Decline and Fall of America's Shopping Mall
“Why do they come here?”
“Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.” – Dawn of the Dead (1978).
There was a recent article on vice.com talking about how teenagers are no longer running rampant at the local shopping malls. In fact, the article also mentions that the recession of 2008 has drastically altered the landscape of shopping malls of yester year. Many big box Department anchor stores and big name chain stores have now shuttered their doors. For example, the old Forest Park Mall along Roosevelt Road has all but closed and has been replaced by what is pretty much a fanatical religious mission.
Online shopping has killed the experience of going to a mall as well. However, don’t teenagers need a place to hang out? When I was a teenager, the Mall, that hallowed place that was romanticized in films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mallrats, Clueless, and Valley Girl.
The shopping mall had everything. There were bookstores, an arcade, tons of junk food in the food court. The mall had movie theaters, record stores with tapes, LPs and CD’s. At one time Woodfield, (the largest Mall in the US until Mall of America was built) even had an ice rink for people to go skating on. And then there were the girls that roamed the malls in packs, just like some exotic animal found in the wild. Endlessly shopping. Most of the time the girls you met at the mall didn’t go to your school.
This was mainly because my hometown didn’t have a shopping mall. That meant you had to drive to a bigger town to get the Mall. So having friends with cars was a huge asset. Having your own car was even more impressive. In one word, it was cool to hang out at the Mall. It was the place to be. When you were little during Halloween, one could even go trick or treating from store to store. I got to do that one time in 1983 at the Spring Hill Mall.
I think that what happened as more and more of the shops closed in the Mall itself because of the influx of stores like Borders Books which became a one stop shop for books, movies and music, that made the little guys like Record Town, and Musicland close shop. That also made the Bookstores like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks to shutter their doors as well. They just couldn’t compete with the juggernaut that was Borders. Ironically, Amazon and other websites made Borders end their reign of mixed media.
So the conclusion that I have is that the Mall, which used to be filled with bored teenagers looking for something to do and cruising for kicks and chicks is no longer cool. Well no shit! The Mall no longer has anything cool to do because it lacks stores that are essentially cool.
There is nothing to do in Malls anymore! Even Spencer’s that infamous store filled with band posters, and boob inspector T-shirts is a shadow of its former self. Then there is the shop of ready-made alternative, Hot- Topic. Which, once was the place for suburban Goths, metal heads, and punks to buy shirts and spikes, chain wallets etc… Also not even close to what it once was in the ‘90s. I guess as time progresses the shopping Mall will become extinct, and then the next time some youngster sees Dawn of the Dead some elder will have to explain what a Mall was!