Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ansley Mall


Traveling over Georgia, I had honestly believed there were no open-air malls left from the 60's and 70's. I was wrong. Nestled in the Morningside area near Midtown was one of the best preserved specimens of an open-air mall: Ansley Mall. Built in 1968, it is not a mall in the sense of what you typically would call a mall. This little open-air mall features maybe 25 tenants and a Publix grocery store. The Publix was not original to the mall and was built on the site of what had been originally a Big Star. Other major tenants at the mall include CVS Pharmacy (probably a former Revco), Piccadilly Cafeteria (previously Morrison's Cafeteria, next to the Publix), Moe's Southwest Grill, L.A. Fitness (formerly Woolworth's) and a Pet Supermarket. Many of the tenants at the mall have entrances both to the main parking lot and to the mall itself.



When I first saw Ansley Mall on the map, I thought it was just a glorified name for a strip. Au contraire, it is definitely a mall and quite attractive though gaudy with its 80's-style reddish decor. This mall would probably also not be well-known outside of the area beyond those that shop there. I had heard of it, but never knew where it was or what was in it previously. What I do know of Ansley Mall is that it is located at the heart of the gay community in Atlanta, which is a major reason this mall did not fall on hard times like its sister mall near Lakewood.


Regarding its sister mall, this twin known by several names is located off of what was then Stewart Avenue (now Metropolitan Parkway) near Hapeville and is feature in a later post. Unlike Ansley Mall that caters to a slightly upper class crowd, the other mall fell on hard times and is partly vacant with much of the abandoned portion destroyed by a fire several years ago.


Photos include main entryway, part of the mall, lush vegitation at opposite end of mall next to the Piccadilly (pictured on the right), more of the mall with a Moe's Southwest Grill sign overhead and a view of the center court (click on the image for larger size).

26 comments:

  1. There is way too much red in this mall, but it looks cool.

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  2. According to somewhere I saw on the internet, the mall was renovated to its current state in 1984 and had originally been built in 1968. I found that out AFTER writing the blog. I indeed think the red is a bit gaudy, but you know what I'd do to it and I'm sure the boomers wouldn't thank me :-D

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  3. CVS Pharmacy (probably a former Revco)

    Revco was bought by CVS, but in this case I believe that would've originally been a BIG B DRUGS. Big B was based in Birmingham; the "B" stood for grocery magnate Bruno's (the script B in the Big B logo was originally part of the '50s-'70s Bruno's script insignia).

    Big B was bought by Revco in 1997, and nearly immediately afterward Revco was swallowed by CVS. In Alabama, Big B stores carried Revco signage, but only briefly, as in a couple of months.

    Not sure how deep into Georgia Big B existed, but I'm told it did have a presence in metro Atlanta.

    -TG

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  4. Big "B" Drugs was not original to Georgia and had in fact bought out the Atlanta-based Reed Drug chain in 1988.

    I had no idea where they were from and thought it was some odd way of saying "big bargain". I still found them superior to CVS, though a little lower end. I remember well how they just threw up the Revco banner not even changing the sign only to take it down and replace it with CVS.

    CVS has pretty much divested most of the old Reed/Big B and Revco locations in the Atlanta area. There was a Reed/Big B about two blocks from my old house. It existed as a Reed Drug only a very brief time. I think it still operates as one of the very few strip mall based CVS stores left.

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  5. The drug store site was where the Kroger was originally. The Kroger was closed and a free standing one was built down the street. The Publix site is new. there was a Woolworth's with a lunch counter inside the Mall. Other tenants included the Film Forum a small movie theatre, a pet store and a Baskin Robbins. One of the first video rentoal stores in Atlanta was located in the Mall. For a while in the 80's there was a Cabaret and a Gay bar inside the Mall.

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  6. The drug store site was where the Kroger was originally. The Kroger was closed and a free standing one was built down the street. The Publix site is new. there was a Woolworth's with a lunch counter inside the Mall. Other tenants included the Film Forum a small movie theatre, a pet store and a Baskin Robbins. One of the first video rentoal stores in Atlanta was located in the Mall. For a while in the 80's there was a Cabaret and a Gay bar inside the Mall.

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  7. The southside twin would be Stewart-Lakewood Mall. Both malls had Kroger as the grocery store. I don't recall the orther stores in Stewart-Lakewood, though I'm sure Woodworth's or McCroy would have been the 5 and 10. The Kroger at Stewart-Lakewood became a SupeRx after Kroger relocated in the early 80's, a small greenhouse store now and autoparts store as Kroger relocated in the late 80's to the Stewart-Cleveland intersection as Kroger Citi-Center. It's likely the CVS at Ansley Mall was a Kroger->SupeRx->Treasury Drug->Revco->CVS, as this was the succession in Atlanta. Kroger divested SupeRx in Atlanta to Tressury, then part of JCPenney, and JCPenny divested Treasury to Revco a couple of years prior to buying Eckerd.

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  8. georgia blogger is exactly right. I used to shop at the former Kroger when it was SuperX. It had a larger food selection than a normal drug store due to Kroger moving down the street.

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  9. Would love to do a more in depth study of the much lamented Stewart-Lakewood [Mall] I would love to send scans etc. Stewart-Lakewood was past its prime, but still heavily utilized in the mid seventies. It was a TWO STOREY outdoor mall, with cantilever and grill work if my memory serves me. My aunt had been employed at the Depot at Conley and FT Mac, and this was a convienent and probably novel place for her to shop. They had a Lerner's ther, where I picked out the most beyond stylish Easter dress for the 1975?6 spring and summer. Ansley, by the way, is sort of the 'cool' mall. It has Chapter 11 there, still?

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  10. In its current state Stewart-Lakewood doesn't look like a twin to Ansley. It probably opened much earlier--in the 50s and one of its anchors was a JC Penney dry goods store (the full line dept stores came around '64), which was a JC Penney outlet store for many years before it closed. That area was already quite developed before WWII, so given the availabaility of open land, it would have been one of the first areas to be developed as a shopping center. Stewart-Lakewood looks small today. I would guess that besides Kroger, and JC Penney, there probably was a variety store and a chain drug store. It doesn't look like it was ever two levels, unless there were extensive renovations. The back of the center is a warren of small shop spaces that lead to the center of the plaza's front. This is probably the strangest feature of the center. They now have a few tenants. If they were original, they probably contained the kinds of stores and service businesses that were on the margins of 50s plazas: barber shops, beauty salons, hobbie shops, small loan offices, beverage stores, etc. Alternatively, they may have been part of some failed attempt at reconfiguring space that had been occupied by one of the anchors.

    Two other remnants from the 50s: Toco Hills on Druid Hills at LaVista, which has revitalized in the last 5 or 6 years and Moreland Center, on Moreland Ave SE, below Ormewood---Atlanta Public Library has a photo of that one from '54 or '55. It was anchored by Woolworth, JC Penney, and Kroger. Kroger probably relocated in the 80s--there's an abandoned greenhouse that was replced a few years ago with a new store in a strip further N on Moreland. The plaza still has plenty of tenants, although it's clearly well past its prime.

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  11. I promise I'm going to get to Stewart-Lakewood eventually. It is a rough area and I haven't had time to make a special trip for it. I do know where it is. I was only a street or two away from it this past summer down there on business. There is currently no information about it on the web, and I hope to cover it here soon.

    It sounds like that Stewart-Lakewood may possibly be older than Lenox. If the date I heard quoted was right (1952?) that would make it older than Lenox, but I think it was more like 1962. I have gotten bits and pieces of information about the mall: I first learned about it last fall, and it is one of the two malls I know of in neighborhoods so ghetto that most people do not know they exist.

    On Ansley Mall, it is pretty much everything I said and I guess you can describe it as hip at least for the gay community as it is ground zero for midtown gays.

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  12. Hope you get out there; I have begun a blog southsideatlantamemories.typepad.com
    about all things ssatl. I'll get on a pic of that fab dress and the fab frames I sported from the Pearl Vision located in the strip across from SL. jwc/ms ssam

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  13. I definitely remember a SuperX in Ansley Mall, mid to late 70s.

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  14. I've only been to Ansley once that I can recall, but I grew up in the Capital View area, a mile or so north of Stewart-Lakewood. Some of my earlier memories were going there with my father in the mid '60's. I recall it didn't look very new then, so I would guess it dates to the '50's rather than the early '60's. I don't recall much - a Radio Shack, a hardware store whose name I don't recall, and a Woolworth's. There was a slot-car track there for about a year in the mid-late '60's. In the late '60's or early '70's I recall a Woolco (some sort of "discount" spinoff department store from Woolworth's) showed up in its own separate building on Stewart Ave. near the Mall.

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  15. The Picadilly Cafeteria was originally a Morrison's, which had been in the mall since it opened. Although the cabaret is gone, there is still a gay bar in the mall...it's called New Order and is supposedly Atlanta's oldest surviving gay bar, and its clientele are among Atlanta's oldest surviving citizens.

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  16. I just found this link, scroll down under Ansley Mall and there is a little bit of information on SL.

    http://mall-hall-of-fame.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html

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  17. Ansley Mall has always been my favorite mall, even though it's small. It has a fun, funky feel that photos can't capture, and it has a friendly neighborhood feel you seldom see anymore. Plus, the Picadilly Cafeteria is seriously my favorite place to eat in all of Georgia... totally unique with its cool blend of gay guys, charming blue-haired elderly Southern ladies, and friendly black folks. Wonderful!

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  18. Richard says - -

    The land where Ansley Mall is now located was once an open field. It was much lower, right down at the level of Clear Creek which still runs behind the mall.

    Also, on the land where Kroger has its present stand-alone store (higher ground) were some stables for the horses used by the Old Guard, an honorary part of the Georgia National Guard - - the last remnants of the Georgia cavalry.

    When I was a kid in the 1940s we lived in Morningside and I rode by the site many times. There was a filling station on the west side of Piedmont next to where the creek went under. A short row of store fronts ran along Piedmont from the filling station up to the corner of Monroe (then named Boulevard). I recall that a record store was there around 1950 when the new 45-RPMs became the rage. There was also a kitchen redecorating and appliance store there. Around the corner on Boulevard (Monroe) was an auto repair garage. Down behind all this were open fields where some cows grazed. When Clear Creek overran its banks after a torrential rain, the fields would be flooded.

    Ansley Mall was created with fill dirt to raise the level of those fields. As I recall the Mall opened in 1966.

    The Woolworth’s store moved there when it left its original location on Peachtree in the 10th Street shopping area, where it had been located for many years. The 10th Street shopping area suffered a huge decline when taken over by the hippies in the 1960s - -it became like another world.

    Around 1968 there was a restaurant or delicatessen on the front side of Ansley Mall facing Monroe. It featured casual dining where one could select food from a circular food display - -things like boiled shrimp.

    From time to time one sees references to a movie theater once located at Ansley Mall. That is something of which I have no memory and wonder if it could be correct.

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  19. There's one of those type of malls in Toccoa Georgia.

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  20. More info about the Ansley Mall theater: http://cinematreasures.org/theater/16291/

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  21. When I think of Ansley Mall, I think "quirky but cute" because it has a charm all its own. When I worked nearby, I would stop by the Kroger or eat at Morrison's. They used to have a fantastic hotdog place called Nick's (I think that's the name) that was outstanding. It wasn't much but they always drew a crowd. I'm pretty sure the Hallmark store is still there as well. I always thought it was cool you could go in the front and walk out the back to the other stores.

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  22. I used to live near the Ansley Mall in the 1990s. When I lived there, I worked at the Kroger next door, from the architecture of that store (and many Kroger stores from that era) the store was built in the late 70s early 1980s.

    The Big Star supermarket was a A&P in 1996 (mostly converted to A&P after A&P's buyout of Big Star/Colonial stores in the South East in the early 1990s). In Mid-1996, the A&P was closed and torn down to build the Publix Suparmarket in its place. The A&P Store's interior, from what I remember, had not been modified since the store opened as a Big Star. Considering the interior of the store matched other former Big Star locations (including the A&P I worked at in Buckhead), AND matched many Grand Union stores in the Northeast (when Big Star and Grand Union where the same company). My guestimate is that this store was built between 1978 and 1983, which matches what BigStar/Grand Union was building for stores during the era. To refresh your memory, the store's palette was Red and White (Grand Union's colors), and I mean a TON of Red. Registers, shelving, freezers, deli counter, all in RED. Another notable thing about stores from this era, was the big multi-panel sign above the registers that read "Clean, Fresh, and Good".

    I only remember this much because of the similarities of the store design between the A&P at Ansley Mall, the A&P on Rosewell Road in Buckhead, and a Grand Union store in my hometown in New Hampshire. I just remember walking into interview at the Rosewell Road A&P and just being in awe.. it was just like the store in my hometown (which by then had been demolished and closed)

    I don't remember much about the mall itself, except Woolworth closing in 1997, and going to the New Order once (gay bar) to meet some friends. I have since the metro area so I havent been by recently...

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  23. This mall has changed a lot since the pictures were taken on this website...perhaps it is time for a revisit :)

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  24. What? No pictures of "Baton Bob?" I used to see him almost every time I'd eat lunch at Moe's.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baton_Bob

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  25. growing up we always called Ansley the "gay mall", but mostly not to be mean just kids are descriptive in verbiage.

    Trisha

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  26. Ansley Mall in 1980-81

    Some of my earliest memories of living in Atlanta happened at Ansley Mall, and living just across the street, slightly to the north on 590 Sherwood Avenue, this mall was just a stroll away, and in fact in view from my driveway. In 1980, Kroger was still part of the mall, on the southeastern corner of the mall. the Italian Sausage I was cooking when Howard Cosell announced John Lennon had been shot was bought in that Kroger. On the outside of the mall, facing Monroe Drive were several excellent shops, a bookstore that I fondly remember (but the name escapes me at the moment), near there a small record shop that sold mostly disco and seemed to have a sort of "gay" leaning (again, I wish I could remember the name but not as I type this) most notable to me as the place I found Nelson Slater's "Wild Angel" album, rare even then in 1980 and of course even more-so now, of note as being produced by Lou Reed, and a small movie theater, Film Forum, that showed some great, odd films, some Godard, some cult comedies, and so on. My ex-wife Kathy worked at the Woolworth's lunch counter for a while after leaving the Old Hickory House, a half block up Piedmont from Ansley Mall. Did quite a bit of laundry at that "Laundry Lounge" which was sort of an interesting place for the time, with television and video games. It was also my first sight of openly gay people... my very first visit I was amazed to see the guys strolling around holding hands, even one couple kissed! Ah, 1980... such innocent times.

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