Saturday, May 17, 2014

Richlands Mall: Richlands, VA

Richlands Mall, the first mall outside of Bluefield, is the first mall in western Tazewell County.  A very tiny mall compared to Claypool Hill, the mall could have just as easily been a small strip connecting the two main anchors, but instead the owners built it as an enclosed mall possibly to maximize space in an area with limited land to build on.  At 162,500 square feet, the mall is basically nothing more than a single interior hallway extending from a main entrance in front of the mall turning left to end into Rose's forming a backwards L with 24 total spaces.  Geographically, the mall is situated on a narrow strip of land between Mudlick Creek and a railroad track with US 460 on the opposite side of the railroad and the mall serves three towns: Richlands, Cedar Bluff to the east and unincorporated Raven to the west.  Besides Rose's, the mall was also anchored originally by Kroger, Eckerd Drugs and a movie theater in the rear of the mall.  All three anchors have outside access and do not require mall entry.

Today, two of those anchors have since changed hands.  Eckerd is now CVS Pharmacy and Kroger was replaced by regional chain Grant's Supermarket (which also recently moved into the former Kroger in Galax).  Grant's, with 12 and soon 13 locations apparently is a growing and reasonably popular chain filling the void left behind by Kroger, who is diminishing their presence in the region.  In the back of the mall is a theater, which never connected to the mall itself and is positioned on the back side of Rose's.  In terms of anchor position, Rose's is on the east end of the mall, Grant's on the west and CVS on the front facing US 460.  While the Rose's continues to do decent business, the theater has since closed and the interior mall has been closed for probably around a decade.

The two images of the mall interior were taken through the mall entrance of Rose's into the mall.  The interior mall entrance glass was not covered up, so it was possible to see into the mall although the doors were closed and locked.

CVS is situated at the only exterior mall entrance with CVS doors on the left and the mall on the right so that no part of the mall could be entered.  The glass doors had two sets so it was impossible to get a picture of the mall interior from this angle.

Repurposing Richlands Mall would generally be simple with its small size, but the mall is an economically depressed area.  The mall itself was built on a former industrial site.  According to the Richland News-Press from February 25, 1981 an Eastern Isle plant that produced women's clothing was previously on the site.  Cunningham, Weaver, Foreman and Bailey Architects of Atlanta designed the mall, and the mall was initially owned by three local businessmen.  Other mall tenants when the mall opened included Baskin Robbins, Athletic Attic, Shoe World and a Hallmark store.  It is not clear when these stores left, but the mall apparently always had vacancy problems (16 out of 24 stores were open in the first year).  Ultimately, the mall closed to the public in the late 90's.

Rose's is an original anchor tenant.

Grant's Supermarket was relatively busy.  If you look on the left of the sign, you can clearly make out a Kroger labelscar.

With the mall partially occupied, it is unclear if it will continue to function as basically a partial strip with a locked up mall like it is today.  Rose's and CVS may both eventually relocate since Rose's might move to Claypool Hill if/when Kmart leaves, and CVS is likely to build a free-standing off-mall store.  The structure is small enough it may be repurposed or demalled, but more than likely it could very well be completely abandoned and remain that way for years if Rose's chooses to leave with everything but the Grant's demolished.  Oddly enough, the interior mall seems to be in good repair functioning as nothing but storage.  As one of the smallest malls in the state in a region that probably doesn't even much care if it's there or not.  In all, it's pretty much a forgotten mall that probably has a future as a traditional strip mall.

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