Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Milledgeville Mall/Hatcher Square Mall: Milledgeville, GA

Milledgeville Mall, originally known as Hatcher Square Mall, is one of several quirky small malls found in middle Georgia.  It seems that all of these were built by the same company, since they are inside almost total clones of each other.  The others I noted as clones were Dublin Mall and Statesboro Mall.  All of these malls share a common thread: they are partly a strip mall, very small, all have a Belk (formerly Belk Matthews) and JCPenney and all contained at least one large store not accessible to the mall itself.  In all, these small town malls are a dramatic example of trying to bring a mall to even the smallest cities: something that would never happen today.


Milledgeville, however, is a city that has seen a significant amount of growth since the mall first first opened with a trade area of 100,000 people.  The mall, however, is one of the very smallest at 231,000 square feet, according to the mall's fact sheet.  It recently was very fully tenanted with a Belk, Goody's and a JCPenney along with Office Max.  Goody's and Office Max in particular appear to either have been subdivided from a larger department store or were added in the 2007 renovation, though I am guessing this was probably a discount anchor such as Wal-Mart.  If that former tenant was a larger department store, the possible tenant I could only assume.  Since it opened in 1972, it was renovated twice since it was built: first in 1986 and again in 1998 [1].  I wish that I had seen the mall prior to the renovation, because the fountain was removed in the last one.


Lengthwise view of the mall from front the entrance to JCPenney.  The center court area is in the foreground.  The first photo is an artsy photo of center court with a focus on the skylight that cast the rest of the mall in a dusky glow. 


JCPenney sign overhangs the back part of the mall approaching JCPenney.  Waldenbooks was in this part.


The "JCPenney Court" complete with ramps and empty planters.


Next to JCPenney is this very dark and narrow entrance corridor.  This apparently serves as the only actual entrance to JCPenney.


Looking back lengthwise from in front of JCPenney toward the front entrance.

In layout, the mall is a very basic plus-shape with a super basic center court that serves as nothing more than as a center of all the mall hallways.  The mall has a rather strange mix of tenants overall.  It has a Rite-Aid (former Eckerd) on the front of the mall with both an inside and outside entrance.  It is located in front of the Belk mall entrance.  A Mexican restaurant also fronts the mall with no mall access.  Other tenants of the mall are the typical Hull Storey Gibson set such as Maurice's, Rue 21, formerly Waldenbooks and a few other mall staples.  Waldenbooks in particular closed early this year.  A Chinese restaurant is also in the mall, and overall the mall looked the healthiest of the three semi-rural malls.


Approaching center court with front entrance in the background.


The Belk wing is very tiny.  This is about all of it.  Rite-Aid (formerly Eckerd) is on the left and additional Belk space is on the right at the end of the hallway.


Rite-Aid and Belk.


Goody's former mall entrance.  This would make a perfect Books-A-Million or Borders.


Inside Goody's, the celing looks rough but the floor looks fine.

Another element I find interesting in the mall is the ramped area that is in front of JCPenney.  This area goes up with a couple planters (with no plants) and then levels out in front of the JCPenney entrance.  In this area are two narrow rear mall entrances as well.  I guess the ramped area was to provide distinction, which is nice since the mall would otherwise be uninteresting and uninviting.  Nevertheless, it is nice to see a mall at all in a small city that is located quite far from all the major interstates.  This may change in the future, however, since I-14 is planned to eventually come very close to the city along what is now an under-construction basic four-lane highway known inappropriately as the "Fall Line Freeway".  Such a project would either boost the mall or kill it.


Looking back from former Goody's toward Belk.


Heading out of the mall.


Milledgeville Mall's sign looks to be original but renovated for the renaming in the 90's.

Goody's bankruptcy, however, left an obvious hole in the mall.  It seems that Goody's positioning as a prominent anchor in all three malls left a mark that revealed how much small town malls are struggling with anchor losses due to mergers, bankruptcies and an overall decline in the standard of living in outlying areas.  Unlike larger cities that can retrofit with lifestyle centers and big boxes, anchor losses at even the healthiest small town malls are often devastating.  Thankfully, Belk and JCPenney have not abandoned the center, and Belk's commitment to small town markets has provided at least a modest department store to towns that otherwise would have none.  Its previous local partnership as Belk Matthews once dominated this region, and it still remains today without Mr. Matthews as the merchant.   The Goody's is also hardly dead weight since it is a good candidate for a large bookstore chain, which is desperately needed in a college town since Waldenbooks closed.  Books-A-Million could easily fill the space vacated by Goody's, which would undeniably draw traffic to the mall.  Obviously, a mall so small has trouble competing with better retail options in Macon and Augusta, but it seems that the mall could still offer more than it has right now.


Next to the main mall entrance, the mall looks more like a goofy strip mall.  A Mexican restaurant with no mall access, the dead Goody's and Office Max, which has no mall access, is lined up.


JCPenney made no effort architecturally at all when this store was built.  They didn't even attach an outside entrance.  Shoppers actually enter the corridor in the door there, which goes into the mall right in front of the mall entrance.


Belk, featuring plain white arches.  Note the distance between the Belk sign and the door, which previously included "Matthews".


Rite-Aid (formerly Eckerd) has its own outside entrance on the front of the mall.  This was typical in older, second-tier malls.


When Hatcher Square became Milledgeville Mall, it got this stodgy new urbanist brick entrance, which looks gaudy and out of place in comparison to the mall.

Milledgeville Mall I am doubting will be going anywhere soon, but I think a better job could be done filling this mall.  A nice bookstore, a small expansion and a more tasteful renovation I'm sure would help.  A mall with 40-50 stores would obviously be more of a draw than the 20 odd inline stores it has now.  What will happen there is unknown, but it is hoped that the local economy is strong enough to support this quirky little mall.  Milledgeville itself is in a good position to become a much larger city in the future if the economy improves.  It has several industries, a major state college, a popular lake and is centrally located.  It is also a bit more scenic than other areas in that it is more mountainous due to its position on the "fall line".  I do think that if the city starts growing again that the mall will also expand and improve.  I don't, however, like the new name and wonder why they changed it.  Because it is lesser known, I also was not able to provide much history of it, which I hope to uncover in time.  While I do not think this mall is particularly outstanding in any way, I think it still has been shortchanged of its potential where it could look better, be a little bigger and offer more to the local population.  

[1] http://www.hullstoreygibson.com/recent_news/HSM%20Renovation.pdf

28 comments:

  1. today your story popped up in my google alerts for Milledgeville - as I work in tourism for the city. to give you some background on the mall, my grandfather is actually the one who built it - Al Hatcher- hence the namesake. he also built several other malls throughout georgia which is probably why you noticed similarities in style/architecture.

    it was actually a fairly large deal when the did the name change a few years back and i even wrote a letter to the editor in regards to Hull-Storey's lack of research in changing the name and their quotes in the paper. My grandfather was known as the "man who moved Milledgeville" because there were no stores or retail centers out on Hwy 441 when he built the mall. And now it is one of the busiest intersections in town.

    great article!!

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  2. Great article on Milledgeville's Mall. I agree they are really lacking a bookstore in the area and a Books A Million would be PERFECT in the former Goody's location!

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  3. There is another mall on the same model in Georgia -- in Waycross. The Mall at Waycross has the same design, the same original anchors (Belk, Penneys, Goody's, and a Sears store that was added behind Belk about 12 years ago. Goody's is gone, of course, leaving an empty space, and Sears closed its small department store on May 9 of this year. Waycross' mall is struggling as well, and would be closed if it wasn't for Belk and Penneys. Like the other malls in your post, there is an intriguing mix of national chains (Rue 21, Foot Locker, Claire's, Cato) as well as funky local shops (including a teddy bear factory that is no relation to the national chains).

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    1. My father Al Hatcher built Hatcher Square in Milledgeville and Hatcher Point in Waycross that's why they have the same dedigns. I personally think the reason both are struggling is because the new owners are money hungry and charge to much for rent plus on top of the rent they get a percentage of any profit stores make

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  4. How much does Mall at Waycross look like these? It has no website and obviously isn't Hull Storey Gibson which makes me wonder if it has been renovated. I am aware that mall was called Hatcher Point Mall (like Hatcher Square). Unfortunately, I haven't been through Waycross since 1992. I am betting the Sears wing will end up closing if it has no outside access otherwise.

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  5. The look is fairly close. The same basic cross shape applies, with approximately the same size as these other malls. When you enter the front entrance, Penneys will be to your right down the longer hall, Belk to your left, and the empty Goody's straight ahead beyond the mall's center. The Sears wing can only accomodate 4 spaces, and has one outside entrance, tucked away behind the back of Belk (hard to find if you aren't looking). Surprisingly, there is a tattoo parlor in that wing, but no other space is occupied. It doesn't look renovated to me; the flooring is brick and tile -- a relic of the 1960s-early 70s style. Perhaps I can find some photographs for you.

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  6. I just found photos on this website:
    http://www.wheelerkolb.com/component/option,com_hotproperty/task,view/id,28/Itemid,26/

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  7. there was a walmarton the mall were goodys and officemax went to this mall in 1989 waycross mall had a walmart were pennys is pennys was next to pantry pride a&p was in parking lot miledgeville mall

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  8. Yeah, the Wal-Mart moved out in either the late 90's or early 2000's to a SuperStore just a few miles away. Before that, Wal-Mart took up the entire Goody's/Office Max space. I drive by this mall at least three or four times per year as it's on our way to my in-laws house, but I've never been inside. I always assumed it would be mostly dead. It's good to see it's still alive and kicking.

    As far as I-14, it's not even going to be a controlled access highway for the most part. I don't think it will carry more traffic than US441 currently does and 441 practically wraps around the mall. The only thing this mall has to worry about from that perspective is any attempt by 441 to bypass town. They have a habit of doing that with 441 but with all the construction they've done in the past decade in the area I imagine if bypassing Milledgeville were even on the table, they would've done so already.

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  9. Hm, this is a cool little mall. I like ones where there are Kmarts inside, haha. Good work on the blog!

    http://superkmart.blogspot.com/

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  10. The Wal-Mart moved out in the early to mid-90s. Prior to Wal-Mart the spot was a Woolworth/Woolco store.

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  11. JT:
    Long time, my man. I went to the Milledgeville Mall in the early 90s when it was Hatcher Square Mall. Until 1994 or so the Belk store appeared to have not been renovated since its opening. The front sign (sadly I didn't take a picture) was retro 1972 in all-lower-case letters and looked like a wedge. This mall is something to be exploited due to Lake Sinclair's proximity and the movement of many to outlying towns . The Goody's/Office Max was one store which was a Grant's if I remember what I read. Wal-Mart came in later and left in '92. Bud's took the space over and Wal-Mart had a clearance center my old Wal-Mart store manager, Gene Casey, ran. The biggest enemy of the mall is its landlocked status; how far can it expand? In a college town, even with the ravages of layoffs from Rheem and the prison, there is room for a good bookstore.

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  12. There's hope for the Goody's spaces at Dublin and Milledgeville Malls. While its not a bookstoe, I've heard that TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls among other stores is looking into a ton of these old Goody's spaces around the state for expansion since their stores are doing fairly well in this economy. I'm fairly certain the old Goody's at Waycross mall is already being renovated into a TJ Maxx and I've seen them popping up in Malls and strip centers more and more around the Atlanta Metro too.

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  13. Your caption "JCPenney made no effort architecturally at all when this store was built. They didn't even attach an outside entrance. Shoppers actually enter the corridor in the door there, which goes into the mall right in front of the mall entrance" is incorrect. The entrance in your JCPenney exterior picture is not a mall entrance but a real JCP entrance. The brick-arch look was actually built in the last year or two, long after the 2007 renovation. before the brick-arch look was built, there was still an entrance to JCP there; it just looked like a square hole in the wall. To the right of your JCPenney picture is the actual mall side entrance that is opposite the one in your fifth photo. I'm surprised you didn't photograph the exterior of this mall entrance; it is not hard to see by any means, and looks like a miniature version of the main front entrance.

    The story I was told about the Hatcher name was that a Hatcher family owned the land that the mall was built on, and to commemorate them after the land was sold, the mall was named after them. I find the first comment (anonymous) to be more believable - however, there is a fenced-ion family cemetery in the woods to the right of Office Max with the letter H on it (Hatcher?). I haven't been able to get to it yet, but I plan to try someday.

    As for the Wal-Mart, I can remember when it was Wal-mart clearance; I was very young. Apparently when I was only a few months old the actual store moved out of the mall to a location that is actually closer to Milledgeville. It was not a Supercenter, but it was a decent-sized store, common for the 1990s. In 2003 or so, it moved again, back towards the mall and then past it, to a Supercenter.

    The exterior mall sign is actually not the original sign. It could be considered the third or fourth sign the mall had. I remember a really outdated sign with an outdated logo on it, but I was young and I don't remember many details. I think it was when Goody's and Office Max opened that the sign was replaced by a tall sign that also had what movies were playing at the Carmike Cinema displayed on it, in a letter board type of sign that you usually find under restaurant signs (forgive me, I don't know the professional term for that kind of sign). Then, when the mall was renovated in 2007, the sign was again replaced. The third sign looked very much like the current sign, but just shaped differently. "Milledgeville Mall" was in a little square that was next to electronic message board. Only after a few weeks was that sign replaced by the current one, for reasons I do not know.

    The old Wal-Mart space may have actually been Wal-Mart originally. I'm only guessing this, because looking at an aerial photo, that space is almost twice as big as the JCPenney and Belk spaces. There was space left over behind Goody's and Office Max that went unused due to the fact that it was not visible from the road, until just in the past few months when one of those for-profit "universities" opened up there.

    I have lived in Milledgeville all my life and tend to remember details about malls and other retail activity around here. But, I'm only 19 years old so my memory doesn't exactly extend back very far. This explains why I remember Wal-Mart Clearance yet I have no memory of the Belk sign ever reading Belk Matthew's (I do, though, remember the sign at the Macon Mall saying Belk Matthew's). I also heard the rumor about TJMaxx, from someone who cuts hair in the hair salon in the mall.

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  14. Belk Matthews I recall was all over Middle Georgia around 2003. Since the Hatcher family influenced malls in the region, I noted both the Dublin and Statesboro Malls are clones to this one and both had Belk Matthews. Perhaps I was wrong and this was a legacy Belk Gallant store instead, but I do know that Belk Matthews all but disappeared after 2003 except for the Macon and Houston County stores.

    Thanks for the information on the mall signs: the current one really does look old-school. I guess I finally also got the answer to the broken up anchor in all of the above-mentioned malls: Woolco, which later became Wal-Mart. Old Woolco and Kuhn's Big K stores both did wonders for Wal-Mart's early expansion strategy.

    Perhaps the mall is landlocked, but that big Woolco/Wal-Mart space provides possibilities for expansion. I really do wonder why small malls aren't marketed better: they could make them as good as any strip mall by luring in the right tenants such as those found in the newer big boxes. The ugly anchors also could use a real facelift. Goody's I wish really wasn't coming back not because it doesn't help, but because it creates an overkill of lower-middle department stores offering no incentive to shop there for anything besides clothes in those stores. I bet the young population in the town as a whole now completely despises this mall.

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  15. We don't necessarily despise it... we just have no use for it. And I don't know anything about Goody's "coming back." The owners of the Peebles clothing chain have bought the Goody's name and apparently are going to open a lot of stores with it, but I haven't heard anything about one here. The rumor is that a T.J. Maxx is going to open in the old Goody's.

    I know the Belk here WAS a Belk-Matthews - I'm just starting to wonder if the Matthews sign was taken down at our location much sooner than at others. I vividly remember the Matthews sign at Macon Mall, but I have no memory of it ever appearing in Milledgeville.

    In the restroom hallway at the Belk here, there is a framed newspaper advertisement for the grand opening of the Belk-Matthews in downtown Milledgeville, long before the mall ever opened. The building that once house Belk still exists downtown, and their very old logo that actually says "Belk's" is still featured on the marble-like floor of the entryway. The newspaper ad, though, does say Belk-Matthews, I believe.

    Yes, according to mother, who has also lived here all her life, the original large anchor was Woolco. I also remember that the Save-a-lot in the parking lot was once an A&P and the Ruby Tuesday sits on the site of a Shoney's. I really want to find some pictures of the pre-2007 appearance of the mall for you; it was very 70s but very unique. I'll keep trying...

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  16. Ah, here we go: http://www.hullstoreygibson.com/Development/HSM_renovation/hsm_renovation.htm

    There are quite a few pictures of the mall during renovation. They could give you a general idea of what the mall was like before 2007, but unfortunately there are no pictures of the fountain, or of any of the mall really prior to construction. There were mirrored ceiling panels, with dark wooden beams running the length of the ceiling.

    For some pictures of the mall's previous sign, go to http://www.hullstoreygibson.com/, scroll down and click on "Click here for OTHER RECENT & ARCHIVED NEWS". At the very bottom of that page, in the right column, is a picture of Ruby Tuesday at Milledgeville Mall. Click on it, and there will be some pictures during construction. The mall sign is visible in the 11th and 12th photos. You have to follow the links from the home page because somehow all the pages you go through have the same URL, http://www.hullstoreygibson.com/, which if entered into the address bar will only take you to HSG's home page.

    I'm still looking for photos from before renovation began, or perhaps even before the 1986 renovation. Those would be new to me as well.

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  17. Gee, the mall looked a LOT better BEFORE the renovation :(

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  18. Also...I found pics of the Dublin Mall renovation that showed the mall entrance as Belk Matthews.

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  19. The mall had tile floors throughout - not tiles like you find in other malls like the Macon Mall, but larger tiles similar to those in Walmarts, Targets, etc. Most were white, but there was a sort of lavender-ish color on tiles running the edges of the corridors. Or something like that. My memory is fuzzy.

    A few years before the 2007 renovation, the mall exterior had an awful color scheme of pink, green, and some dark shade of salmon - that's the best way I know to describe it. The neutral tones were painted over the entrances and Eckerd some time during the early 2000s, I guess.

    This is what I was talking about, with the first incarnation of the mall's third sign circa 2007: http://www.hullstoreygibson.com/Development/FM_renovation/FM_readerboard.jpg. It looked just like this, except the name was different and there was no logo, and the point thing that is on top of the current sign was over the part where the name was on this one, too. The MM sign was taller than this one, though.

    Maybe the mall entrance sign read Belk Matthews and the exterior sign just read Belk. That could have been the case at Milledgeville and Dublin Malls; I just don't know why they would do it that way. I know by the time Belk in MM expanded into the small store space to the right of its mall entrance, it was simply Belk and not Belk Matthews.

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  20. It has been announced that T.J.Maxx is going to open in the former Goody's, and construction has already begun. This has happened already to two of Hull Storey Gibson's malls, in New Bern, NC, and Lake City, FL.

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  21. George P. BurdellMarch 5, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    T.J.Maxx is also opening in the Dublin Mall.

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  22. The original large department store that was subdivided between Goodys and Office Max was Woolworth's. I worked there when it was a thriving business and community supporter. They held fashion shows inside the Mall of their clothing, easter egg hunts inside the store at Easter, costume contests during Halloween with a clown handing out candy to the kids throughout the store while the parents shopped. There was a store cafe and many wonderful departments to shop.

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  23. Was this a large Woolworth or a Woolco?

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  24. I remember going to Belk's with my mom and grandma way back in the day. They would always buy me clothes and put a little car at the bottom of the box. I loved playing with my car while they tried to make me put on my scratchy new clothes. Hatcher Square Mall was one of my first memories of shopping.

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  25. As other's have said, one of the original two anchors at Hatcher Square/Milledgeville Mall was Woolworth's. It later became Woolco. The fist Wal-Mart in Milledgeville occupied the space after Woolco shut down. The JCPenney store was added a few years after the mall had opened, hence the "tacked-on" appearance. The original mall also contained a Martin Twin Cinema. It was converted to retail space sometime in the 1980s about the time the current Carmike cinemas (located to the rear of the mall property) was opened. I, too, miss the center court fountain. It made an otherwise dull mall somewhat interesting.

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  26. I have lived in Milledgeville my entire life and I was born in 1972. When I was a child, Woolworth was located in this mall where the Office Max is located and there was a movie theater inside the mall on the same end where we went and watched Smokey and the Bandit in 1977.

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  27. I remember going to this mall many times while attending Georgia College 1972-74. Woolworths was at the north end and Belks at the south. A liquor store called "The Cork Shop" was on the right as you entered the main entrance but it had no mall entrance. On the right was a Radio Shack and down the left wing a Hallmark Card shop. No food court of course but I do remember two casual eating places.

    On the north wing, on the left just before you got to Woolworths was the Martin theater. Single screen in those days it had about 350 seats and the box office opened into the mall. One of the above comments refers to it as a twin and on another site there is mention of it as a triple. While they could have split the original they would have needed to absorb some more space to fit in three.

    There was a Hardee's in the front parking lot.

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