Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Richland Mall: Columbia/Forest Acres, SC

Richland Mall was the first mall in Columbia.  Opened in 1961, the mall was a conventional early open-air center that provided the first complete suburban shopping experience up to 1969 when Dutch Square was completed across town.  Later on, both malls found themselves eclipsed by Columbia Place, which offered a premier shopping experience comparable to large cities.  At this point, reason says that Richland was too old and too small, and that redevelopment into simply a strip mall or something different was necessary.  However, an Australian real estate firm had other plans: in fact, big plans.  Those plans culminated in what is being presented here: a large two story shopping mall that rose up from the dust of a much smaller open-air mall.  It would be a mall that would be so high-end and so elegant that it would crush the competition.  Instead, it caused Columbia to be severely over-retailed.  This new mall was much larger, glitzy, and high-end.  It was re-dubbed Richland Fashion Mall to emphasize its now far elevated status over its simple roots. 

Richland Mall in itself is in a strange location.  It is far enough from the interstate that it does not benefit from it and close enough to downtown that it does not take advantage of the suburban markets as much as the in-town potential.  Its location is at the intersection of Forest Dr (SC 12) and N Belt Line Rd (SC 16).  The reason for its strange in-town location is obviously that it was built before the interstates arrived: a situation that caused the failure of quite a few mid-century shopping centers that did not plan for the impact of interstate travel.  In layout, it was likely similar to former Harding Mall in Nashville, TN.  It had one major anchor, a large three-level J.B. White department store built in the center.  Other stores in the original mall were Berry's on Main (a mid-20th century downtown department store), Colonial/Big Star, Winn-Dixie, S&S Cafeteria, Woolworth's and a movie theater on an outlot.  A skating rink was also in the original center at one point.  It was the city's first mall, possibly the state's first mall and a classic first generation mall, which tended to make sentiments toward the massive redevelopment somewhat less than positive.  Photos and information are difficult to find on the early center, and no aerial photos seem to be available showing what it once looked like.

Entering from northeast entrance next to Barnes & Noble.  Note the fountain and elevator ahead.  The first photo is the same court and same fountain from the backside.



More views of the southeast court and fountain.  This is the biggest mall fountain I have seen since Cumberland Mall's pond and waterfall was dismantled in 1989.

The radical transformation to small open-air mall to large two-level shopping center came in 1989.  The mall adjacent to White's was demolished and the two-level enclosed mall there today was built in its place on each side of the existing remaining JB White store, making the existing White's the integral and literal center of the new development.  Shoppers had to pass through the White's to go from one end of the mall to another.  What was once a mid-market mall with local offerings was replaced with a behemoth featuring two unfamiliar and expensive stores balancing a mall with likewise high-end shops above and beyond what old Richland Mall offered.  To deal with the small footprint, the mall was also surrounded and even covered by parking decks in a city spread out enough not to normally need them.  More than likely, the original mall was dying in the face of newer, bigger, more convenient climate controlled malls across town, but the market research that produced re-developed Richland Fashion Mall was non-existent and offensive to local shoppers.

Mall entrance to what was originally Bonwit Teller on the lower level.  This later operated as Dillard's and, briefly, Blacklion.

Looking along the lower level between Belk and the southeast entrance.  With the help of Barnes & Noble, this is the most successful portion of the mall.  Barnes & Noble is on the right.

Barnes & Noble mall entrance from lower level.  While this appears from the outside to be two levels, it actually is in fact is a one level store.  Barnes & Noble was added onto the mall later.

White's at Richland Mall is ironic.  It was the first department store at the mall and it appears to be the last.  It stood there twice as the mall around it sank into obscurity.  White's was joined in 1989 with Birmingham-based Parisian and New York-based upscale Bonwit Teller [another link].  Both department stores, however, were completely unfamiliar to the market, and their inclusion led to the currently rocky history of the center.  Parisian hangs on almost forgotten in Michigan with all of their Southern stores (their home market, ironically) merged into Belk.  Bonwit Teller has long since entered the retail graveyard.  Nevertheless, all three anchors managed to stay alive for around 15 years since the overhaul.  Other major tenants in the modern mall include a large Regal Cinema on the top of the mall (and on top of the White's...quite possibly part of the original White's), Barnes & Noble, TGI Friday's and S&S Cafeteria.  A Gymboree, GNC, Bath & Body Works and a couple other chain stores also hang on in the lower level.  A Verizon Call Center, which will be leaving soon, took up the former space of a large food court that closed around 2000 and a wing wrapping around the back of JB White.  However, the mall does not have hardly any of the "mom n pop" tenants typical of ailing malls as the owners have obviously kept the prices high in the mall to prevent the mall from downscaling.  The mall was built with grandiose expectations on giving a big city high-end shopping experience to a much smaller, conservative and less prosperous market.  Part of why that was so bold was that the city was still loyal to its local department stores at that time.  "National" chains had not quite caught on in the pre-internet age.

Note the thousands of lightbulbs along the ceiling, many of them burned out.  Natural skylights are impossible along these corridors since this is buried under a parking deck.  The design otherwise is pure 1989, which in all honesty looks pretty decent over 20 years later.


The upper level of the southeast court.  80's architects could not seem to get enough of taupe and teal green.


Belk (former White's) south mall entrance in the background from the second floor.  In front of me is the three-level escalators.  The level above is the parking deck entry.  Belk has two mall entrances and forms the center of the mall, but they look exactly alike so it is difficult to tell from photos truly which is which.  Shoppers are required to go through Belk to get from one end of the mall to the other, so if Belk closes the mall will close just as quickly.

Its conversion in 1989 was scandalous, one of the ill-fated LJ Hooker projects.  LJ Hooker still exists today, but its venture into American shopping malls including control of four different high-end American department stores proved very risky and poorly executed.  This was all taking place during the era of leveraged buyouts, which left many scars and radically modified the whole retail scene forever.  Not only did LJ Hooker not properly research the market, but also control of those department stores including B. Altman, Sakowitz, Bonwit Teller and Parisian proved disastrous to all four department store companies with the stores landing in markets that neither knew them nor could support them.  Only Parisian survived the LJ Hooker era while Bonwit Teller, the other anchor, eventually died off completely.  LJ Hooker believed in such instances that dropping an upscale mall into markets such as Columbia, SC and Cincinnatti, OH (Forest Fair Mall) would be successful.  Richland was envisioned to be sort of a Phipps Plaza for Columbia, but instead it is looking more like Century Plaza.

Looking at the north wing of the mall from the other side of Belk.


Approaching the northwest court.  A small, dumpy food court is to the right that was not worthy of pictures.  One restaurant in the court was the cringe-worthy "Cheesesteak Factory".

For a mall designed to be upscale, S&S Cafeteria sure seems like an oddity, but it operated here since the day it reopened.  It also operated in the original open-air mall as well, which is why it is here.  This is the first time I've ever seen an S&S Cafeteria (standing for Smith & Sons) operating in a mall.

On the lower level approaching the former Parisian.  Parisian left the city in 2005, closing this store in the process.  Macy's needs to consider this store.


A look inside the empty and dark Parisian.  What a shame, and what a waste of space.

Richland Mall speaks of the excess that went into it, and it rests awkwardly in the middle of a saturated market hosting three other major enclosed malls and one lifestyle center.  The mall is covered from end to end with probably a million light bulbs lighting up the ceilings and other areas.  It has two levels with escalators going up to a parking deck built on top of the mall with multi-story parking decks also found across from the mall.  Elegant features are found throughout.  A very large pond-like fountain sits on the south court near the entrance of what was originally Bonwit Teller.  In contrast, a very small, uninspiring food court (which replaced a far more grand one) is found off the north court.  In all, it is very fascinating to look at but also very depressing.  The second level is almost entirely vacant aside from Belk in the center, and the fore mentioned original food court is sealed off as part of a Verizon call center.  The lower level is mostly vacant, though it carries far more stores helped along by street-level access and the presence of Barnes & Noble, which joined onto the mall in 1997 along with a relocated entrance.  In the center, of course, is Belk, which absorbed the JB White location in 1998.

Looking toward the vacant Parisian from the second level.  The mall here is completely deserted.


Here, a set of escalators drops down disconnected to the parking deck.  To the right, the walled off store seems to take up more mall space than the other closed up shops, and the online mall map shows this is a sealed off wing.  Why only this wing?  What did that used to be?   The mall map shows it connecting either to the parking deck or "Richland Centre Verizon Wireless".  Isn't this being used as a college campus of some sort?


A look at the northwest court from the second level.  Notice the "Food Court" sign on the bottom level.

The rest of the northwest wing on the upper level looks equally lifeless.  The escalators to the parking deck and lower lever are ahead just past the bend.  This is walking back toward Belk.

Three-level escalators on the northwest wing looking toward Parisian.


Upper-level entrance from northwest wing.  The doors open to a catwalk to the large parking deck beside the mall.

Belk mall entrance from lower level of northwest wing.  GNC routinely seems to be a hold out when everyone else is gone.  That is so strange to me.

The situation is undeniably dire today.  Most people are wondering how the mall survives at all, and a retail miracle is needed to save it.  Belk is all that keeps this mall alive, but it must be doing adequate business to stay there.  Dillard's, which took over the Bonwit Teller site after it closed in 1993, vacated the site in 2003.  Blacklion, a furniture store from North Carolina, was in that site briefly but closed within a year.  The other anchor, Parisian, hung on until 2005, closing a year before the buyout by Belk.  When Parisian closed, it completely left the market, also closing the location at Columbiana Mall.  Even before this, the mall was troubled with vacancies, but the closure of two out of three department store anchors is leaving a bleak future for the mall.  Surprisingly, however, many stores do hold on since the neighborhood is actually right for them.  However, rumors of imminent demise have swirled since Dillard's vacated the old Bonwit Teller slot in 2003.

The mall map still shows Parisian as well as the fact that one of the upstairs wings is completely sealed off.

Along the same entrance corridor are found the two odd first-rate signs of life, TGI Friday's and Barnes & Noble.  This mall still has so much to offer, so why is it not working?

The reality of Richland Mall is that its future depends on just the right factors coming together.  For one, the initial redeveloped mall was obviously geared way too high and unfamiliar for the market, and subsequent anchor tenants could not survive with multiple locations in the city since neither had local market dominance like White's, Tapp's and Belk all had.  This could be remedied, though, by offering stores better catering to the market with less overlap.  For second, the number of regional malls in the city will have to drop enough to recharge the mall without it becoming a casualty itself.  The old Parisian is a perfect fit for Macy's, which currently is in fading Columbia Place Mall.  Also, Macy's has long been an institution in the city originally operating as Davison's and closing its downtown store in 1993. 


The mall on the outside is largely obscured by parking decks, so the building defies photography.  Note the theater on the second photo built directly on top of the mall and the Belk/White's.  Did this used to be part of the White's or was the top level demolished or what?

Barnes & Noble located outside along the front of the mall near the east entrance to the southeast wing.   You would think having such a strong anchor tenant would have been enough to shore up this ailing mall.  Most malls did not get Barnes & Noble until much later.

As I stated on a previous post, the future of this and other malls on the city swings on Macy's decision in regards to Columbia Place.  Relocation or expansion of Macy's to the mall would allow Macy's to operate a better store than what is at their current store.  Sears may succeed in the old Bonwit Teller, but this could also be a new test market for South Carolina's first Nordstrom...a potential draw for the entire state, and entirely appropriate for that location.  Perhaps Belk and Macy's could swap the old Parisian for the old White's to give Macy's the largest store.  It could get interesting, and the potential is there.  Possibly downsizing the mall to a two-anchor mall, demolishing the other half might help, too.  That would eliminate the need for the parking decks and would provide a more appealing location for an in-town department store like Macy's  It should be noted that Phipps Plaza was a very small two-level mall up until 1993 when it was expanded greatly for a Parisian that is now an A-class Belk.  However, renovation of the center will be necessary as well...perhaps a return to an open-air mall similar to Bell Tower Shops in Ft. Myers, FL.  Obviously, the mall is attractive, but it also is too dark and dated.  I at least hope they keep it looking distinct and keep the fountain if they do such a project.  Instead, it sounds like the owners are actually looking to largely de-mall the center, and according to posters here they are bankrupt and the mall is apparently now in holdings, though I cannot confirm that.  I understand part of the plan was that the old Bonwit Teller would be replaced by a hotel along with other significant changes.  The mall has changed hands twice in the past five years, and it was significantly devalued on its last purchase, which proves that redevelopment or abandonment are certainties, though abandonment in upscale Forest Acres is hardly likely.  Its latest owners were planning to do just that: redevelopment, and they renamed the mall Midtown at Forest Acres in 2008 to lead it off.


Former Bonwit Teller/Dillard's.  In the first photo, a labelscar is barely visible to the left of the sign.  In the second photo, the French doors speak of more upscale origins of the store.


Single entrance and side view of the Belk/White's.  I am assuming the original store pretty much resembled Dutch Square.  As the oldest standing building at the mall, I would love to know what in all they did to it in 1989.



Parisian sits empty and forlorn at the mall.  Does anybody else see Macy's here?

In all, Richland Mall would not have survived in its original form, but maybe it should not have survived period.  Perhaps even the market was there just to keep the original open-air mall alive as sort of a community mall much in the sense that Ansley Mall in Atlanta has survived and thrived.  Considering that, an upscale 60's-style open-air mall may not be such a bad idea today with a couple trendy chain restaurants, and this would likely be popular with USC students.  Richland's redevelopment was executed poorly in a city that already had more malls than shoppers.  Nevertheless, the result is a mall that is unique for the city and could be somewhat more appreciated.  While it has never been fully successful, it did manage to maintain all of its anchors for almost 15 years since it was first built.  Losing this mall would be a big loss and major blight on the area, but unlike others I do not believe this mall is past the point of rescue, but it will have to be downsized, refurbished and marketed correctly.  While two malls in the city appear to be in irreversible decline, Richland has the opportunity to come back as an upscale boutique to Columbiana Mall.  However, timing and the right factors are crucial for this, because otherwise I do not see much of a chance of this place surviving in its current form.


  1. I remember the sealed section of the mall as a large, cavernous food court in the mid 1990s, with huge windows to the outside giving it an open air feel. Unfortunately, I never saw more than three or four vendors, which gave the court an empty feel. It has always been an interesting, gaudy, upscale bunker of a mall ("bunker" because so much of it is hidden by parking decks), but a mall that I will miss. It is memorable for its unique qualities, good and bad.

  2. He's right The sealed off area was an amazing food court. You could go through the food court to avoid walking through Whites/Belk store. I believe the food court was closed in the late 90's or early in 2000. One of the reasons given for this mall failing is the parking garage. People in Columbia do not like parking garages and will avoid them like the plague.

  3. That's a shame about the food court. Well, I am guessing the reason for the parking decks in the first place is that the mall was built on a small foot print designed for a mall that was only 200,000-300,000 square feet. The only way it could be expanded is to lace it with parking decks. What is the reason for the parking deck aversion? I don't much like them either, but they seem to be a necessary evil in the big city (ATL). Scarily, one I used to park at collapsed recently. I also have to wonder how safe the parking deck-laden structure would be in an earthquake considering how close it is to that part of the problem as well? I think it is kind of eerie to have a parking deck on top of the mall, and it makes the interior very dark.

    What was in the current food court previously? I think there are many factors into why this mall did not work out, but the only thing I can put my finger on is location and poor anchor choices. I think it could be revived, though, if it got Macy's from Columbia Place. I really like the interior design, though...I wouldn't modify it much except for more artificial/natural light inside and removal of part of the parking deck structure on top of the mall. I would also say that tearing down half the mall and converting it to a smaller two anchor mall would help with Belk on one end and Macy's on the other. Less parking decks would be necessary then.

  4. I went to Richland Fashion Mall in '95; it was pretty empty then; plenty of stores were covered with wallboard even then, although it had the feel of a new mall that just hadn't yet been fully leased.

    The Belk is popular; I went to it in 2007 and it was doing a good business.

    I've always liked this mall; uncrowded and attractive. Too bad there's very little left in it.

  5. Sounds like a place that has had plenty of time to attract new anchors, as well as a reminder of c. 1989 colors. Hooker had horrible judgment in picking locations and this seems to the consequence. It looks like a candidate for demalling (if someone could make back the expense) or repurposing as something else.

    The trading area is probably not big enough or well-off enough to justify a Nordstrom. Their latest store is in Cincnnati--a much bigger place that I would have expected them to pick-up long ago. A DC developer is trying to get Nordstrom to essentially replace most of a failed mall in Georgetown--an excellent location near successful upscale retailers with lots of foot traffic from affluent tourists & locals, and they haven't bitten. Given that kind of track recors, I don't think they'd be looking at Columbia.

  6. I would bet money that Richland Fashion Mall today looks a lot like Forest Fair Mall looked like when it opened. The few rare pictures I've seen of Forest Fair included the ceilings with the lightbulbs, the same circle patterns, and of course the color-scheme. Thanks for posting this.

  7. Not sure why people don't like parking garages. I think safety is one concern but probably the main reason is most people live on the outskirts of town where they don't have to use them. All the other shopping areas have plenty of parking. I guess it's a little intimidating to go into town and have to use a garage.

  8. The part of the mall that is blocked off is a Verizon Wireless call center. Verizon Wireless has recently announced that they will be moving out into a rural area outside of Columbia.

  9. The group the bought the mall and renamed it "Midtown at Forest Acres" had plans to add a hotel and was trying to sell condos when they filed for bankruptcy. Once Verizon Wireless leaves, I think it is just a matter of time before the whole place goes dark.

    If S&S, the movie theater, Barnes & Noble, and TGI Friday we to all relocate to the same part of the mall, they might be able to survive, but I have no idea how they are making enough to keep all the million light bulbs burning.

  10. As people have said, the original food court has been closed off, leading to the second, pretty shabby food court. The original one had an airplane theme with big model biplanes suspended from the ceiling, or at least that is the way I recall it. The whole thing seems to be currently in limbo with the owners mum, but the mall is on the whole well maintained for such a sparse property.

    You are not quite accurate about the mom&pop shops not moving in. Within the last year, Bobby's Barber Shop ( moved in to a second floor spot near Belk's, and the Columbia Children's Theater ( just moved into the mall as well.

    I suspect that your analysis about Belk's carrying the mall is a bit off, unfortunately. I think it is the Verizon call center (in the closed off part of the mall [including the closed food court]) that has been doing so. They just announced a relocation to a small town at the edge of the county. I believe this will finally kill Richland Mall, though I hope I am wrong.

    Here are some memories of various Richland Mall stores:

    Edkerd Drugs:

    The Happy Bookseller:


    The Original RM Theater:

    JB White's:

    Jackson Camera:

    Colonial Groceries:

    There was also a Woolworth's which I will do a post on someday, the town's first "automated postal center" and a Russell Stover candy store in the parking lot.

    Could the mall have survived in its open-air format? Well, nearby Trenholm Plaza has done just that, and seems to thrive.

  11. Thanks everybody for the corrections! I really did not know much about this place since it didn't exist when I lived there. I wish it had been more appreciated, because it is a really neat looking mall in comparison to the others in the city.

    I made the corrections mentioned here in the blog, and I will also be correcting the errors in regard to Decker, Woodhill and Bush River. I noticed in aerials of those malls the differences, and I will copy those aerials into the blogs soon.

  12. I remember riding my bike down there in the 70's and getting chased off by Security for riding in the open air courtyard area.
    Used to go to Meri's records to buy $1 45s and Mr Poppers for carmel popcorn and an Icee.

  13. During 1991-1992, my partner had to leave Jordan Marsh at Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah due to their demolition to morph into Rich's. Allied stores [or whatever Campeau called them] transferred him to Rich's in Columbia. On his first trip back to Savannah, he mentioned this "weird mall where you drive in from the top of a hill and park on the roof."

    On my first trip to Columbia, I visited what was Richland Fashion Mall at the time. Everything mentioned here is on the mark. I walked from Parisian, through JBWhite, to the closed Bonwit Teller. My memories are that Bonwit Teller had basically removed the merchandise, turned off most of the lights, and hadn't even covered the doors. It seemed like the store was quite elegant, with LOTS of black highlights everywhere. I was amazed at how attractive the mall looked, and I agree with the person who said that the mall looked as if it had just opened and was waiting for tenants.

    The Woolworth's was near the Bonwit Teller end of the mall, and was labeled "Woolworth Express," which was a version of Woolworth that I had not seen. They carried hard lines, but very little in the manner of clothing except for some t-shirts and accessories. It was not a large store at all...just wide along the mall, with very little depth to it.

    I also remember that the layout of the mall was that the wings seemed to angle just a little after three or four storefronts so that one couldn't see from JBWhite to the next anchor.

    Thanks, also, for letting me remember where that wonderful food court was! I remember it, but couldn't place exactly where it was. It was, for the most part, empty...except for Sbarro and a couple of other local places.

    My partner also said that in the two years that he worked there, it seemed as if Columbia built something and just let it stay that way. It that's still true, then don't look for anything to happen to this property. Of course, attitudes have been known to change if you give them seventeen years!

  14. I hope all your contributors are asking permission from the various mall's management offices to take pictures inside the malls. Most are private property and I personally have seen several people told to stop taking pictures by security. Don't want anyone getting into any trouble.

  15. a local group just bought the mall and they hope to bring it back from the dead.

  16. Here's the story on that from the local paper.

    They've got an uphill climb, that's for sure..

  17. I worked as a department manager at Bonwit Teller from mid construction until the day the trucks loaded up the last batch of merchandise to be transferred to an existing store. It was devastating.
    The store was gorgeous and many departments fared well until the Hooker buy out.
    All these years later we still have a "Bonwit group" that meets regularly for dinner and to share memories.

  18. I really like the building and you dont see too many malls like that anymore. I wish it would become something and open up the food court

  19. I think I remember reading that Forest Fair had a copper roof with tiny little lightbulbs. LJ Hooker did make a third mall that was only anchored by bigg's: Thornton Town Center! It was supposed to grow but fell flat (it got demalled, BTW)

  20. I had a delivery job in the area in 1989 and saw the before, during, and after of the mall. I could not figure WHAT in the world they were doing...they basically tore down the single story strip mall on both sides of the existing JB White, built the Bonwit Teller wing, then wrapped around the back of the JB White store with the food court (on concrete stilts), then built the Parisian wing. The movie theatre was not part of the JB White building. It was one of the last parts of the mall completed...I should know, I was one of the theatre's first employees, hired before the curtains were hung and the seats were installed. The food court was really nicely appointed, with the whimsical airplane/marionette mobiles hung from the glass atrium. It was never full, maybe six bays were occupied at any one time, most notably (or not) by Sbarro. I could never believe the money that was spent on the mall vs. the lack of was always that way, until I left town in 1993. I hope the new owners can do something with it...I thought it was an odd but really appealing design, in its original (i.e. non-Verizon) floorplan, and if the right shops were there, it would work. That original entrance, however...that thing was so ugly, maybe that is what did the place in. Oh, and the word "Fashion" in the name.

  21. Oh, and an important, and equally unusual addendum to my comment directly above...JB White was originally two stories. They added another story on top before building the rest of the mall. I remember they had an absolutely enormous crane in there doing that. It's not every day you see another story added on top of an existing building. They moved the offices and everything else to the new floor.

  22. As a Cincinnati native who remembers Forest Fair Mall before its 'decontenting' in the early 2000's, Richland Mall / Midtown at Forest Acres feels like a sibling mall. I visited last month and I have to say it feels a LOT like Forest Fair, especially considering their architectural / size differences (Forest Fair was s-p-r-a-w-l-i-n-g whereas Richland has a fairly compact footprint.)

    It'll be interesting to see which of the two gives up the ghost first. Forest Fair has had a spectacular flameout as Cincinnati Mills and I think nobody has any hope left for it.

  23. What a great old name...I remember Bonwit Teller store on 5th Ave. in NY. Perfume sprayed out into the entrance are every few minutes, a card in the window told the name of the scent. The Manhasset branch on Long Island was a long, low building and inside very spacious. You can see the old NY store in the opeming scene of 'Breakfast at Tifffany, with Audrey Hepburn. The taxi drives right past the main door and windows.

  24. how do I find out what the rent is per sq ft?

  25. I commented on the other Columbia malls recently but finally took a little time to visit Richland Mall. Unlike Columbiana, Columbia Place and Sandhill this is definitely out of the way. I was quite impressed by the interior like Columbia Place and its Belk is thriving like the one at Dutch Square and while Richland does have a number of decent higher end stores inside it seems so ghostly and empty. The parking garage is good but it hides the mall, and Richland seems on the small side. Oh and the Belk does not have escalators inside anymore! The movie theater looked kind of shoddy too.

    I don't see Richland having a future unless of course Macy's or Sears moves in, and both probably would move to Sandhill before going to Richland. Too bad this wasn't built further down Forest Drive at I-77 where Wal-Mart and Treholm Plaza are.

  26. PS That S&S Cafeteria is closing down in a few days at the end of this month. According the local media business is terrible and their loyal clientale was literally dying off leaving their only regulars to be Belk employees. At least Belk employees over the age of 55.

  27. Honestly I'm amazed S&S lasted as long as it did. Personally, I think I would have made Lizard's Thicket my first choice anyway old or young. The mall is bound to be in disrepair now from being so empty...I was surprised I made it in time to cover it.

  28. woooow good good info. Especially with the ppl who've committed the old richland mall to memory and shared their stories with others...yea i was kind of like waaat with S + S as well, i remember going there and i didnt like their food, i remember jello and fried chicken. I remember Bert's Smokehouse being there at one point. They make delicious chilli dogs, mm mm. i went there once i believe, and it was a chinese restaurant and a steak place? Also The Crate was there in maybe 2009 or 2010, or 2008 and i think they went out of business. Suttem told me that blacklion wudn't gone last anyway.

  29. I watched the original mall get built as a little boy, living only a few blocks away. Hardaway Construction built it.
    I remember buying my first baseball glove at Woolworth's 5&10-obviously not a good one.
    I spent many a day there as a kid and later teenager, as it was a summer hang out for the AC Flora kids before we could drive. We used to ride bikes all over the interior courtyard and play chase in the stores. What a blast!
    Does anyone remember the laundromat that was there by Eckerd's? How about Jerry's Shoe Store-an institution? Pet-a-rama and more?
    I had jobs at S&S Cafeteria and Woolworth's in high school. There was an ice cream counter in Woolworth's until the early 70's as I recall.
    Been gone from Columbia since 1983 and cannot believe the changes through the years. Sadly, I have not even set foot on the property since I left. I hope that it comes back strong-great, great memories with lots of friends.

    Good Luck Richland Mall.

    1. I KNOW''' i grew up down from the mall and i enjoyed many days of fun at richland mall 60's - 70's it was a great place back in the day ''''

  30. I have thought of a redevelopment plan for this mall. Macy's in the old Parisian, Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom in the old Bonwit Teller. The current food court could become a big box tenant or Macy's Home Store. They should reopen the old food court and add more natural light to the mall. A Cheesecake Factory would do well in the old S&S Cafeteria. Upscale tenants like Ann Taylor,Apple,Banana Republic,Chico's,Coldwater Creek,Jos A Bank,Lego,Pottery Barn,Sephora,Stride Rite,Talbots, Tiffany&Co and Williams-Sonoma should move in also. They should add a few regular stores like Kay Jewelers, Buckle, Radio Shack, Gap and Spencer's Gifts too.

  31. What an excellent write-up of this mall. I really hate driving by it and seeing it so desolate when I understand there is so much potential there. It is upsetting that they build suburban centers like The Village at Sandhill with no regard to pre-existing retail that can accommodate these same stores--this over building and over-retailing (as you said) the city. I, too, hope that Macy's considers Richland.

  32. I grew up in California and moved to Columbia in 2008 (and have since moved on to Atlanta). I'd been to the Barnes & Noble a couple times, but never thought much about going beyond it, into the mall. Then my wife and I started hearing stories about it - people calling it a "ghost mall". And it certainly was just that. There's no one inside. All the successful stores have outside entrances, with the exception of a LensCrafters, which was open in the Spring of 2011 when we left, but who knows now?

    I think it was a real oddity to my wife and I, being native Californians, because back in our home-state, you'd never see an empty mall or shopping center like you do in the Southeast. Land is just too valuable to have some empty building rot on it.

    It also blew our minds that something in the heart of the city (or close enough) would flame out like this -- or allowed to. I think the recent push back into urban environments by middle and upper class people, leading to redevelopment, just hasn't hit Columbia yet...if it ever will.

  33. I used to love this place. I remember when the old mall was torn down, and this was built, I was 19 at the time. I got a job at TGI Fridays, and spent MUCH of my free time here as well. It was mostly an "adult" feeling mall, but there was an arcade right outside the food court, and a great little music shop also. I remember the only branch of Columbia Malls' Hofenbrau Haus was here as well.

    The Litchfield Theater was *the* spot, lots of people used to hangout there all hours of the night.

  34. I was there in the year 2000 with friends from Colombia. We went to eat at TGI Friday’s and walked through the mall afterward, going through Belk and down to Dillard’s. I thought it was such a strange mall at the time I was there... I remember being on the second level looking down at a Structure storefront and several other empty storefronts in a darkened section of the mall; it felt a bit eerie. The Dillard’s store seemed large, they had a home department and I bought some candlesticks there for my parents which they had wrapped for me because it was a Christmas gift. I never made it down to the Parisian store... thanks for posting the pictures and the history of the mall