Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kingsport Mall: Kingsport, TN

Back in 2003, a site was created called that was a spoof of those gimmicky chamber of commerce websites.  The site was indeed hilarious, but it was very very harsh on this mountain city effectively enraging the city leaders, chamber of commerce and likely miffing much of the local populace who were being painted in a less than rosy picture.  To this day, I am wondering what motivated the webmaster of that site who featured, for example, a snarling possum as "local fauna".  It seems like he was getting even with the town for something.  While the site no longer exists, the site featured Kingsport Mall.  Why did they feature it?  To effectively trash the local retail scene as dead, backwards and ugly.  What the webmasters did, however, was actuality give us a rare glimpse into a well-preserved dead mall that opened in September 1970.  Unfortunately, I have only been able to save a couple photos of the mall, which was demolished for a strip mall known as East Stone Commons in 2002.  I attempted to contact the original webmasters of to no avail.

When Kingsport Mall opened, the mall featured a classic T shape with two anchors: Montgomery Ward and Hill's discount department store.  Also included in the mall were the Martin Twin Theaters, which provided mall patrons a way to kick back after shopping.  The mall featured plain decor, lots of glass, brick, shiny metal and clean lines, which were common in malls built into the early 70's.  It still seemed adequate considering that The Miracle Mall in Johnson City was built on an even smaller, plainer plan though the Johnson City mall had the distinct advantage of better luck and better anchors.  In all honesty, it seemed like a cozy yet largely boring shopping experience especially after Fort Henry Mall opened.

This is the first of several photos I saved from the archives that were posted on  In this photo, you see Office Depot, which still exists unchanged, the min mall entrance and Ames in the background.  I cannot tell what store is beyond it, though it appears to be a drug store or dollar store.  The first image with the map of the mall says "unknown" for the last store.  I also suspect a Woolworth or McCrory's was next to the Martin Twin Theaters.  Photo from

Kingsport Mall never got much of a chance to soar.  Judging by the design, exterior sign and anchor positioning it looks like the mall is unmistakably similar and probably built by the same people as abandoned Lexington Mall in Lexington, KY. It was built way too small when it opened with a terrible anchor line-up, but such simple floorplans were unfortunately typical for the period.   I assume that in 1970 that the downtown stores did not want to invest into the mall, but only five years later they would all bound across town to Fort Henry Mall, which seemed terribly unfair.  Kingsport was dwarfed, but it was in a good location with anchors that had no intentions of leaving, which made it a decent ancillary mall into the 1980's.

The Kingsport Mall sign has a gothic look, but the overall design is IDENTICAL to the Lexington Mall sign in the link above.  What was taken off the other hexagon sign?  Note Martin Theaters at the bottom.  It looked really hot the day those were taken.  God, I love this sign!  Photo from

This looks to be the mall entrance adjacent to Hill's/Ames from the front.  Bassett's Dairy Bar looks to be a local establishment that figured out that no matter how low the rent that a mall with no customers is a poor business model.  Note the Martin Theater in the background.  I recall Martin Theaters owners sent a nasty letter to the owners of who claimed the theater was out of business at the time, but I wasn't there.  The owners published it proudly.  I guess it was easy to bash the dead mall in town back in the 90's when you thought they would always be there.  Photo here 

The fact that Kingsport Mall held on as long as it did was pretty amazing.  Montgomery Ward, however, was pretty well stuck considering that Fort Henry Mall opened with both Sears and JCPenney despite the built-in anchor pad for a fifth anchor.  Five anchors back then was unheard of anyway.  Hill's was also reasonably successful until the early 1990's when the chain declined and sold out to Ames in 1998, which itself folded in 2000.  Montgomery Ward also lost its way in the same time span, so an aging dinosaur mall was likewise laden with two dinosaur anchors.  Montgomery Ward itself would last until the chain folded in 2000.  By 2001, the mall was effectively dead other than Office Depot.  Even before both anchors emptied out, the mall had never been updated and looked yellowed and decrepit after nearly 30 years of business.  Most inline stores had closed or moved out by then, and the owners apparently attempted to gradually convert the interior into a strip mall.  Office Max itself was squeezed into the northern portion of the mall cutting off the Wards former mall entrance from the rest of the mall.  The result was that the remaining mall was even smaller and more dead than before, thus becoming fodder for the mockery of the mall as a "shopping mecca".

 I believe this was taken along the back side of the mall, and this shows part of the old Montgomery Ward.  The better pictures did not seem to be available.  If anybody saved the photos from this site when it existed, please send them my way!  Photo from

The mall office actually looks pretty sharp for a dead mall never mind it is obviously filling space of a former actual store.  The homemade "Mall Office" sign, however, suggests that the management is out to lunch 6 out of 8 hours daily and that you better call ahead if you want to talk to them about leasing in the mall where one of the two parties will be laughing after the meeting adjourns.  Of course, that is if, first, you don't just get the recording that informs you your call will never be returned.  Photo from

Apparently Kingsport's crowning as a "shopping mecca" took an ironic twist after the mall was demolished in 2002.  Only the original Montgomery Ward building remains, which is now split into Hobby Lobby and a row of small tenants along the former northern outside entrance.  Office Depot, however, remained unchanged through the redevelopment other than small tenants tacked to the right side of it much like what happened to the old Montgomery Ward. Converted to a strip mall, this indeed brought new excitement to a long dead corner bringing in big box stores including Ross Dress For Less, TJ Maxx, and PetSmart.  Smaller tenants were also built onto each side of the old Montgomery Ward building and along outparcels that numbered closely to what the mall once offered.  Locals today even claim that the new East Stone Commons is more successful than Fort Henry Mall.  The center today is fading somewhat, but still far more popular than the old Kingsport Mall ever was, and the redeveloped mall did indeed become a "shopping mecca".  With Fort Henry Mall to the south and massive new development to the east, the mall's already excellent and central location for the city's suburban shopping district is a big part in why it is doing well today.  Now, if only they would purchase the land behind it to tack on a new mall addition into the existing redeveloped strip...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center: Kingsport, TN

One thing that wore on me when I was driving through Kingsport is how I wish that I was arriving in the late 1990's instead of when I did, because then I could have toured and photographed the forgotten Kingsport Mall.  Of course, back then I would have had only a 24 exposure big, bulky film camera with image quality resembling the early 80's.  What would also have been worth it in that trip aside from visiting Kingsport Mall was to have driven a short ways down the street to catch an earlier glimpse of Parkway Plaza Shopping Center.

The most amazing thing about Parkway Plaza is that it looks like the kind of strip mall you would find in the most depressed ghetto before the graffiti artists, arsonists and vandals trashed it beyond recognition.  It is that reason that you rarely find many places like this left in most cities across the country since places like this are modified or demolished in the nicer sides of town.  The large push to redevelop most urban slums influences this, but some of the best mid-to-late century architecture was lost due to that logic.  Kingsport, however, is one of those exceptional places hanging onto some of the retro architecture and signage left behind.  The strip mall looks to be a perfectly preserved specimen straight from the 1960's in every way!  Even the sign along Lynn Garden Drive (TN 36) looks like it hasn't been touched in decades, and it is in remarkably good condition.  I really do not understand why but these type of cities tend to hold the most mid-century gems with East Tennessee a virtual living museum of the mid-1950's to the mid-1970's, but I do wonder how much race is a factor since the immediate area despite being very economically depressed is also very white. 

The very first photo features the well-preserved modernist sign along Lynn Garden Drive (TN 36).  The first photo above features the former Kroger, which is currently abandoned.  Kroger looks to have left in the 1980's, but the store may have found a few tenants as late as the 90's considering it's not in worse condition.  The last photo above is the former discount store which resembles some pics of Hill's or Grant's.

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center in its time was an unremarkable shopping center featuring one grocery store, Kroger, and one discount store which appeared to be Hill's, Grant's or something similar.  I would not have been surprised if this wasn't the very first strip mall in the city that at the time ultimately supplemented Kingsport Mall as if it itself was a mall.  In fact, Parkway Plaza is itself has a small open-air, covered mall portion.  Such arcades were obviously common in the earliest strip centers to maximize space for shops that wanted into the first strip malls prior to the mall era.   The arcade, however, ends at a plain wall with obviously no anchor or expansion planned.  Imagine if it had, though, then Kingsport could have had its own version of Montgomery's Normandale Shopping Center.

I am looking here into the open-air mall portion in the middle looking toward the wall in the back.  Too bad that was never expanded into a full-fledged open-air mall.  The decay is interesting enough here, but the period design is something else.

Parkway Plaza is in an awkward location on TN 36 north of US 11W (East Stone Drive).  At one time TN 36 was the main route carrying US 23, but in the 1970's it was by-passed by the TN 137 freeway, which later became I-181 and is now the northern extent of I-26.  Even worse was when Kingsport Mall and later Fort Henry Malls were built, all the development shifted east towards the malls taking downtown as well.  Parkway Plaza became isolated and its local community eventually chose not to support it in lieu of shopping at the better, newer options further east.  Kroger eventually closed their location at Parkway Plaza consolidating all of their business into their store across from Kingsport Mall sometime later.  Soon everything else moved there as well with the momentum speeding up further after Kingsport Mall was torn down and redeveloped in 2002.

Obviously whoever parked that truck there in the front of the mall part in the first photo was not a bit worried about anything happening to it.  That is looking toward the parking lot and I took the picture to show the unique skylight treatment.  The last photo is a look down the walkways in front of the stores out toward the mystery discounter.  I edited out my vehicle in the second pic.

I can only imagine if the economy were better that Parkway Plaza would be history, probably redeveloped for a non-retail purpose such as a senior center, medical center, mid-priced motel or low income housing.  Probably the main reason it was overlooked was due to the lower commercial benefit of the area as well as the push to redevelop Kingsport Mall first.  While there may be one or two shops still operating in the center, it is effectively dead with little hope of revival.  With no renovation other than a paint job, updating the center would be a huge investment and any renovation would probably make the center look worse since it would likely be done cheaply.  The anchors are also too small to be revived in any form, so the most that would be interested in locating there would be a Dollar General.  I'm just glad I got to see it before they city finally decides that this interesting, yet decrepit historical landmark is too much of a blight to leave as is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pal's "Sudden Service" Restaurants: Fast Food in the Tri-Cities Region

Aside from the Miracle Mall (better known as The Mall at Johnson City), Johnson City in my previous post offered few other points of interest retailwise.  Perhaps part of this can be attributed to the fact that most everything there aside from the struggling downtown area is new.  While this is also largely true of Kingsport, Kingsport is the largest of the Tri-Cities, and it is absolutely full of surprises.  It had the first mall in the region and it still has an abandoned 1960's strip mall relic, another big struggling mall and of course, the rather interesting Pal's fast food restaurants.

An older style of Pal's in downtown Kingsport, which I assume is the original location.  It definitely has that 1960's vibe.

Another view a bit closer to the building.

Pal's is found in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, but mostly Tennessee.  It's furthest south location is Greeneville, furthest west Morristown and furthest north Norton, VA.  I did not have a chance to try it while I was there, but I can honestly say that it looks to have a standout menu compared to many larger chains for a rather diverse palate much like Hardee's used too.  Serving items such as the "Sauceburger", "Chipped Ham", "Chiliburger" and a chili dog alongside the usual burger and fries sounds a bit unique and fun.  Considering how the chain has grown, it must be decent.  It definitely seemed to attract more business than regional chain Jacks in Alabama did, but nothing on here could be easy for the waistlines of the area (except maybe the Chipped Ham sans mayo).

This much newer location is a bit frightening.  Most look like this.  This is across from Fort Henry Mall in Southland Shopping Center, which once housed a (Kuhn's) Big K.

Besides the food, what also stands out about Pal's is the absolutely frightful decor used on the place.  The logo itself is the name inside a sunburst, and the buildings themselves have hideous turquoise tile topped with a big fake hot dog.  In fact, the only location I saw that was different was in downtown Kingsport, which I am guessing is the flagship.  Both styles are featured here for comparison as well.  I guess it was good I went downtown or I wouldn't have seen both.  The older style looks more like a vintage 1960's piece in the vein of the early Burger Chef, but I found it was more eye-catching and appetizing than a cotton candy colored cube.

Here is the sign at the Southland Shopping Center location across from Fort Henry Mall.  After eating a Sauceburger, play vollyball with them.  Maybe they'll do tenis next week.

The whole phenomenon of local fast food joints are curious, though it is well known that all started out as such.  Probably why some are national while others are not has a lot to do with the location.  Consider that McDonald's and Taco Bell both started in California, which is probably how they obtained a national following vs. something found in a place like Kingsport.  I can think of many other examples of local chains like Pal's including fore-mentioned Jack's in Birmingham, The Varsity in Atlanta, Lion's Choice in St. Louis, Krystal in Chattanooga, Rush's in Columbia among others.  Some, such as Lion's Choice, I would love to expand out of their region.  In all, local chain restaurants are always part of my curiosity of making retail trips to cities across the South, I am glad to feature this rather unique local flavor.

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.