fair Mall opened in 1989 with just over 900,000 square feet and four eventual anchors. The JCPenney still open at the shopping center was one of the original anchors. They were joined by Mervyn’s, Gottschalk’s and Target at some point, though past information on the property is difficult to come by, so I’m not sure if they were original anchors. The Target closed in 2007 and was replaced by Burlington Coat Factory in 2009.
County Fair Mall pamphlet ca 2022. View the full PDF version here.
The mall came under new management in 2009 who implemented upgrades and changes that eventually brought occupancy up to 85 percent, up from 2005’s low of 55 percent. Gottschalk’s closed their store on County Fair’s south end sometime in the early 2010s just after the company’s bankruptcy while Mervyn’s departed sometime between then and 2017 to be replaced by the Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Scenes of a dead mall.
At some point after my visit in 2017, the property’s name was updated to its present moniker County Fair Fashion Mall, perhaps to make the destination seem a little less dead. In 2021, the shopping center began holding weekly pop-up events in an attempt to increase foot traffic and sales. In 2022 the mall was sold again with future plans announced for the addition of residences and office space. But not a whole lot has happened so far, so we’ll just have to wait and see.