30 June 2024

Cookeville Mall, Cookeville, TN

 A relic of retail

Home of Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville is a college town of around 35,000 located in the Highland Rim close to the Cumberland Plateau.  I’ve only ever been there once or twice while speeding through on I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville.  The only thing memorable about the town was that there was an actual shopping mall just off of that interstate.

1- Christmastime at Cookeville Mall in the late seventies.  2- JCPenney’s mall entrance.  (Source for both)

It was nothing more than a low slung strip of a building masquerading as a strip mall, but the skylights over the center of the building gave it away.  There was a JCPenney on one end and Peebles on the other.  However, it was soon out of our sight as we sped by at a good 75 miles an hour.

Cookeville Mall lease plan ca. 2010.  View the full PDF here.

Cookeville Mall opened in 1977 as the only enclosed shopping center between the villes of Nash and Knox.  JCPenney and Nashville based Harvey’s served as the dual anchors located at each end.  It almost immediately shifted the town’s retail center from downtown to its southern fringes.

1- A mall store just after the mall’s opening in 1977.  2- The same store as a community room in 2021.  (Source for both)

By the new millennium, however, Cookeville Mall felt the pinch of newer outdoor competition as well as shifting consumer habits.  Today the facility still hosts JCPenney and several other big box stores while the enclosed section features some national names mixed in with local mom and pops as well as community spaces.

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