Saturday, June 13, 2009

Walnut Square Mall: Dalton, GA

Five years after Riverbend Mall became the first mall in Northwest Georgia, Walnut Square opened on July 23, 1980 (from Wikipedia) bringing Dalton its first and only enclosed mall. Prior to the construction of Walnut Square, most business was in or near downtown. Bry-Man's Plaza was the major strip mall for the city located within a few blocks of the major downtown department stores. Walnut Square is in a rather odd location. It is nowhere near I-75, basically east of downtown on Walnut Ave (SR 52). It is not located near the intersection of any other highways, but is within a couple miles of the east by-pass, completed almost 20 years after the mall first opened. With that, the Dalton By-Pass (US 41) has no positive impact on the mall. In all, this suggests that Walnut Square is largely a local affair not meant to attract customers outside of its original buying area. However, the most likely reason for its location probably relates to the mountainous terrain near I-75 where building a large shopping mall would have been difficult and costly.

Four photos of the main concourse. The third is in front of the Belk Home & Kids (former Loveman's) and the last is in front of Penney's

Walnut Square is one of the few remaining malls to have been little modified since it opened. While there have been some changes of anchors, the overall mall concourse still features the original terrazzo floors, original overall design and original store fronts on long-time businesses: definitely NOT a bad thing in a successful mall in otherwise good repair. In fact, the only place in the mall that has been updated is the flooring in the court areas and the mall entrances outside, which strongly resemble those at Georgia Square (CBL owns both malls). Despite all of this, the mall is still successful even with a desperately ailing local economy.

Northeast entrance and just inside the northeast entrance.

Dalton, the carpet capital of the world, is struggling with a declining housing market; vastly reduced demand for carpet; gasping industrial sector and an overall bad economy. The result is Dalton having the highest unemployment rate in the state and one of the highest in the country at the moment. With that, a few store vacancies vs. a dead mall is impressive and I was glad to see it was not in worse shape since my previous visit in 2006.

Note the original signage here. The chinese restaurant on the right still has diagonal wood treatment and is obviously original. In the background is an original Sbarro sign not seen anywhere else. Mall owners, please do not ever change these signs!

The CVS pharmacy here was originally a Revco. Note that the CVS has its very own entrance, allowing the store to operate outside of regular mall hours.

A few malls still have the classic Foot Locker sign with the diagonal wood trim. Walnut Square is one of those.

When Walnut Square opened, it had anchors Belk, Sears and Loveman's along with a movie theater. According to Wikipedia, JCPenney moved to a new store in the mall later in 1981 and Goody's came along in 1990. The last now leaves a vacancy in the rear of the mall since Goody's went bankrupt in 2009. Loveman's of Chattanooga was acquired by Proffitt's in 1986 before becoming a second Belk store when Belk bought up the entire Proffitt's chain in 2006. Also, the movie theater left the mall in 2007 or 2008 and now resides in the back of the mall on an outlot. The first Belk store was a continuation of defunct Belk Gallant, which was once downtown along with Loveman's, Sears and JCPenney.

All the mall entrances, except Goody's including Belk, Penney's, Loveman's and Sears. The Penney's was the most original store in the mall. It even has the original brown carpet from 1980 before it came back into style again. A photo of the sealed Goody's mall entrance and Sbarro will be done in another trip soon.

Recently, a planned lifestyle center looked to pose a threat to Walnut Square. With most of the trade area around I-75, it is not surprising that such a proposal would be introduced, so with that, the economy may actually be helping the mall. Since this will likely not happen now for awhile, Walnut Square remains successful in its position as one of the outpost shopping malls of Chattanooga and as Dalton's very own major shopping mall.

Loveman's today and Loveman's in 2005 as Proffitt's. This is the only photo I have of the store as a Proffitt's.

Outside photos of Goody's, Penney's, Sears and Belk

Outside entrance to now-closed McDonald's. A labelscar is visible for it as well as Goody's. The McDonald's is now a pet store, but it still has the same floor as McDonald's. Walnut Square never had a food court. All restaurants are scattered through the mall as was once common.


  1. Walnut Square made the WSJ article about malls at risk of closing, which used sales per sq. ft. under $250 as the criterion(national average is $381). The numbers were comparable to Rome's Mt. Berry Square and Cleveland, TN's Bradley Square.
    Unfortunately I can't find the link with the list, but did find the article.

    For some of these malls, they may surely die, others may recover and still others may be repurposed for today's marketplace, perhaps gaining the lifestyle/mall hybrid layout found at Augusta Mall, Perimeter Mall and Cumberland Mall.

    Walnut Square's low sales per sq. ft. is likely a combination of the closing of the Goody's anchor and Proffit's use as Belk's Home and Kid store. The early 80's faux wood flooring dating to the stores original banner of Loveman's, old carpet with visible stains and scars of relocated displays and shelving and general tired appearance doesn't bode well for the extra Belk anchor space, the original Belk is in great condition as is Sears and JCPenney.

    Lastly the mall lacks two mall mainstays-a bookstore and music store, both becoming increasing rare these days as big box bookstores replace mall stores and downloads shatter music sales. Another mainstay of malls of its vintage that lacked at Walnut Square was the cafeteria, neither Morrison's nor Picadilly located at the mall due to its distance from I-75.

    Today, the two strip centers that declined due to Walnut Square's opening have been rejuvenated-Bryman's Plaza and Dalton Shopping Center, both located along Walnut Avenue between I-75 and the mall.

    Another point, Goody's filled the never built fifth anchor spot that was intended for what would have been the 2nd Miller's in Georgia. Miller's never built as ownership transitioned from Garfinkel, Brooks Bros and Miller&Rhoads to Allied to Hess' and finally Proffits which by then had already acquuired Loveman's.

  2. Due to the long post, I left off info regarding Walnut Square's trade area originally extended eastward to Blue Ridge, Ellijay and Jasper. The opening of I-575, GA 515 resulted in a direct north-south expressway link to Cobb County, resulting in regional trade moving southward by the mid-80s to the newly opened Town Center at Cobb which would also siphon Dalton retail trade coming from Calhoun-Gordon County. Hamilton Place Mall would open as Chattanooga's super regional at the same time, capturing retail trade from Chattanooga's Georgia suburbs, truncating the northwestward trade area from Dalton.

    Walnut Square mas was able to compete with Eastgate and Northgate in Chattanooga and outshone Rome's Riverbend and Cleveland's Cleveland Mall, but would be equaled by Mt. Berry Square and Bradley Square. Today's Walnut Square Mall depends almost entirely on retail trade from Dalton-Whitfield and neighboring Murray, a vastly abbreviated trade area from that which it drew from when it opened in 1980.

  3. walnut square also was home to the frist dollar tree we also had k&k toys and kay bee toys when kay bee went down to one store and now its closed revco is now cvs

  4. The China Garden USA was originally an Orange Julius. The neighboring Joker's Audio has moved to the old Gateway Books/Bookland store. Books-A-Million(BAM)has returned to the mall while CVS and the Carmike Cinema have moved out. Rush Fitness has moved into the old Goody's location. Belk has finally received the new logo with the main(Men's and Women's) store being remodeled. The Belk Home and Kids has the new logo but still looks haphazard with its false walls, old carpeting and old style tiling left from 1980.

  5. There was a hand bag store at Walnut Square Mall in the early 80's called Bags N' More. Great store. Wish I could remember the name of the restaurant's name that used to be there - it became a Mexican restaurant.

    1. the Snuggery was the restaurant across from Revco/cvs. I became a Mexican restaurant sometime in the 90's

  6. Was the pet store in this mall a Pass Pets? Me and my wife came down here a few times in the 1990s. One time the pet store had a bunch of baby skunks. So cute and fun to play with that day.
    BTW I think Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga is about $400 per sq foot.