Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blue Ridge Mall: Hendersonville, NC

It is funny sometimes how towns get malls that are neither big enough to support them nor are they in a good position to have one.  Less than 20 miles south of Asheville, Blue Ridge Mall is definitely this, but nevertheless it found years of success as a second-tier mall in a second-tier market.  Opened in 1983 and renovated in 2000, the mall is definitely one of the smaller malls of the era at little over 300,000 square feet.  Nevertheless, it is still not dead, anchored today by Belk, JCPenney and Kmart with a Sears hardline store as a junior anchor.  It is also conveniently located on US 64 just west of I-26 between Asheville and Spartanburg, SC.


Aside from these facts, all is not well with Blue Ridge Mall.  The mall has a major vacancy problem, and it is today around 50% vacant.  The mall has no restaurant, it is very plain and simple and it seems to attract a lower income crowd.  The mall has had such little love for it that when Belk Simpson converted to plain Belk, they didn't even center the Belk logo when they took the "Simpson" off the mall sign.  Interestingly, the Kmart actually looks to be an afterthought in the mall.  In fact, there is no access to Kmart except IN the mall!  I am guessing a Sears might have once been planned there.  One interesting note, though, is a Game Stop at the mall that is accessible only from the outside on the front of the mall.


This mall is pretty much a straight shot.  I am standing outside Belk (Simpson) looking toward Kmart.  You wanted a mall?  You got a mall, said the mayor to the townsfolk.

 

Center court is kinda, sorta nice.  Now let's add some planters and fountains, please?

 

Looking in the third court toward Kmart.  I haven't noticed Kmart helping malls much, so why did anyone ever think it was a good anchor?

The vacancy rate at Blue Ridge Mall seems to be very sudden.  I noticed that several stores that had closed in the mall look to have done so recently, and the mall did not even have a chance to cover them up.  Stores included a Hallmark and some kind of children's store as examples.  A Waldenbooks was holding on, but with the planned round of closures, I have to wonder if this and Biltmore Square are both next.  The mall has no food court, no second level and nothing design-wise to draw you to the place.  It seems to me that this mall should have looked more like Three Star Mall and that one look like this one.  The fact is, the mall is owned by Hull Gibson Storey...a mall group that owns a lot of small town malls, many of which are struggling to hold tenants in an increasingly deflating economy in towns with fewer jobs and less money to spend.


This is about as basic of a three-anchor mall as you can get.

 

McGuffey's Restaurant was once here.  On the outside, it had a greenhouse area.  I am not sure when they went out of business, and I know there at least used to be one of these at Asheville Mall.

 

Looking towards the rear main entrance to the mall.  JCPenney and center court are behind me.

 

 

Here is the Kmart mall entrance from two angles.  Note on the last photo the entrance in the background.  Entrances come into the mall from both sides, and these serve as the only entrances to Kmart.  I guess Kmart works not having an outside entrance since their hours pretty much match the mall hours.

 

Penney's features diagonal cut wood painted over with white paint and black trim.  I suspect this wasn't painted over before the 2000 renovation.

 

Waldenbooks hangs on in the mall.  These intrigue me a bit lately since they are apparently an endangered species as Borders attempts to phase them out to save themselves.  Barnes & Noble similarly has shed off B. Dalton and Cole's over time.  I expect them to be gone by next year in this mall.

 

Belk _.  Something just seems very sleazy about Belk refusing to re-center the Belk logo after the Simpson family was bought out of the deal.  This mall entrance is freaking ugly, too.

I really do not know what to say in regards to this mall.   Theories abound in why it is not doing well.  The opening of Biltmore Square 20 years previous I am sure did not help either.  I suspect that both malls are cannabilizing each other.  Hendersonville is a nice town, but it is not a very large town either.  It is more industrial than Asheville, and it really has not had the growth to support a regional mall.    The owners would do well to tear down and redevelop the mall, leaving JCPenney and Belk.  Otherwise, both anchors are likely to leave the mall for a lower-key strip mall or lifestyle center.  The Belk was virtually empty when I visited, and the only tenant that seemed to be doing well was Kmart.   In all, I don't know why Blue Ridge Mall is dying, except that is too small, too close to Asheville, has a boring layout and most of the tenants in the mall are the kind that found they could do better in a strip mall.  I really cannot say what the future of Blue Ridge Mall is, but I do not expect it to last long in its current state.


 

Two angles of the same mall entrance between Belk and Penney's.  The first shows a Game Stop with an outside-only entrance.  The second is the greenhouse that went with McGuffey's.  I remember the time when greenhouses were all the rage.  Now, places that still have them generally front scary Chinese restaurants and title pawn places.

 

Belk Simpson here with a very scary looking combination of 70's architecture and creek stones.

 

Penney's looks 100 percent tacky on the outside.  I'll give it a D+ for a solid design.

 

This mall entrance was drastically modified at some point.  I seem to remember it previously just said "MALL" in big red letters.  I only recently noticed it had a name, and I wonder if that is a recent development.   I think "White Rock Mall" would be a better name, anyway.  It looks like a big, white rock to me.

 

The back entrance did not lose its late 70's/early 80's trappings.  Mansard roof?  Check.  Plain, dough colored brick?  Check.  Sickly, lonely tree?  Check.

12 comments:

  1. This place has an almost identical layout to Eden Mall in Eden, North Carolina. Unfortunately, Eden Mall is even sadder.

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  2. Hendersonville is one of North Carolinas most rapidly growing areas, being popular with retirees and central to Asheville and Greenville-Spartanburg. Blue Ridge Mall is a product of the beginnings of the growth spurt, from a time when a trip up road to Asheville or down to Greenville was a seen as tax dollars leaving town and a mall will fix that mentality.

    Sadly the interior is so non descript that I'm surprised that it had as many customers in the mall as pictured. As long as Kmart hangs in, the mall likely won't change. But if Kmart dies, its a good candidate for leveling all but the Belk and building and open air lifestyle center.

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  3. I've noticed that nearly every mall-based Kmart I've ever seen had an entrance only from the mall. Also, it's kind of weird that they placed the store at such an angle, which is usually indicative of the Kmart coming first. Anyone know more about the history of this place?

    Here's a map: http://www.shopblueridgemall.com/BRM_images/brm_lease_large.jpg . I know that E23 was most recently a Plej's.

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  4. I was there in 1999 and 2000. I'm from Belarus myself. The mall is a wonderful place.

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  5. Hi! I lived in HVL when the mall opened. K-Mart did open first, long before the rest of the mall. When you go in the door near K-Mart, the entrance to the mall to the right was walled off. Eventually the whole mall opened.

    Having a K-Mart in town was WONDERFUL because before you'd have to plan a day in Asheville to do shopping. All we had was King's, which became Rose's about the same time the mall opened, and that was a tiny department store. K-Mart was to 1983 what Wal-Mart is today.

    The Waldenbooks was wonderful, too. HVL had only a couple of tiny, tiny bookstores at that time. Asheville only had a Waldenbooks. The Books-A-Million and Barnes And Noble came to Asheville much later. Considering the Waldenbooks was about the same size as the one at the Asheville mall, this was a huge win for HVL.

    Most of the places I remember at the mall have no modern equivalent anymore. There was a nice video arcade with some great games. There was a toy store. There was a record store where I bought my first record. These things are all relics of the past now. I'm not sure what the mall offers today. I went to this mall once after the remodel, and it seemed sort of empty and lifeless. You have to remember there was NOTHING for teens and young people to do in HVL, so the mall was a gathering spot.

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  6. A must-see small mall is Southgate Mall in northeastern North Carolina, in fact, the ONLY mall in that 16 county extremely rural area. Built in 1967, it still retains much of its late 60s architecture yet is surprisingly well-occupied and solidly anchored by Belk, JCPenney and Burke's Outlet despite the fact that the Hampton Roads, VA metro with its seven malls is only 45 minutes drive away! Sky City dude should take a trip there sometime!

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  7. I believe that the Blue Ridge School for Boys occupied the mall location till 1968, when it was demolished. It was a private school, and my uncle went there. We have some old home movies from the 50s, of a football game.

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  8. E23 had Plej's for a short time, before that it was Eckerd's. They had their own eye doctor there, and that's where I went with my sister to get her first pair of glasses. In the last year pretty much everything in that section has moved to the Belk end of the mall to make way for the new TJ Maxx. None of them left the mall all together though.
    Belk's is remodeling and has split the store up for now. They moved the women's department to another vacant store until the remodeling is done.
    The book store has closed, and nothing has replaced it. The TJ MAxx coming in made things shuffle around. The only thing that has closed lately is Walden's Books, but nothing else has been added.

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  9. Look at Macon Mall now! The stupid hull storey gibson company replaces mall beauties with dull malls. In the Macon Mall renovation I like what they did, but they could of kept the fountains!!! And if no one has noticed... ALL THEIR MALLS LOOK LIKE THIS!!!!!

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  10. Kmart is closed now. I hope we get a Kohl's or Target.

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  11. Toys r us express is in the blue Ridge mall now also in Hendersonville next to the old Walden books. There is also a K jewelers in across from bad bath and beyond.

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  12. Eckerd drugs was there also it had the out side door where game stop is now. the drug store opened the same time as the mall did.

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