I created this mall "map" from an old aerial photo. I would show interior corridors and tenants, but all I remember is what is shown. The main mallway extended from the northwest entrance to Upton's, and the path to Kmart was one-sided.
Roswell Mall initially had some very modest success. At the time it was built, it was the most remote mall in the Atlanta area serving a more local clientele instead of regional. All of the major shopping malls at that point were within close proximity to I-285 while this one was on the very edge of the suburbs. In any other time period, it likely would not have been built, but 1974 was a time when malls were geared to almost any store and demographic. Its design was simple with cordoroy concrete on most of the structure, high windows functioning as skylights and typical imposing mansard roofs abounding around the entire center. In fact, its design quite strongly resembled Dixie Square in Chicago from the outside. The Richway was also classic design with its wedge skylights and simple metal awning in the front. The Richway sign on the highway was placed above the Roswell Mall sign in an attractive 70's-style script logo since the big sunrise logo would not fit underneath.
The image here shows a slightly different shape Roswell Mall. A large structure was added to the backside of the mall after 1978, which I can only assume was the Roswell Mall branch of the city library. I wish someone could provide me a sketch of how these hallways worked. It looked like a pretty bizarre floor plan overall. If Rich's or another department store, instead of Kmart, got built, would North Point Mall have ever happened?
The Morrison's Cafeteria, though, was second only to the theaters as the most successful inline mall tenant. It had outside windows designed in a 70's rendition of a colonial countryside look with diamond-pointed shutters and windows the length of the side of the building. The sign simply read just "MORRISON'S" in a red serifed font that looked nearly identical to the "Mama's Family" TV show opening letters. It was located on the basement level on the left of the lower level northwest mall entrance. It otherwise was coated with a pale yellow stucco and was accessable just inside the mall. I know this well because my parents used to like to eat there constantly when I was a small child in the early 1980's. The mall entrance was just in big red plain letters reading "MALL".
Sometime after the mall opened, a Kmart was added to the front of the mall as a new anchor. This Kmart connected to the mall between the northwest entrance and Richway, and the mall had a loose front-side mall entrance between the store and the mall itself approximately where Gold's Gym is today. Richway was the south anchor on the mall with the right side facing Holcomb Bridge Road and the front facing Alpharetta Highway.
The 1980's proved a troubling time for the enclosed mall portion of the shopping center. Interest in the mall dwindled, though the anchors remained viable. Between the mall and Richway, a new Upton's was added in 1985, and Waccamaw was also added into the center between Upton's and Richway, further obscuring the mall itself. It is not known if this was actually originally part of the mall, a former anchor or if it was the site of the original theaters. At some point, the Roswell Public Library was in the mall, likely located in that specific location.
While the mall itself was dead by the end of the decade, the theaters, moved by that time to the lower level, continued to thrive. They were located next to Morrison's, which closed in 1987. When Morrison's closed, it left an obvious and very creepy labelscar which was never painted over. A Manchu Wok Chinese restaurant was also located at the mall with an outside entrance along the drive on the backside of Kmart near the northwest mall entrance. That was what I remembered in my 1989 visit where me and mom went to see "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids". That same year, Richway was closed and converted to Target. Little did I know that was the last time I would ever see the inside of the mall, though strange variations of this mall appear in my dreams from time to time. I wondered why I never fathomed the concept of taking pictures of this place.
The early 1990's seemed to be hiding the dead mall from view. I am imagining it was likely sealed off in that time period, but I do not really know. If you were not aware of it, the only indication there was a mall there at all was the red "MALL" sign next to Kmart. It seemed the place should have just remained since nobody noticed anyway, but the 1990's were a hot period of mall demolition, and Roswell Mall's demolition began in 1994 was no surprise overall, even though it was to me at that tender age. The mall was bankrupt, and the only hope was redevelopment.
The funny thing about the Roswell Mall demolition was that it was not a total demolition. Target and Kmart remained unscathed, and parts of the mall remained. All of these renovations were completed in early 1995. While the extruding portions including where Morrison's and the original theater were got demolished, a piece of the mall remained, escalators and all. This area became a new Burlington Coat Factory. A new hallway was also cut into the mall with a better theater, Startime Entertainment, a comedy club and not much else. In that aspect, it was still roughly a mall. It was a depressing, dirt plain corridor that offered far less character than the mall itself, and any evidence of the mall in its original form was gone.
The redeveloped mall, known then as Roswell Town Center, proved to be an initially very successful, but ultimately fading phenomenon. While it worked very well for the first decade, it was only the mall itself that died, not the anchors. The redeveloped hybrid strip mall, however, did otherwise not too many years after the completed overhaul. Target was over 20 years old, and Wal-Mart was forcing them to update most of their old Richway stock to compete. A Super Target opened on Woodstock Road (GA 92) a few miles to the west in 1999, and the old store was closed. Upton's also closed with the chain the same year, leaving another vacancy. Waccamaw went bankrupt later in 2001. Kmart did not last much longer, closing in a restructuring in 2003. While Target was filled by more downscale Value City, the Kmart ultimately went vacant. Nevertheless, the shopping center still had some life left.
After the chaos from 1999-2003, the Kmart was subdivided into a Gold's Gym and Shoe Gallery. It seemed the shopping center was still doing alright, and it was quite unusual with a small outdoor amusement park as part of Startime Entertainment in the back, a comedy club, a two-story Burlington Coat Factory and Value City. The problem was, this would all die off in a short time. Burlington Coat Factory closed around 2005. Startime and the comedy club both closed in 2008, and Value City liquidated its entire chain in 2008 as well. It seems that the strip mall plan ultimately failed harder than the mall itself did.
Today, the area around the mall is creeping into decline, and the remaining strip mall faces a very uncertain future. Bankruptcies, mergers and urban decay all work together to kill off the weaker shopping centers, including Roswell Town Center. It is possible it will come back to life with low end tenants and limp along, but Roswell remains in most areas a very upscale city with fairly strict building codes. The center today is a greater blight than the mall ever was, and with little left of it, time will only tell what happens to it. Perhaps another redevelopment is in store, but the bad economy will likely slow that project for awhile. Nevertheless, it is respectable that the center remained open for business in one form or another with chain retail stores for 35 years. I just wonder, though, how many people ever saw Roswell Mall when it was actually a mall aside from Richway and Kmart. Today, this place only exists in the memories of my childhood that I wish I could go and visit one more time: this time with camera in hand.