Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Mall at Johnson City/Miracle Mall: Johnson City, TN

The Tri-Cities region of Tennessee and Virginia includes the cities of Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol with the last straddling the TN/VA border. Johnson City is the second largest of these cities, but today hosts the most popular mall in the region, The Mall at Johnson City. As the current winner of the mall race, it is a fascinating mall with a history that is more variable than most malls and a surprisingly upscale roster of stores inside disguised by a relatively mediocre anchor line-up. While the mall has become dominant in the region, its story unfolded over time and events as it fought hard to compete with two other malls in the Tri-Cities that were bigger with better offerings for many years before winning the mall race.


When the mall arrived around 1970, it was then known as Miracle Mall Shopping Center, a tiny mall anchored by Sears, Kroger and Britts Department Store along with SupeRx drugs, whose outside entrance appears to still exist though blocked off. The name Miracle Mall I love, by the way, and it is a great old-school mall name that they should bring back. Britts, which I have discussed on previous posts, was an upscaled department store variation of the JJ Newberry's variety store that was introduced originally in 1962 and closed in 1981. I also covered another former Britt's location at Quintard Mall in Oxford, AL. Miracle Mall was also the second mall in the Tri-Cities with the lost Kingsport Mall arriving first in the mid-to-late 1960's. Miracle Mall clearly was the better mall to Kingsport's mall, but both were small and plain early shopping malls at the time they were built. Fortunately, Miracle Mall had room to expand and it never faced the threat of nearby competition that wounded and later killed Kingsport Mall.


Here, I am entering the original Miracle Mall portion of the mall from Belk Women's, formerly Proffitt's.  The first photo shows the escalators used to transition from the original Miracle Mall to the newer portion added in 1982.


Sears mall entrance looks relatively contemporary, but this is the only original anchor remaining at the mall opening with the mall around 1969-1970.


Looking along the main part of the original mall basically in the center part, though it appeared there was no actual center "court".  A wing extends off to the right at the Dick's sign in the distance.  This was the original location of Kroger, which closed their store there and relocated in the early 1980's.  To all appearances, Dick's is exactly in the original Kroger space.


Dick's mall entrance is positioned roughly just to the side of the main mall at the intersection of the main mall and the front entrance wing.


Looking along the original front entrance wing, it does not seem very substantial today.  The original Miracle Mall was quite simple to have such a dramatic name.  I guess they killed it because it envokes images of Wonderbread and other modern-era gimmicky names.


Belk Men's and Home could tell a lot of stories.  It opened as Britts, converted to Parks Belk in 1982, converted to Proffitt's second store in 1995 then back to Belk in 2006.  It is the only two-level anchor in the mall, and it looks somewhat threadbare inside in desperate need of a remodel.  The escalators inside are original Britt's escalators.


Looking back along the old Miracle Mall portion from the entrance of Belk Men's pictured above.

Miracle Mall, however, was not without concerns in the early years of its existance. The construction of Fort Henry Mall in Kingsport in 1975 directly threatened Kingsport Mall, but by extension it also threatened to marginalize Miracle Mall. Bristol Mall, similarly constructed to Fort Henry Mall, arrived in 1978 to further erode the mall's customer base. Fortunately, Miracle Mall was able to hold onto its original anchors up to the first major expansion in 1982 when Britts closed the previous year. Additionally, two downtown Johnson City department stores that remained downtown into the early 1980's were also interested in joining the mall during the expansion. One of those was JCPenney and the other was Parks Belk. Parks Belk took over the former Britts location and JCPenney built new as the larger anchor of the expanded mall. Miller's of Tennessee also joined on as a junior anchor on the western edge of the wing between JCPenney and the older part of the mall. During this expansion, Kroger left the mall, which was replaced with inline tenants including Piccadilly Cafeteria. It was also during this time that the malls name was changed to The Mall at Johnson City.


Here, I captured an image of the mall map.  You can see how the two levels of the mall are not flush by any means.  Note in the map.  The left anchor is the original Britts and later Parks-Belk.  The bottom anchor was originally Proffitt's.  The Dick's on the upper left was Kroger.  SupeRx is believed to be the elongated store between the two Belk stores and the big wing to the left of JCPenney on the upper level was all originally Miller's, later Hess's, Proffitt's Home and Goody's.


Here is the mall entrance to Belk Women's, which was the original Proffitt's store in the mall that opened new in 1992.


Another view here of the escalators transitioning shoppers from the original Miracle Mall (lower level) to the upper level.  This creates the center court, which is the only truly two-level part of the mall.


Here is center court with detail of the skylights.  Note the mall continuing on the upper level but only doors on the lower level.  Those doors open to the car tunnel providing access between the front and rear of the mall.


Here is a better view of the rest of the mall combined with the doors.  A food court fills the bottom level, and it had pretty much everything you could expect in a food court including local favorite Petro's.


In the other side of the court, you see the lower level extending on as part of the mall (the original Miracle Mall) and the upper level greeting shoppers with a round window and down escalators.  Below patrons dine on overpriced food court fare.

The 1982 expansion resulted in a highly unusual design feature due to the terrain surrounding the mall. The original mall was built in a shallow ravine with the Britts store itself situated on a hillside with the northern outside store entrance one level higher than the mall itself. It was also the only two-level anchor with the rest of the mall on a simple one-level footprint. This meant that in order to expand the mall, either the expansion would require extensive excavation of the site or it would have to be placed higher than the rest of the mall. The result was that the new wing was built one level higher than the original mall. This required escalators and elevators to transport shoppers between the old and new parts, and it also made for an escalator-filled shopping trip for shoppers entering the second floor of Parks Belk heading to JCPenney. Also included in the expansion was a car tunnel under the new portion with a side entrance into the original portion retained. In all, it seems rather unusual that mall owners did not simply decide just to make the original Miracle Mall two levels to match the new wing, but the unusual stepped-up design remains to this day.


Here is a closer view of the top of the escalators transitioning to the lower level.


Here is a view of the upper level, which architecturally matches the original Miracle Mall exactly.  Both were renovated last in 1992, but they may have both looked very different before.  Abercrombie & Fitch is on the right.



Two angles of the front entrance wing on the upper level.  The first is facing toward the outside entrance and the second is toward the mall.  Use Victoria's Secret as a vantage point.


JCPenney's mall entrance is shiny, dark but otherwise basic.  It does remind me somewhat of the mall entrance at now-closed Oak Ridge Mall.


Here is a view back along the second level toward center court transitioning to the lower level.

Between 1982 and 1992, not much changed at the mall. The only significant change to note was the conversion of Miller's to Hess's in 1987, but 1992 onward proved to be a period of enormous transition for the mall, though all of it was positive. The first major change was the renovation of the mall coinciding with the construction of a new Proffitt's at the back of the mall on the site of the mall's original theater. Proffitt's entry was splashy with a center skylight along the length of the store and a contemporary look that began to solidify the mall's presence in the region, making it a very real contender against the three other Tri-Cities malls that by then were beginning to show their age. Somewhere in this time as well, an excellent food court was established on the bottom of the the two-level high court at the base of the escalators to the upper level wing. However, the mall would still have to face some growing pains as anchor changes and ownership changes would ensue.


A little over two years before, I would be standing inside of Goody's, which opened as Miller's and was later Hess's and Proffitt's Home Store.  After the store closed, the owners decided to cut a new wing right through it that looks nothing like the rest of th emall.  It is shiny and tasteful, but still quite plain.  Forever 21 took up a huge portion of the new mall space, and owners hope the doors at the end which once opened into the anchor will open to an anchor the other way around in the future.


Looking back along the "new" wing towards the main upper level wing.


Now a new secondary mall entrance and future mall entrance for a currently non-existant anchor, this is the outside door for the new wing shown above that originally opened to Miller's.


I am now standing outside Sears package pickup looking at the tunnel under the mall.  Above is the second level and inside the tunnel on the right are the doors into the food court and two-level atrium.


Inside the tunnel with the mall entrance doors on my left.  This might have turned out better if I could have used a flash.


Detail of the Sears store, which is very plain and simple.  Inside, the store has higher ceilings than modern stores.  Sears has occupied this location for 40 years.

The challenge the mall would face came first the same year that Proffitt's entered the mall when Hess's went out of business. Proffitt's then took over the location for a home store to augment their new store in lieu of the mall attracting a new anchor to the in-line space. Furthermore, the situation grew more complicated when Parks-Belk, a Belk partner with controlling interest, would sell out to Proffitt's temporarily eliminating Belk's presence in East Tennessee and giving Proffitt's a glut of space in the mall. Proffitt's ultimately took over the Parks-Belk space, which had originally been Britt's, and subsequently freed its home store in the old Miller's/Hess's space, which was then leased to Goody's. The newer Proffitt's that first opened at the mall converted to a women's store with the older Britts/Parks Belk space converting to a men and home store. I am sure most of you are confused by now, but this was not all that happened at the mall in the 1990's.


This store showcases the Proffitt's prototype of the early 1990's.  It was flashy then, but looks gaudy and rough around the edges now.  It is still a sight to behold inside, though, with a skylight running the length of the store that is brighter than the rest of the mall.  Perhaps Belk should build a new store next to the old Miller's and let THIS become part of the mall.  Nah, never mind.


Belk went for a grand new entry when they took over the tired old Britts/Parks-Belk store.  Did they do this, though, or did Proffitt's actually?   I am curious as to what this looked like before, because the old Britt's store I saw in Alabama was quite plain.  I have also heard this had the strange greenish awnings on it like the other Tri-Cities Parks-Belk stores did.


Dick's here looks new, but apparently fills in what was once Kroger.  I am guessing something was here inbetween, because it couldn't have ALL been Piccadilly Cafeteria.


JCPenney sports a triangular tinted greenhouse look, which was common in 1982 models.

The last thing to happen to the mall in the 1990's was the purchase of the mall by Glimcher Realty. Glimcher, unfortunately, has earned a bad reputation for mall management with the failure of Eastland Mall in Charlotte being a high profile example, but this is not the case with Mall at Johnson City. In fact, Mall at Johnson City has emerged as the leading mall in the region with not only the best stores, but also the best anchors in the region. Glimcher's signature style of little to no renovations, however, is apparent at the mall as much of the mall still looks like it is trapped in the early 1990's. In a vastly under-retailed region with flagging competition, however, this seems to be a non-issue.



Two generations of mall signs here, and the first one is not only ugly but has not weathered well at all.  I sure wish I had the original Miracle Mall sign to show here as well.  With a name like that, it HAD to be awesome.

In 2006, The Mall at Johnson City began to see big changes again. This time, struggling Proffitt's was suddenly bought out by Belk with Belk muscling its way right back into East Tennessee Parks-free while the Parks family was most likely enjoying a prosperous retirement. Belk then absorbed both Proffitt's stores in the mall. Two years later at the start of 2008, Goody's would depart the mall leaving the original Miller's location vacant for the last time. As soon as they closed, Glimcher then converted the entire store to a new wing for the mall including a new Forever 21 store as a junior anchor. This new wing was designed with a very contemporary theme including orange and mild earthtones with the rest of the mall remaining unchanged. All of the mall entrances were also updated with a new look to compliment the new entrance in the rear of the mall. The new rear entrance was designed with a potential future anchor in mind, but the region currently is overlooked by many potential anchors including Dillard's and Macy's. Dick's Sporting Goods, however, opened in the front of the mall where Kroger was located originally restoring a unique non-traditional anchor in a region with significant outdoor recreation.


This mall entrance fronts the second level next to JCPenney and was added in 2008.  Another really nice (and different) one was next to Dick's, but parking was impossible making it impossible for me to get a picture.


Sears Auto Center still works the grease in front of the mall on Roan St.  It is also original, and it looks it, too.

With all the retail and economic gloom and doom, this mall is not going anywhere. The only real threat to the mall is the long-planned redevelopment of Fort Henry Mall, but that seems to be unable to commence with the mall actually struggling. Bristol Mall is also in a weak position as the city is too small to support it. Overall, all of the popular national specialty shops have chosen The Mall at Johnson City first, and on the day I visited the crowds were so heavy that finding a parking place was next to impossible. I have seen few malls that are as popular as this mall is, so its future remains bright even in a region that is generally not very prosperous. It also helps that East Tennessee State University is in Johnson City, which gives the mall an edge over its competition as well. My only doubt with the mall is that it will be able to attract another department store anchor, though the possibility of something non-traditional such as a large bookstore is decent if the real economy improves. Other than that, this seems to be a powerhouse mall with a weird design that brought down the mighty even as the oldest standing mall in the region.

26 comments:

  1. Great article. I remmeber my parents taking me here many time when I was little. It's changed a lot from that time. I remember some of the more contemporary mall anchors being there (RadioShack, Karmelkorn, Circus Wold just to name a few). Also, there was a McCrory's Five and Dime with snack bar on the lower level. I believe it closed in the early-90's. The Piccadilly didn't take up the entire length of the Dick's space. If I recall, there was a music store (that sold pianos, keyboards, guitars, drums, etc.) there that took some of that space too. Here's a picture of the mall from the 1970's.

    http://www.johnsonsdepot.com/attic/images/miracle_mall.jpg

    One correction: The Kingsport Mall opened in late September, 1970, before the Miracle Mall. The Kingsport Mall is usually cited not only as the Tri Cities' first enclosed mall but also the first between Knoxville and Roanoke. Ironically, one of the factors some say is responsible for the decline of the Fort Henry Mall (aka Kingsport Town Center) is the East Stone Commons, which rose from the ashes of - the Kingsport Mall!

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  2. Wonderful pic! I am guessing that image is from 1981 or 1982 judging by the fact the mall had not yet been expanded, yet Parks-Belk had already arrived in the old Britts space. I'm also confused now...was SupeRx right next to Kroger or what? Now I am wondering what that back entrance was between the two current Belk stores.

    BTW, how did that name "Miracle Mall" come about anyway? Also, did the mall open in 1971 instead of 1970?

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  3. J.T.

    I wish I could answer the questions about the "Miracle Mall" name and the location of Kroger, but I only remember the mall from the early-mid 80's onward. I did, however, find a cool picture of the mall's sign ca. 1976 in an article about the opening of Interstate 81 in East Tennessee. Notice it only says "The Mall".

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HEMPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8oUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6418,3166159&dq=kingsport+interstate&hl=en

    The back entrance was probably McCrory's, as they had a back entrance, and was located between the Belk stores. It was located where Hollister, New York & Co., and Rack Room Shoes are. The entrance you probably saw is now a conference room used by the Johnson City Medical Center.

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  4. Whoa...35 whole stores!

    I have to admit that the picture that most caught my eye was the atrocious pink sign, and not just because of the faded color. TWO Belk signs? Really? If one said "Belk Men & Home" and the other said "Belk Women's," that I might be able to buy. But two plain "Belk" logos? That just seems greedy. Plus, the sign looks off-balanced, which just drives my hard-wired, OCD, accountant mind crazy.

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  5. We go through Johnson City at least twice a year, but our only stop is usually Perkins or to get coffee at Books-a-Million across Roan Street from the mall.

    I was, however, in Britts at some point in the mid-seventies. It was my first time driving through Johnson City, and I stopped only because there was a department store that I had never heard of before. I remember it looking somewhat like the Sears and Penney's of that era inside. I remember buying a Carpenter's album there, indicating a wide range of departments. That's logical since Newberry's would have featured a record department, as did full-line department stores of that period. It seems as though Woolworth's tried the upscale store anchor concept, as well, but rather than changing their name to erase the association, they simply dropped the 's and call the store Woolworth.

    In the 80's, I was back at the mall on several occasions. After being in the Hess store in Chattanooga, I was amazed at how temporary the Johnson City store looked. The overall look was that of Goody's or Bon-Ton...endless racks of merchandise that flowed undivided from department to department, with a ceiling that said "we don't want to spend a lot on this store because we don't plan to be here long." The ceiling consisted of thousands of flat silver panels hanging vertically, row-upon-row, through the store. Looking up through the panels, one could see the beams in the roof. Display areas were forgettable, and the whole place had a big-box feel to it.

    And you're right...the Proffitt's was amazing inside. The central skylight caused the store to look more like a wing of the mall rather than a separate store, with various departments seeming more like inline tenants than separate departments. It had a very elegant feel and could well have been the pride of Johnson City.

    We'll be back through there in a month; this time we'll have to visit the mall.

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  6. Britt's was essentially the same as Newberry's large store prototype of the 60s. They used the "Britt's" name where they didn't also have at least a few Newberry's. The stores they built as Newberry's at that time, carried the name "Newberry's Department Store" and had a department store layout, with extensive softlines.

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  7. An interesting article. However, I would like to point out that Johnson City is the biggest city in the Tri-Cities and has been for many years. Also, Dick's is not in the previous Kroger or Picadilly site, but was buit onto the Mall.

    One interesting former feature of the Mall that you did not point out was the Mall Theater that opened with one large screen and rocking chairs a few months after the mall was built with the big hit, "Love Story." Many years later the theater was divided to make two smaller ones and was finally torn down to help make room for the original Proffitt's store, which is now Belk's women's store.

    Everyone keeps hoping the mall will add a Macy's or a Dillard's. Mall management said a couple of years or so ago that they would be going more upscale in response to customer demands that they be able to find the same nice stores here that they had to leave the area to find (usually meaning Knoxville and Asheville). Well, we are still waiting. Everyone I talk to would dearly love to have a decent department store here (Belk's doesn't begin to cut it), a Williams-Sonoma, and other better stores. We have enough of the lower-end stuff; what's needed is some variety. You can walk from one end of the mall to the other in a matter of minutes and see nothing worth stopping to look at. It would be nice if the mall had a new owner; one who would do something with it!

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    1. Yes, the Mall would do even better with a new owner. The current management team doesn't seem to have the necessary expertise to recruit the right types of retailers/restaurants. Case in point: when Ruby Tuesdays left the mall, instead of working to get a comparable replacement such as TGI Fridays (which has been scouting the city for a location), mall management opened this space up for a Charming Charlies. This in and of itself is a strong indicator that it is unlikely the current owner is doing much in the way of attracting Macy's, Dillard's, or Nordstrom.

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  8. As to the population figures, are the ones you are using the city themselves or metropolitan. I must have referenced the metropolitan fitures, which is probably where I went wrong.

    Johnson City: 61,990; Area: 195,849
    Kingsport: 47,356; Area: 302,997

    Was the Kroger BEHIND where the Dick's is now? Nobody seems to be able to tell me exactly. I know SupeRx was roughly behind where Dick's is currently because the old photo shows it.


    As to management, you've got a tough road with Glimcher and only because the other two malls are so bad is that mall doing as well as it is. If Fort Henry Mall does get that planned redo it will definitely affect this mall. For sure, a second level is needed over the original mall, which would improve its appearance and marketability, and it would also make it MUCH more attractive.

    The Tri-Cities really do seem to be off the radar screen with higher end stores. Dillard's is a better possibility than Macy's, which is lagging badly. Dillard's, however, seems to be winding down expansion lately after things got rocky awhile back. Macy's will need to come to Knoxville and succeed before they try there, and I have not seen a new Macy's built in five years. Macy's won't come to Asheville either, and they could revive two struggling malls in that city.

    This is where having a local or regional high-end department store would be helpful, but the closest thing to it is Gus Mayer (so far are only in Nashville and Birmingham). I see this as the problem with national chain stores as a whole in how they are not properly catered to their markets.

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    1. Dick's incorporates all of the former Super RX space, and then some. Just as with Dick's, you could enter Super RX at either end.

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    2. Dick's takes up the SuperX space, the Kroger (Piccadilly Cafeteria) space, and some space they built out where parking used to be.

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  9. The population figures I used are for the cities themselves.

    In answer to your other question about Dick's location, on second thought they would've had to tear down the former Kroger/Picadilly/Catherine's spot to make room for it. As you pointed out, Kroger was the original tenant, then Picadilly (by far the longest tenant), and briefly Catherine's, a plus-size shop for ladies. None of these stores opened up into the mall itself. To access this spot from within the mall, you had to either take the side door to the right of Britt's/Proffitt's Home and Men's Store/Belk's Home and Men's Store or exit the glass doors next to Super X Drugstore.

    By the way, shortly after the opening of the mall a cafeteria was added at the space which is now Belk's Store for Women (formerly Proffitt's). It was called Ann Howard's. If memory serves, you couldn't access it from inside the mall and it wasn't there many years before it closed.

    It was interesting to read your comments about attracting a nice department store to the area. I once contacted Dillard's and received a very nice e-mail in reply that the original founder though this part of the country was very beautiful and wanted to have a store in the area; but the current ownership said that none of the tri-cities was big enough to support a store. If they could find a centralized area that would draw from the entire metropolitan area they would definitely put a store here. This sounded suspect to me, so I did my own research and found out that Dillard's was in several cities in the South with considerably fewer people than Johnson City. It probably has to do with income, but right outside the city limits in Boones Creek, Jonesborough, and Gray live many of the wealthiest people in the region. Different developers have considered the Boones Creek area for upscale/regional shopping centers, but then the weakening economy put the brakes on.

    I also researched Macy's and found it to be in some cities with comparable population and income to Johnson City--for example, Jackson, TN. When I pointed this out to the Mall management and Glimcher, they sent me a few e-mails detailing how everyone thought this was a good angle to pursue and how they should proced with this. I couldn't help but wonder why THEY hadn't already used this angle. Just how much were they pursuing quality stores? But after reading lately that Dillard's has upscaled their offerings to a degree that puts them somewhat above Macy's and somewhat below Nordstrom's, I think I'd rather have Dillard's. I'm not holding my breath.

    However, Johnson City continues to offer better shoping, albeit at a slower pace than before. The Peerless Center, for example, is being remodeled, which has drawn attention from some better stores like Joseph A. Banks and Coldwater Creek, which are joining the already established Talbot's.
    The city also has Chico's, Barnes and Noble,
    and Yankee Candle (which is considered rather upscale even though it's just a candle store). If only we could get a Dillard's, a Fresh Market, and a Williams-Sonoma I would be quite content.

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  10. Johnson City is the largest city in the Tri-City region. In fact, it is known as the "lead city" because of it's size.

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  11. I know this mall very very well. If you are looking at it from Roan Street you would see on your right the two story Britts/Parks Belk. On the lower level of Britts/Belks was an entrance way to a door that is still there. This went along the outside of the original Kroger. By the time I came along, the Kroger had been divided into 2 spots. A Piccadilly on the left side of the Kroger and another store spot along the walkway between Britts and the Kroger. If you were in front of the old Kroger to the left of that was the loading dock for trucks. It was 2 bays wide. Then you hit the original location of SupRx Drugs. Up till Dicks, you could still see the exterior entrance location and the label scar from the original yellow signs. The main Mircale Mall Entrance was next. Along this you would find a Karmelkron, Pet Store, Bank, and other stuff like that. When you got to the Court you would fine Lerner, McCory, and some other stores. The original McCory did go completely through the mall to the back parking lot. If you turned left of the main entrance, you would go towards the Sears Court. To the left was Sears and to the right was the back entrance to the mall. The theater was on the left and a resturaunt called "Aunt Howards" was on the right if my memory serves. Their was also an "Orange Bowl" and then the outside.

    The escalators were crossed in an X with a giant brick of the 80's elevator. Upstairs was a small resturaunt, a Gold Mine, and a Chick Fil A. Lower had the RadioShack and some other stores.

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    1. In the late 80s, if you walked into the "former" main entrance, next to SupeRX (sp?), you could actually walk into that store immediately to the right, and proceed all of the way through it, and enter the inner courtyard area. SupeRX wrapped around the Karmelkorn and other stores, found along the main entrance hallway.

      Now, back to the main entrance...the bank was immediately to the left, followed by several stores, which have changed numerous times over the years. Wasn't Merle Norman also along that hallway to the left, before it moved upstairs?

      The original theater was very nice, before they "twinned" it. In the late 80s, the former "Aunt Howards" space across from the theater, had become another restaurant, then an interior miniature golf space.

      Was it an Orange Julius, or Orange Bowl?

      The current food court atrium....where the escalators were once located...there was a book store on the second level, as well (or was it the lower level?).

      It's amazing how much this mall has "mutated" over the years.

      There has been talk of building a new mall off I-81, very upscale. Has that been abandoned? It would, of course, kill all of the other Tri-City malls. Fort Henry and Bristol Malls are, indeed, quite sad to visit now.

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    2. Ah, I see from one of the posted photos above, that the name of the drug store was Super RX.

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  12. @JimBobGA- From the sound of it, the JC Miller's/Hess had the same design as the one located in the Fort Henry Mall/Kingsport Town Center (still hate that name). I distinctly remember the open ceiling with the metal sheets hanging down sporadically! It was then taken over by Proffits, then Belk, and now it sits empty, awaiting a mall remodel/expansion that will most likely never come.

    On a side nots, I love this blog, as well as the FB page! Keep up the great work!

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  13. It should be noted, that a few years ago, JC Penney did a major overall, and expansion, of their original mall store. The new streamlined layout is quite open and easy to maneuver, unlike the old configuration.

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  14. When I moved to Johnson City in 1976 Parks-Belk was already at the mall. Not sure when Britt's closed but it was not as late as 1981. Does anybody else remember a Godfather's Pizza on the outside of the mall, next to Kroger?

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  15. You're right about Belk. I grew up in JC and Belk had to have been there by the mid 70's. The Record Bar was to the left of the entry and they moved into the expansion in 81.

    Godfathers pizza was the old Kroger space(mid 80's). You'd find bandaids in their pizzas(true story).

    Let's see, pre-expansion: exiting Sears there'd be Fifth Avenue Card Shop on the left, The player organ shop on the right, Left at the crosswalk would take you to the theatre and Nettie Lee's, right would take you to Orange Bowl,McCroys, Super RX, Learner, Belk etc.
    and straight through the crosswalk would be Peter's Pet Shop on the right, and Karmel corn on the left. Oh yeah, there was a craker barrel retail in the middle of Sears.

    Does anyone remember the Chess King chain, are they still around?

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  16. JC is getting an Apple Store! That should cement its status as still strong. Apple does its research thoroughly. Maybe this will encourage Macy's, as well.

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  17. Sorry - it turns out, that the new store is MacAuthority, not Apple. It's licensed by Mac, but NOT the same thing. Big disappointment! It will be on the upper floor, next to Penney's.

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  18. Before the economy went south, the mall was supposed to be completely remodeled and upscaled. Although a bit of remodeling was done here and there, there was no upscaling. The last time I contacted the Mall about prospective stores, they said Dillard's came to look at the mall but turned them down. Dillard's is still saying that if they can find a location to serve the entire area from they would build in a heartbeat. Johnson City draws shoppers from all over the area, including North Carolina and Virginia (check out the license plates in the Mall's parking lots). Dillard's would have no trouble serving the area from Johnson City. Considering that The Fresh Market's locating here last year turned a few heads in the business community, I'm still holding out hope for continued improvements at the Mall in Johnson City.

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  19. Wow. This was a blast from the past. I remember riding our bikes to the mall in the mid 70's. Worked at Sears also in the late 70's/early 80's. Thanks!

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  20. I remember every weekend the organ grinder would come with his little monkey dressed in red with little hat and vest and it would dance around while he played then it would collect donations...in front of Lerner's which was beside McCrory's...I remember this cause I was a little girl and despised Lerner's so my Mom would make a deal to let me pay the little monkey if I was good in Lerner's while she shopped! The Zooks (not sure i spelled their last name right) at Karmelkorn were an amazing sweet couple and had the absolute best caramel apples I have ever had in my life!

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  21. When did JC Penny's leave Johnson City's downtown? Also, when you say that the downtown was effectively dead? Thank you.

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