In January, a wrong turn in the Cumberland Plateau out of Altamont led me to McMinnville. While there, I was rather hungry and looking for some place to eat. While driving back from the town going east back to Hwy. 111, I stumbled upon Three Star Mall. There was no way I could resist visiting since I was there, but I was there at night and knew I would eventually have to come back to get more pics. I finally did so in July.
Two types of entrances grace the mall. The one without the three stars, representing the three stars of the Tennessee flag, appears to be original, while the other appears to be from modifications in 2002. The overview of the mall is rather unattractive and imbalanced from the outside.
In the past I have heard about this mall from a post on deadmalls.com. It seems that person that posted there was the only one that actually knew it existed. Indeed like most Tennessee malls, it is difficult to find information on it beyond the mall's own website. What is also interesting is that the mall has a siteplan available online. This siteplan pretty much explains how the mall is laid out better than can be described. This is also the only mall map available. None were posted in the mall.
Three-Star Mall today is anchored by JCPenney and Rose's with an attached Sally Beauty Supply, Dollar Tree and Kroger not accessable from the mall. However, those three attached tenants still share the same parking lot, and they are attached on the other side of the Penney's. The mall has a rear entrance, but nothing else is accessable from the back. Both Penney's and Rose's open from the front and into the mall, but nowhere else. In fact, Rose's anchoring a mall today is very, very unusual. It was once much more common in the 1970's and 1980's, but Rose's closed most of their mall-based locations. I understand at one time Kmart anchored the mall, which Rose's later took over and renovated to their standards. The Rose's there, unfortunately, is also one of the most bland stores I have visited.
The anchors of the mall are shown here including Rose's, JCPenney and Kroger as well as Three Star Cinema adjacent to Kroger on an outlot. The Kroger does not connect to the mall, but is instead divided from Penney's by front-facing tenants Dollar Tree and Sally Beauty Supply, both of which do not have any mall access but share the same overall structure.
The mall itself is one of the most tiny malls I have ever encountered aside from even smaller Northgate in Tullahoma. The layout is basically an offset dumbell shape in lieu of a straight shot, giving a bit of definition to it. Goody's once anchored the mall as part of the inline tenants before bankruptcy in early 2009, and the Goody's location literally filled a quarter of the mall space, which should tell you how small it is. The Goody's was located on the upper right portion of the pdf on the backside of the mall.
Entering the Rose's entrance (to the left), then views of Rose's closer in and further out. Note here the detail of the ceilings. The vacant store with the wood paneling in the third photo is a mystery. Perhaps this was a photo finishing lab prior to the digital photography used to take photos of this mall. RIP Kodachrome.
Despite its small size, Three Star Mall is not the typical dumpy mall that tiny malls usually are. Instead of tiled ceilings with cheap looking skylights and terrazzo floors, the mall is quite beautiful inside with elevated stained wood ceilings with lots of skylights and angles. Throughout the mall are planters surrounded by blue-gray tiles. The mall is carpeted with well-maintained gray carpet. The store fronts compliment or match the design of the roofline. The design is attractive enough that the only thing that needs changing is the carpet to more contemporary tiling, and tiles around the planters need to better match the neat looking ceilings. Also, a fountain in center court would also be nice as well. Still, I was quite amazed a mall this small looked this good, and judging by the design it looked like it was probably built between 1979 and 1983. From some vague information I found online, however, it looks like it actually opened in 1985.
Photos as follows: looking toward center court with J's Restaurant on the left, J's Restaurant on the right looking towards main entrance, close-up of main entrance corridor, detail of skylights in center court and looking towards rear entrance with former Goody's on right.
The outside of the mall, however, does no justice for the mall. It is guessed this was the part renovated in 2002, because the big stucco three star design over the mall entrances definitely does not look like anything from the 80's. In fact, on the outside it looks like a rather ugly strip mall, and it is actually somewhat difficult to tell a mall is actually there. Unlike most JCPenney locations, it is so blended with the mall and strip it looks like a tenant on the outside instead of an anchor. I tend to think the mall would be helped a lot by moving Sally and Dollar Tree into the mall and tearing the existing buildings they are in down to make JCPenney stand out more and to make it look more like a real mall. JCPenney could then have a side entrance, and the rear of the mall would become more accessable for such things as possible expansion.
Looking toward Penney's from center court. The next photos look back from Penney's at the inline tenants. The stores to the left are alive and well while Goody's to the right left a big hole needing to be filled (preferably with Dollar Tree and Sally, honestly).
Of course, the fact that McMinnville even has a mall is amazing considering this is not a very large city by any definition. McMinnville is nowhere near an interstate, and the area surrounding McMinnville is very rural. It was not lost on the original developers that the mall needed to be very small for a small town, and the local economy does appear a bit dubious considering the dead Jack In The Box and Ryan's down the street on the US 70S by-pass. Beyond that, the nearest mall in Cookeville is currently dead awaiting demolition for redevelopment into a strip mall.
Entering Penney's court, note the incredibly attractive roofline and store entrance. The second photo looks back at the skylight. The storefront underneath is part of Hibbett Sports. The last photo is looking from the west mall entrance toward Penney's. Note the wasted space on the right approaching Penney's, similar to the entryway for Rose's.
Unfortunately, the fortunes for Three Star Mall do not look very bright. The mall has too many vacancies, and Rose's can hardly be described as a major traffic generator in comparison to a Target or Wal-Mart. At least it does have several chain stores including Radio Shack, Bed Bath & Beyond & Cato, and lets hope they stay there! With its very front-facing layout, the conversion to a regular strip mall is unfortunately far more likely than continued function as an enclosed mall. Nevertheless, this mall was a treat and a really rare find this day and age. It was one of my favorites in design I have seen anywhere. Of course, with a name like "Three Star", it certainly lends itself to jokes about its quality. Three stars is probably a pretty good measure for it overall, but its cool interior architecture I would definitely give 4 1/2 stars.
My own redevelopment idea. Note the addition of a much larger Kroger "Marketplace" concept, inclusion of a Belk, expanded JCPenney and demolition of all connected strip mall elements. Rose's is not helping the mall, but might be relocated to the back.