The Mall at Shelter Cove is located in a very popular tourist area that has grown substantially over the years. It is actually now part of the Savannah metropolitan area, oddly grouped into Georgia despite being near the heart of South Carolina Lowcountry. Indeed, Georgians make up a substantial part of the tourism of the island, and resort development abounds on the island. However, this development has proven a bit more midmarket than originally assumed. Cars in the parking lot of the mall did not suggest the crowds I am accustomed to seeing at the upscale malls in Atlanta. In fact, I am not sure if a mall is even really appropriate on the island today as tourism wanes in the off-season and the crowd is noticeably more elderly than what is needed for a viable upscale mall.
Center court strongly focuses on the spatial and elaborate vaulted ceiling treatments that provide a grand presence for an otherwise small mall. A similar style is noted at Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah and Shannon Mall near Atlanta. It is still uplifting nonetheless, and it captures light in such a way to minimize excess shadow.
When The Mall at Shelter Cove opened on April 18, 1988, its original anchors were Belk and Jordan Marsh. It is not known if this was a Belk partnership store originally, and if so I cannot find any evidence. Jordan Marsh had its only South Carolina location at the mall. The mall itself is rather small, but somewhat elegantly designed. The mall is surrounded by trees and lush landscaping, and it is far more shady than the usual mall in the middle of a blazing hot reservoir-sized parking lot. In fact, the main mall entrance has a thick arbor canopy covering the walkway, which is a pretty unique touch that screens the mall quite well. The mall's developers tried very hard to create an air of elegance and beauty at the center, and the design is very eye-catching. It is in fact one of the prettiest malls I have seen for its small size. I also vaguely remember this mall, since I was there with family in summer 1988 eating at the Fuddrucker's next to the mall while it was still brand new. The last is one of those weird memories you wonder why and how you still remember.
The two main concourses are quite narrow, but not suffocating and office-like like many of the 1970's malls. This is because the vaulted ceiling treatments complete with significant natural lighting continues throughout the mall. It gives the mall somewhat of an outdoor feel while remaining climate controlled. The last photo is looking east while the first two are west, and it includes the soon to be closing Waldenbooks.
If I had not shown you the previous pics, this mall would not seem as interesting. Its layout is otherwise a very basic late 70's/early 80's mall, and it is nearly identical in footprint to West Georgia Commons Mall in LaGrange, GA.
Over time, the mall saw a few changes. Jordan Marsh disappeared in 1990, and the space was taken over by JCPenney in 1991. JCPenney apparently was marginally successful at the mall, closing in a restructuring in 2000. That same year, the mall was dramatically upscaled when Saks Fifth Avenue took over the space vacated by JCPenney. Saks Fifth Avenue continued to operate at the mall until 2004, when the store was then downgraded to an Off 5th outlet as the mall was beginning to have trouble and losing stores. Somewhere in that time, Belk also added a second location to the mall off the back of center court, which surprisingly never was considered by Parisian. The mall also changed hands in 2004 coming under management of Petrie Ross Ventures, who lobbied the city council to allow a 12 screen theater to be added to the mall in 2008, citing it was essential to revive the ailing mall.
Anchors from east to west are shown here including the Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th Outlet (formerly JCPenney and Jordan Marsh), Belk Men's off center court and Belk Women's. The Belk Men's is fronted by a very small food court area offering no national chains.
This one of the two rear entrance corridors seemed a little odd in the planning. Perhaps they were both added after Belk tacked on their second store, because they just seem like an elegant hallway with no stores.
The new owners, too, were really emphasizing the importance of the theater insisting, "If the theater does not get approved, this mall will be on deadmalls.com"  The plan was to try to get Saks to vacate their Off 5th store and replace it with a movie theater, whick Saks refused to do. The city also tabled the decision, so the future looks very frightening now for the mall. The mall has lost Ann Taylor, Crabtree & Evelyn, Bombay Co., White House Black Market and Hallmark over the past year, and the owner then stated after the loss of the theater option that the mall will inevitably decline . The Waldenbooks at the mall also made the nationwide closing list, taking yet another key tenant. All of this is unfortunately a very sad course of events for the over 20 year old center that has aged extremely well otherwise. The city should have tried far harder than they did to save this mall with the economy in the shape it is in, and the fact that Belk just finished expanding their store proves that with the right mix the mall is still viable. However, the lack of planning for the national retail hurricane may leave Belk the last store still standing when its blows over.
The first photo was of the front entrance court, and this is the front entrance itself. On the left is Jos. A Bank and on the right, Talbots. Why does Jos. A Bank abbreviate anyway when they never say that in the ads?
Just outside the front entrance is this distinct arbor and sitting area.
Looking back at the almost concealed main entrance. The arbor worked quite well if that was their intention to hide how to get inside.
The same main entrance a bit further back in the parking lot.
Inside, the mall tenant roster reads more like a modern-day lifestyle center, though that seems to be increasingly less so. Jos. A Bank, Banana Republic, Talbots, Williams-Sonoma and Chico's are all found within the mall. A few more regular stores are there as well, including Waldenbooks (closing by 2010) and Victoria's Secret. Unfortunately, these will all be gone within the next couple years if nothing is done. What is worse is that the economy is not just affecting retail, but also wreaking total havoc on the tourist market that the mall depends on. Despite A-list tenants, the mall has quite a few vacancies throughout, and trendy stores catering to a typical teenage crowd seem to be very limited (I noted a PacSun). Also, and most importantly, Saks Fifth Avenue obviously was a reach for the market. Since then, the downgrading of the store has shattered the mall's upscale image, and this is made more difficult since Saks Fifth Avenue refuses to vacate their outlet store since they are in a long-term lease. Of course, when that lease ends will anything fill that void? Both Belk stores, however, are doing phenomenal. It is a strange situation overall, and the fact an island has its own mall is quite unique at that.
Saks "Off 5th" Avenue, formerly JCPenney and Jordan Marsh. Note the labelscar in the second photo.
Belk Men's and Belk Women's, respectively.
This rear mall entrance really does not seem dated at all. For a struggling mall, it has aged very well.
As to the mall itself, it is one of the easiest to miss malls ever. If you were not specifically looking for it, you might mistake it for a strip mall or office building of some sort. It also does not have any concentration of retail around it since the major retail is not concentrated anywhere due to strict city covenants. All commercial development on the island must adhere to specific codes on overall design, and a very strict sign ordinance makes an obvious mall or business sign not possible. Overall, trying to find a chain store in general is quite an eye strain when attempting to read small, wood engraved signs in front of buildings that do not match their normal suburban equivalents. With that, this mall blends into the scenery almost too well. It seems that at that, it also is quite a sleepy mall compared to major city malls such as Oglethorpe in Savannah, the Charleston malls or the over-the-top Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach. Considering everything, I would reasonably call the mall quaint to describe this tiny boutique mall in one of the most popular, but less hyped coastal resort towns on the Atlantic seaboard. I just hope in the future this mall is still around.
From here, the mall looks like a junior "Mall at Columbia" in Maryland.
And, of course, the sign. This looks straight 90's to me.
 Faber, Jim. "Will a movie theater be coming to a mall near you?" Island Packet. February 9, 2008.
 Faber, Jim. "Questions still linger about doomed mall theater" Island Packet. April 3, 2008.