Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eden Mall: Eden, NC

The South is littered with tiny malls that probably should never have been built.  They are usually isolated enough in small cities that they really do not do very well, but offer enough to the community to linger.  Usually, the mall opened in better times before the city's main industrial base declined and retail outside of downtown was not yet established.  Nearby, there might have been a grocery store, but nothing that could really compete with the mall.   Eventually, as the suburban retail offerings in the city expand, and the base of shopping dwindles due to the local economy, the mall either drifts to alternative uses or outright fails.  Stores that remain in the mall begin to vacate to nearby strip centers.  Better stores in nearby larger cities also begin to move closer to the mall's market area chipping away at any market share it might have had.  This is because growth in the area was too stagnant to insulate the mall when this occurred.  In the case of Eden, probably all of this applied.

The town of Eden itself has a strange history as the consolidation of three separate towns in 1967 known as Leaksville, Spray and Draper.  The town got its name from its origin as a large estate that existed in the 1700's that was also named Eden.  Today it is a city with nearly 16,000 residents: a population not adequate for much more than a Wal-Mart and a couple grocery stores.  Add to this that better shopping is available close by across the state line in Danville, Virginia.  Additionally, the larger municipalities of the Piedmont Triad to the southwest offer a broader range of choices that have grown increasingly upscale.  Thrown all together, the mall was destined to fail from the very beginning.

Views of this mall take you back to a simpler time...architecturally.  It was hardly one of the showier malls built in 1980, and from this angle it looks like a middle school.  The first photo, however, shows that the retro skylights found in the former Kmart wing are basic, yet profound.  The photo above is in the Belk wing.  All photos in this post were taken by digitalsky on February 19, 2011.
Center court features a few small skylights and the cylinder light fixtures, which still look classy today.

Here is a former restaurant in the mall.  Fast food?  Morrison's Cafeteria?

The wall mural in the background was originally the Kmart mall entrance.  I would so love to see a pic of any Kmart mall entrance prior to the logo upgrade in 1992.
While you're probably out of luck on finding a summer outfit in the mall part,  you can still get your nails done!
Eden Mall's origins dated to 1980 when the mall first opened.  With its disco-themed appearance, the mall sported anchors Belk Cline, Kmart and Globman's, a Martinsville, Va. based store.  Belk is located on the west end of the mall, Globman's was on the north end and Kmart on the east end.  The first few years were most likely also its most successful as well.  The mall joined an enormous boom in mall construction in smaller cities that came on the heels of phenomenal success for malls in larger cities.  In North Carolina, Belk was heavily influential in this boom of small town shopping malls as they attempted to upscale their image, market share and offerings.

You know it's vintage when you see the diagonal wood.   You know it's sleazy when a no-name cafe with a letter board is the only hot meal in the mall.

I'm assuming mall management is too strapped to fix this train wreck storefront.  This is on the opposite side of the Globman's/Peeble's wing.

Mail Boxes, Etc, high speed internet and Publisher's Clearinghouse Gimmicks all wrapped into one neat little package!  Seeing that this store took up some space, I would love to know its history.

Diagonal wood and lattice.  I assume the store on the left was Foot Locker, but I have no clue on the right.

Funky and sinister looking diagonal wood sits next to a shop sporting a faux Colonial facade.  This is found on the former Globman's/Peeble's wing.

The mall's fortunes came into question by the early 1990's.  With a high vacancy rate, the mall was also in a time warp.  By this time, national chain retailers within the mall started to flee.  First, Globman's closed at the mall, but the store was then immediately filled by Peeble's.  The worst hit came, however, when major anchor Kmart closed at the mall.  The closing of the store was also not part of the later restructuring, but came much earlier when it shut down at the mall in 1994 when Kmart was still truly competitive with Wal-Mart and the discount store market had more players.  By this point, the mall was already being re-purposed as a haven for non-traditional tenants.  This was a move made by many of the ailing shopping malls in that era before the building boom of the 2000's resulted in the demolition of many of these failing malls.  Eden Mall, however, did not enjoy the building boom that gripped the larger cities of the South, thus it managed to survive in its diminished capacity.

Belk here blends shiny copper with fake stone, but they have the mall entrance firmly shut.  Nevertheless, they are still putting up a new sign.  I guess this is a reminder to the few patrons of the mall that yes, there is still a Belk here, but no, they are not going to lose any air conditioning to this hole.
Close-up of mall entrance doors with "Used Front Door Entrance" on the mall side and "Not An Exit" on the other side.  

Inside Belk, store merchandise is placed in front of the former mall entrance.

Overhead lights inside Belk

Here is some vintage decor inside the Belk.

Today, Eden Mall is in the twilight zone.  The mall is effectively dead with no chain store operations at all except for Belk.  Almost the entire mall is made up of small shops and offices filling less than 50 percent of the empty shops, and the mall is in near disrepair never having received a single renovation since the day it opened 31 years ago.  Curiously, however, Belk hangs on at the mall.  I assume that Belk just has not found a strip shopping center to anchor onto.  Peeble's did, however, relocating to Kingsway Plaza in 2008.  Belk, however, simply snubs the mall having sealed off their mall entrance since Peeble's fled to higher ground.  The Belk store itself looks as old as the mall, but even then it still got the new sign treatment with the blue flower and loopy letters: even on the mall entrance.

Inside Belk, it is obvious that maintenance of the building is lacking judging by this water damage.  This was a brand new sign and was already falling apart!





In front of Belk is, well was, a mall directory.  Leave your business card there, though, and you might get a free lunch!

NC DMV must be in partnership with all the dead malls, because this brings in guaranteed business.  The ceilings above this "store" also seem to look a bit older than 1980.

Here is the former Peeble's, originally Globman's, mall entrance at the end of the smaller north wing.  Note the lights on inside on what is now the Eden Events Center.


Inside the Eden Events Center, it still looks like a department store...sort of.


The mall today hangs on with obviously the bare minimum for upkeep.  New uses have been rather creative, however, such as the events center situated in the former Globman's/Peeble's store.  What once sold blouses and perfume recently hosted a wrestling match.  A DMV office also draws frowning traffic into the mall, and "Eden Business Center" seems to be an odd hybrid of Mail Boxes, Etc., a sweepstakes portal and internet cafe.  DMV offices seem to be a good fit for dead malls considering at least two other malls I covered had them.  Still, with the many dead malls I have covered, this one may possibly rate as one of the trashiest, most forgotten and most forlorn malls ever to still have the lights on.


THIS has to be one of the best examples of an unsightly Mom N Pop makeover of a mall tenant.  They even put in their own doors and painted on "awnings".  It's somewhat endearing, I guess.



This florist here captures more of that "last chance" spirit next to the mural that appears to depict a big waterfall.  The only thing I expect to be falling here are ceiling tiles.


The reference is clearly to the Garden of Eden having this apple here, but I can't help but have Ruckzuck from Newton's Apple playing in my head when I look at this.

Full-scale view of the front mall entrance shows that the mall sought to use staggered geometrics to draw in customers.  It must not have worked very well.  Is the sign original?

Another view of the Eden Mall main entrance looking east (it faces south).

Judging by the appearance of the mall, the days for this mall may have been prolonged about 15 years or so, but its days are numbered at least as a public retail operation.  With Belk being the last legitimate retailer, it does absolutely nothing for the rest of the mall.  I believe they will eventually relocate if given the chance, but they may have to build their own store considering the complete lack of new shopping centers in the area.  Why that has not already happened I cannot figure out.  Once Belk goes, I expect the mall will probably close.  What will take its place is anyone's guess.  I am sure that it could function well as a school, church, medical center, corporate offices or government multimodal facility.  It could also sit empty until it deteriorates beyond repair as well.

The Belk store at the mall now has the new logo and one of its most popular styles from the era of single level stores as well.  The clean looking store stands at contrast to the pothole-filled empty parking lot.

Closer inspection, though, shows some details have been overlooked such as the burnt out and damaged light fixture in front of Belk.

Kmart from the front of the mall looks to be in pretty decent condition considering it has been abandoned for 17 years.  It looks like it got an early remodel, too, with the red K with the cursive "mart".

Peebles here is a plain vanilla box with an awning that has all the charm of a garage door on a warehouse.

Close-up of the awning with "Eden Events Center" down in the Everlast branding style.  It's a perfect fit for "rasslin'".

Eden Mall pretty much can be summed up by the average person to be a total economic loss and a complete dump.  The Biblical Eden probably was as well after it's two most famous residents were evicted.  For modern history buffs and retail enthusiasts, however, this mall is amazing.  The chance of finding any well-preserved, largely unmodified 1980 shopping mall in 2011 is remote, but they do exist if you know where to look.  I personally have not yet had the chance to visit this mall, but I hope to see it one day to get a few pics of my own.  I might not have even known about it had I not been tipped-off about it, but thanks to digitalsky here I have this excellent collection of photos of a mall that clearly has seen better days.

Thwe back entrance to Kmart, which was like all mall-based Kmarts only accessable through the mall.

The back parking lot of the Kmart found new use as a Go-Kart track.  
Words fail me.

22 comments:

  1. Wow such a strange little mall, although I do like those colorful skylights in the first pic! I think if Belk still opened into the mall interior there would probably be a few more stores in there, or at least the mall standard Radio Shack/GNC/Bath and Body Works. It looks like when they updated the Belk logo inside they just hung a banner instead of putting up actual signage...

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  2. That's hilarious about Belk displaying the new logo on that sealed off entrance.

    Love seeing the old Peebles labelscar up, guess Stage Stores isn't interested in opening up Goody's there.

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  3. George P. BurdellMay 24, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    @Anonymous

    If you're talking about the Belk banner over the (former) mall entrance, that is likely just a temporary banner to hang there until the real sign is put up. This was done at the other Belk stores too. My local store in Milledgeville, Georgia, had a banner hung up off-center (like the one at this mall) after the old sign was taken down. While the banner was up, the real new sign was mounted above the entrance, with the banner off-center and therefore out of the way. After the new sign was finished, the banner was taken back down. I imagine that after these photos were taken, a real, permanent sign was put over the (former) mall entrance, and the banner was removed.

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  4. Dustin, Peeble's didn't leave the city...they must moved out of the mall. As to Belk...I don't understand why any money was spent to upgrade signs at a store they will probably end up closing not too far down the road. Do they plan to just take the sign with them when they leave? Them putting a new sign on a sealed off mall entrance sure sounds like typical corporate bureaucracy lol.

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  5. Not sure if Belk will close this store. It's possible that with the overhead of a new store, they would end up losing money in this market by moving. So unless the place just completely goes to hell, and cars end up getting lost in gigantic pothole/sinkholes, this place may remain open. It could be marginally profitable.

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  6. When I visited on a Friday night in February, the Belk was not too busy, and one side of the parking lot had ZERO cars. I didnt get to go inside the mall, but Im shocked Belk closed themselves off from the rest of the mall.

    I was in the old Peebles building for a pro wrestling show, which was neat to be in an old dept store. Peebles opened up a few miles down the street in a strip mall.

    Also: This mall suffers from not being directly off the main drag. You need to get off a off ramp, take a right (if your going north) and then you see the mall.

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  7. A must-see small mall is Southgate Mall in northeastern North Carolina, in fact, the ONLY mall in that 16 county extremely rural area. Built in 1967, it still retains much of its late 60s architecture yet is surprisingly well-occupied and solidly anchored by Belk, JCPenney and Burke's Outlet despite the fact that the Hampton Roads, VA metro with its seven malls is only 45 minutes drive away! Sky City dude should take a trip there sometime!

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  8. Why oh why would any mall operator allow an anchor to seal itself off from the main mall?
    Although, I read recently about the air conditioning costs with enclosed malls, so perhaps you are right about that. They could still put up doors!
    That just seems like a bad business decision. Or... it could indicate Belk is aware of an undisclosed future plan... such as demolition of the mall?
    Scott

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  9. Growing up in Eden, moving away and since moving back I got a little nostalgia reading this. It's a decent write up, but you didn't mention any of the various tenants of the K-Mart space. I know the Eden Hospital, Morehead, rented out spaces (including the KMart space) at one time for things like exercise machines (I think it was meant for physical therapy, but I'm not sure). From what I remember there was also an indoor go kart track or something to that effect.

    Also from what I remember, that front fascia sign is original.

    Oh, and the Japanese restaurant with the neon lighting is actually quite good, and it's the only reason why I even go in that parking lot any more.

    As for why Belk's closed off it's mall entrance, I can only guess that it might be the lack of mall patrons. If you're going to the Eden mall, you aren't going to shop, you're there for only one reason (whether that be Japanese food, the DMV, getting the nails done, or whatever)...you won't be doubling up and going shopping as well. Belk probably had nothing to lose, since if you're going to Belk, you intend to go to Belk. If you are going elsewhere, you aren't intending to go to Belks anyway. No harm in shutting one entrance off.

    Also to note, and I'm not sure if this is common at other small town, nearly abandon malls, but the elderly of the town used to used to use it as a sort of indoor walking track early in the morning. They may still, but I haven't been inside since before my high school days (the Japanese place has an outside entrance).

    Loved the write up all the same!

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  10. I grew up in Eden as well, and these pictures brought back a ton of memories. As a child of the '80s I spent a lot of time in this mall during my formative years, mostly just wandering through, wasting time and any few spare dollars I had.

    Not sure if you're interested in this, but I can fill in a few details for you. In the picture where you surmise there may have been a Foot Locker, I don't think a Foot Locker was ever in this mall, but I could be wrong about that. I can tell you that the store with the wood paneling out front was always a salon of some sort, and the next store down with the lattice work was a record store called the Sound Shop. That's where most of my spare dollars were spent, and at the time, that lattice work wasn't there. Just beyond that, with the darker wood paneling near the ceiling, was an arcade called Take Ten. The rest of my dollars went directly in those machines. I think the very next store down was a Waldenbooks, but I wouldn't swear it was in that location.

    The picture of center court is especially nostalgic for me. Santa Claus sat at center court every year, and the Reece's behind it was a Peanut Shack for most of my childhood.

    Other important stores for a kid in Eden: there was a Hallmark, a pet store, and a toy store at various points, but I can't remember any of the names. Fuzzy's BBQ also had a restaurant there for years, and it was the best BBQ in town. There's still one of those in Madison, not too far up the road.

    For a while, they also used to have old time/bluegrass nights there on the weekends. It's been through a lot of transformations, no doubt.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

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  11. Hey, I don't know if you read any of these comments: for example, I pointed out (and proved) a vacant store in ParkSide Mall was a Chick-fil-A, but it was never amended.

    Anyway, I wanted to show you I found a picture of Kmart at Eden Mall (yes, an interior picture) when it opened: http://edennc.us/Consolidation/kmart.jpg

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  12. I also at onetime lived in Eden, NC but remember the location before it was a Mall. It was an area with nice modest homes an great neighbors. It's was a sad day when the neighborhood was torn down and a mall went up. Don't we all just love progress. I sure wish it had never been turned into a business but had remained that my childhood home place.

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  13. According to Craigslist, all or part of the Kmart building will become a Super Flea Market. Anyone know anything about that???

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  14. Wow! This shopping center looks hiedeous!

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  15. I also grew up near Eden, and visited the mall almost every weekend. Most of my allowance was spent in Sound Shop and Waldenbooks, and later, Maurice's(when they still had the men's section). My mom, grandmom and I would often eat lunch at Fuzzy's BBQ nextdoor to Globman's, or at the cafeteria inside Kmart. I used to love getting chocolate covered peanuts and roasted cashews from Peanut Shack on the way out. I've been a resident of Atlanta for 12 years now, and it's disheartening how this mall has basically faded away-just like Pennrose Mall in Reidsville. I think developers should just erect "Rockingham Mall" somewhere on 14, between Reidsville and Eden and close both these dying little malls.

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  16. I used to live in Madison from 1990-1995 and I used to visit this mall. We would go shopping at KMart and there used to be a video arcade my little brother and I would visit called "Take Ten".

    I now live in Greensboro and I was wondering about this mall. I stumbled across this blog post in a Google search - wow...I'm shocked at this mall being a shadow of its former self. I'm also surprised that the KMart is gone.

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  17. Matt is correct the mall never had a footlocker and the order of stores was a Hair Salon, Sound Shop, Walden Books, Rack Room Shoes. I was not allowed in Take Ten but Sound Shop, Dubey’s Pet shop, and the Toy Store received all my money. I remember when the cool thing to do in High School was to cruise around the mall before it was banned. Cruising was when anyone with a drivers license drove around the mall several times with the music blasting (another practice I was not allowed to do)!

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  18. I grew up within eye sight of the old mall, Actually snuck in while it was being built a couple of times. The hair salon in the pic was a Regis, The Sound Shop was originaly a Record Bar before it changed names. Take Ten was indeed the game room (My brother worked there for quite a few years)Walden Books was next and Elrees sweet shop and the cafeteria were beside that. I spent a lot of time in there even in my adult years,used to do some contract maintenance work for some of the stores. Shame to see it go down hill.

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  19. Instead closing all the small malls we should do as the European, they do not destroy what they have but restore and repair their buildings and owners of shops live near by and keeps things very beautiful and successful, lets have hope in repairs and a better economy with many needed item for sale and etc.

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  20. Yes, I remember the record store, the Walden Books, and the toy store that was there. I think it was a KayBee Toys, but I can't be absolutely certain. I remember because we bought Atari games for dirt cheap in there! The Take Ten video arcade was cool too because they gave free tokens in exchange for good grades on your report card.

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    1. At one time, the toy store was Playland. That was its second incarnation as such, and I believe you're right about it being Kaybee. Originally, Endicott Johnson Shoes was beside that space.

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  21. I remember when the mall was first built. They had the most stores there the first year, then it was downhill from there, as they lost a few every year, until now there is almost nothing there. Incidentally, that DMV is now gone, and so is that Morehead Rehabilitation Center. Even the Japanese restaurant is gone, being replaced by another restaurant that is also gone now.

    When the mall first opened, there was Globman's, K-Mart, and Belks anchoring, with plenty of stores that no one has mentioned yet. Globmans gave way to Thalheimers, which became Peebles, which is now an "event center" even though there are no events there. There was a Cabel's camera store. A Regis Hair Salon. A Morrison's Cafeteria, A Merle Norman store. A Walden Books. Plus around no less than five different shoe stores. There was a Cato store, and the first Everything's A Dollar Store, plus all the usual dress shops and even a Bible Book Store. I think there was even a Glamor Shots studio there for awhile.

    This was a mall that probably should never have been built, but it was built at the tail end of America's mall fad in the early 1980s. Today, it is a depressing reminder of urban decay. It is so empty now, that even the old people ("the mall walkers" ) stopped coming here

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