Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Haywood Mall: Greenville, SC

Haywood Mall is South Carolina's shining star.  It is by far the best and largest mall in the state, eclipsing Westgate Mall in Spartanburg and newer Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach.  However, a notable difference separates the two malls, and that is that Haywood Mall has the perfect mall anchor lineup.  Anchors at Haywood Mall are Macy's, Sears, Belk, JCPenney and Dillard's.  With a lineup like that, this mall is invincible, and it is likewise one of only three* two-level malls found anywhere in the state.  The others, Richland Mall, has fallen on hard times as its anchor plan proved too risky and Columbia Place is strangely fading away.  Haywood Mall, on the other hand, emerged among two other malls to crush them completely through their own expansion, department store bankruptcies and consolidations of anchors at the other two malls.  The public concurs that this mall is everything and more, and it shows by the huge parking lot filled almost completely with cars.  Only Mall of Georgia draws more of a crowd, and Haywood's expansion was desperately needed in Greenville to discourage South Carolina shoppers from making the jaunt down I-85 to the extravaganza in Buford, GA or up I-85 to the overall better malls of Charlotte.

While Haywood was very much responsible for the death of McAlister Square and Greenville Malls, the fact was that both of those malls were very lacking in very important areas.  Greenville Mall was too far from downtown and was not laid out correctly.  It had a poor choice of anchors that proved unstable and unsuitable, and its strange placement on a narrow strip of land made it very one-sided like a strip mall.  McAlister Square was just too plain and too old in an area that was likewise trapped in the 60's.  Haywood, too, was a pretty basic two level mall, but two level malls have proven to be a rare commodity in the Palmetto State and its big expansion created unlimited possibilities.  Also, this mall seems to have everything: sit down restaurants (Panera Bread and Ruby Tuesday), the only Borders Express I have seen, pretty much every mid-market trendy clothing store and a very attractive interior design that seems to have turned out to remain pretty contemporary for a mall built in 1980. 

The original part of the mall has two very oddly located escalators.  They seem to drop down off to the side away from center court, and they do so singularly on different sides.  Cumberland Mall in Atlanta had this set-up prior to the 2007 renovation.

The food court comes off the side of the original mall.  Like most malls of that vintage, it was added on as an addition and pops up like an afterthought.  It is close to Sears.

Haywood Mall forms an odd-shaped L, but it brought some personality to what started out as a painfully basic mall.  The design of Belk, though, is rather strange as if it was always designed for expansion.

On the outside, though, Haywood Mall shows its real age a bit.  The Macy's, which opened as Rich's, is a plain brick rectangle.  The Belk is quite interesting and quite retro, but it screams disco era.  Nevertheless, its uniqueness is unparalleled and needs to remain.  It opened originally as Belk Simpson.  JCPenney in design is identical to the store at Georgia Square Mall, also built in 1980, with its plain brick appearance accented by lights around the entry area.  Sears features a very outlandish and gaudy Logan's Run-style entry.  Dillards, added in 1995, is cookie-cutter 90's Dillard's design.  It shoudl be noted that the Dillard's was not new to the market.  It replaced the older Dillard's at McAlister Square that started out as Ivey's.  A parking deck was also constructed in front of JCPenney.

Macy's, formerly Rich's, comes directly off of the center court.  Belk faces the Macy's, but actually has a wing attached to it. 

Belk's original mall entrance, formerly Belk Simpson.  The size of the logo and space for the additional "Simpson" seems fairly obvious here.  A Borders Express (not pictured) is to the left of the entrance.

Sears...tiled, basic and bland as usual in this mall.  I sure wish Sears would not make every mall entrance identical with that ugly tile.

JCPenney's mall entrance here features the diagonal wood facade behind the sign.  It is located on the north end of the original mall.

Haywood Mall's success can mostly be attributed to very aggressive marketing, a forward-thinking two level design and just plain great choices in anchors.  It is actually not in the best location for a mall in the city.  Greenville Mall was actually the best located mall with high visibility and a location easily accessable from I-85.  Haywood Mall is off of I-385 closer into the city in what seems like a less prime retail location, but the lack of land for Greenville Mall to expand hampered its progress in comparison the plentiful land and blossoming strip development that sprouted on Haywood Road just south of the exit.  It can be said that a mall, no matter how successful it seems at the time, will fail if it does not attract or maintain the surrounding strip development.  While Haywood shared the prime retail corridor with Greenville Mall, the two were close enough that the strip development formed an L in conjunction with Woodruff Road (SC 146).  Nevertheless, Haywood Road is not even a marked state highway for even greater curiosity, though it is a state-maintained secondary road (South Carolina maintains most of their roads under state jurisdiction).  Greenville Mall was on SC 146.  Perhaps those fortunes would have been reversed if Greenville Mall had been better planned.

Instead of side window skylights, the newer Dillard's wing is very 90's with its vaulted skylights down the center.

In this court here, the center opening is round with a pointed dome skylight overhead.  Dillard's is straight ahead and a second Belk mall entrance is to the right.

Everything has a point, including this round dome skylight overlooking the circular overlook in the last photo.

Off of the same said court, Belk Simpson comes into view.  Panera Bread is to the left on the upper level.

Dillard's mall entrance also features a circular area with dual escalators and an outside entrance corridor off to the side.

Of course, the spirit of competition proves to not always go as predicted.   Sometimes the oldest malls emerge the winner, and sometimes the malls nobody would expect become dominant.  It was strange enough how this mall opened with a Rich's.  Rich's was a standard in Atlanta and well-known, but its expansion into South Carolina and Alabama in the 70's and 80's were a bit odd and a strain on the storied store.  Rich's only opened at two malls in South Carolina, and today those are likewise the only Macy's locations in the state.  Belk, however, seems to be dominant at most major malls in South Carolina...almost by default.  The fact that it is the best looking and most fun mall is undeniable as well.  The wood-trimmed ceiling and well-coordinated paint and fixtures give the mall a very rich, elegant appearance.  Though it is stripped today of fountains and planters, I am sure those were likely just as nice back in the 80's.  The exterior mall entrance signs are also quite showy with significant mountain chalet aspects.  I guess the "wood" in the name Haywood must have been some of the logic in doing that.

JCPenney's mall entrance, which is identical to the one at Georgia Square Mall, though it seems the lights have been removed around the frame of the entrance.  No other malls in Greenville had a JCPenney.

Belk Simpson at the mall is a retro goody.  I thought this picture did not come out, but it passes.  Maybe one day I'll get a good daytime shot.

I was unable to get the Sears sign photographed (boring modern one), but I got a pic of this wild entrance treatment.  What drug was the person taking that designed that that made them think this looked good?

Macy's, formerly Rich's.  This picture did not turn out very well, but it pretty much sums it up.  It is the most bunker-like of all the anchors.

In all, Greenville has proved to be quite a hot city.  While not a very large city, it graces the center of a large mid-Atlantic style metroplex that stretches continuously from Anderson to Spartanburg, and this mall is at the core of it.  Greenville's core is trendy, upscale and unique with a large waterfall forming a distinctive park in the center of the city.  Overall, though I was actually quite surprised to see how suburbanized this whole area was.  It was quite amazing following the continuous succession of strip malls, subdivisions and restaurants along US 123 leading into the city.  When considering that, it is understandable that the market is a bit tight there.  The other malls had to compete with both Anderson Mall and Westgate Mall.  Haywood does as well, but its dominance is not likely to wane any time soon.  While my camera did not cooperate for every angle of the mall, these photos show most of the highlights of a substantial mall.  I hope my second South Carolina mall entry does it justice, because I was pleasantly surprised by it.  South Carolina deserves more malls like this one.

This shot turned out to be a blurry mess, but the mall entrances are quite elaborate.  Ruby Tuesday is just inside the door there, and this is not as fancy as the entrance at the food court.  I imagine the original entrance was far more simple.

My sole shot from the lower level.  The wooden floors in the center were a nice touch.

A view from the top floor looking onto the bottom floor.

*Correction on the original post.  There are three, not two multilevel malls in South Carolina

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Greenville Mall: Greenville, SC

Greenville was indeed overmalled, and having three malls in a city not large enough to support it is bound for disaster. The only reason this worked as long as it did was that the city has a very central location between Atlanta, Columbia and Charlotte, and all three malls had a significant diversity of anchors. Considering that, Greenville Mall existed most of its life as the accessory, never quite catching on. When it opened in the 1970's, it was anchored by Augusta, GA-based J.B. White and Montgomery Ward and served as competition to McAlister Square Mall. While that might have worked early on, it was crippled not long after it opened by Haywood Mall. In fact, it was headed for death in the early 1990's despite having two seemingly solid anchors. The biggest reason for that is that it was otherwise a one-story oddly laid out mall competing against two very solid malls.

Nevertheless, the owners at the time did not quite give up hope on a languishing mall. Instead, they undertook an elaborate and highly attractive renovation to the mall in 1995, attempting to "upscale" it by adding Parisian as an anchor as well as a supplemental Oshman's Sporting Goods as a junior anchor. Inside, many upscale tenants such as Williams-Somona were lured into the mall, and initially the change was very successful. Nevertheless, the addition of Parisian to the mall was far too risky. Parisian was not familiar to South Carolina, and its ability to attract an upscale demographic proved ineffective in the fickle market of the state. A few years after it opened, the owners of Parisian downgraded the store to more mid-tier Proffitt's, an even less familiar store from East Tennessee.

Some left over arched canopies sit between what is left of the mall and a popular movie theater added late in its life.

The downgrade to Proffitt's was proving a devastating blow to the mall. This was accelerated by the fact that Dillard's bought out J.B. White in 1998, which was likely not suspected in 1995. Dillard's already had a newer and nicer store at Haywood Mall than the older, smaller White's, and the store was immediately downgraded to an outlet after the purchase. Montgomery Ward was also in trouble as a company, a sure sign that the mall would soon be as well. Greenville Mall's anchor issues offered little hope of attracting replacements since the upscale anchor plan flopped, and Haywood had all the good anchors.

Walk inside the mall, and this is all you are allowed to see.  More mall is still standing straight ahead, but it is empty and open to the elements.  The Wards mall entrance is to the left.  I found this sight a bit painful to see.  Another Generation X & Y Main Street has bitten the dust.

Proffitt's had pulled out of the Carolinas somewhere in that time prior to the Belk buyout, and this left an obvious void at the mall where Parisian had tried to save it. In 2000, Montgomery Ward also liquidated, and somewhere in that time span Dillard's closed their outlet. At that point, the last remaining anchor was Oshman's, which was bought out around that time by Sports Authority. Despite a major renovation only a few years prior, the mall was doomed. Absolutely nothing could save it no matter how much money had been dumped into it only five years prior.

A bit more detail of the Sports Authority mall entrance and walled off area with a skylight remaining.

In 2006, demolition began of the by then largely vacant mall. It seemed that all was going well in the plan to modify the mall into a new lifestyle center known as "Magnolia Park", but then something strange happened. In the middle of demolition, work stopped and part of the mall on the east end was left standing. This included the former Montgomery Ward, still clad with its last logo used. This also included the still-occupied Sports Authority. Because of this, the mall entrance into the mall in front of Sports Authority was kept open and a portion of the mall still stands today, though all but the area right in front of Sports Authority was sealed off to the public. The credit crisis was part of what stalled the demolition, so what is left of the mall today stands as a very creepy reminder of one of the most colossal failures of retailing.

Despite the mall's pretentions of being a quintessential 90's mall, this extremely brutalist exterior suggests otherwise.  I see nothing here that is not stark and retro.

Wards here has been vacant for nearly a decade, yet very oddly it just looks closed for the night.  Apparently the store got quite a facelift in the 90's, and it shows.  Wards failure was devastating for many malls despite the public's derision of the chain best known for 70's throwback stores and its status as a distant second to Sears.

Nevertheless, a small part of the new lifestyle center was completed. A new Costco flanks the western end of the mall where White's once stood and a movie theater built during the last renovation on the east end continues to do exceptionally well. In addition, the corridor around it was forgiving of the retail disaster: it has exploded since then. In all honesty, it seems that Greenville Mall is cursed. The first mall failed, the second attempt failed worse and now it seems that trying to redevelop it has also been cursed. You have to wonder how a place could cause everybody that touches it so much trouble.  Still, it was a very important chapter in Greenville retail history, and I wish that I could have seen it just before and right after the 1995 overhaul.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

McAlister Square Mall: Greenville, SC

Greenville is a city that has proven to be either quite significantly overmalled or quite possibly underanchored for the malls they have.  Over the city's history, the city has had four malls.  One of those, long-dead Greenville Mall is at present 90% demolished, and two others were completely repurposed: Bell Tower Mall and McAlister Square Mall.  Ultimately, the winner of the mall race became Haywood Mall, a quintessential shopping mall in every way.  Haywood is, in fact, the perfect 21st century mall.  However, before Haywood and Greenville both came on the scene was McAlister Square Mall. 

While long forgotten, McAlister Square is still very much in existance and very much open with normal mall hours.  However, as one of the two repurposed malls, it today functions almost completely as a multi-college satellite campus.  Five colleges hold classes in the mall with the primary schools using the mall today being Clemson, University of South Carolina and Greenville Tech.  A couple stores also continue to function near the main entrance including a cigar shop and a local restaurant that seems to be doing surprisingly great business.  Overall, though, the mall is completely empty when class is not in session.  It is not a traditional mall anymore by any stretch.  However, it's use as essentially a college campus has given it a bit of an interesting history as presidential hopefuls including later President Obama paid a visit to the mall during the campaign in 2008.  Nevertheless, in normal times if you needed a quite place to study on the weekend after class was over, this would definitely be the place to do it.

An older photo of this entrance showed that a more contemporary facade covered this original plain window and sign.  This entrance looks very, very similar to the original mall entrance to Columbia Mall in Atlanta.

Just inside the mall entrance looking toward the old Belk Simpson.  The main mall intersects ahead.  To the left is the one surviving restaurant and to the right is a cigar shop behind Nationwide.

McAlister Square had brighter, happier times.  Located on SC 291 between the downtown extension of I-385 and I-85, the mall was the very first mall in South Carolina not too far ahead of Dutch Square Mall in Columbia.  In design, the interior design was unmistakably similar to Atlanta's Columbia Mall, which opened in 1964.  It opened in 1968 with Charlotte-based Ivey's and Spartanburg-based Meyers-Arnold.  The mall offered a single level enclosed corridor with modern shopping, but the mall itself was quite simple and plain.  While small enough to be perfect for repurposing, it was actually amazing how long it continued to be successful.  In the late 70's, McAlister Square gained an additional anchor and back wing for Belk Simpson.  The anchor addition was likely a reaction to Greenville Mall, which opened in the 1970's not far away.  The mall also saw two anchor changes.  The first occured in 1987 when Meyers-Arnold became Upton's and the second in 1990 when Dillard's snapped up the entire Ivey's chain.  This new wing brought the mall to a clean symmetrical T-shape and solidified its presence in the city.  Right after this, the mall had trouble on the horizon.

Center court includes this stage and trellis-looking thing over it.

Looking down the east wing toward what was Upton's and Meyers-Arnold, today Greenville Tech's satellite campus.  All the other "stores" are related to the colleges.

The mall has no true skylights, just these narrow rectangular windows that likely looked very plain and ordinary previously.  They remind me of pictures I have seen of Dixie Square in Chicago and definitely of forementioned Columbia Mall (in Atlanta).

Greenville created a witches brew for malls: three malls all within a few miles of each other.  Literally, there were three malls in a row only three exits apart off of then-recently completed I-385.  Nevertheless, all three seem to compliment each other for a time because of a very diverse anchor line-up.  Dillard's buying two major local stores is the biggest factor in why things did not work out.  In 1980, McAlister had Meyers-Arnold, Ivey's and Belk Simpson.  Greenville Mall had J.B. White and Montgomery Ward.  Haywood had Rich's, Sears, Belk Simpson and JCPenney.  Only Belk Simpson was overlapping, but for some reason it worked for awhile.  Ivey's also had their exclusive location at the mall.

Looking down the Belk wing and the Belk Simpson mall entrance, which has never been covered up.

By not covering up, we of course get a peak inside at a store in surprisingly good condition for being abandoned for over 10 years.  It looks like work is being done, but nothing is actually happening.  This is apparently just storage.

For 20 years, despite the fact that not much retail was built around the mall, the mall continued to thrive.  Trouble brewed when Dillard's bought the Ivey's chain.  Initially, this change proved harmless because they had no other locations in the city.  Somewhere in that period, the mall was renovated to a tasteful late 1980's design that added some style to it.  It was likely renovated previously in the early 80's after a fire struck the mall, according to a post on  Even with the fire and its off-beat location and better nearby competition, this anchor diversity proved to be a blessing and a curse.  What also helped was how poorly Greenville Mall was performing then, meaning shopper loyalty remained at then much smaller Haywood and McAlister Square.  Since it was closer to Haywood Mall than Greenville Mall, this likely also made a difference.

Walking back toward the main entrance on the Belk wing.

Turning a corner from the Belk wing to the Ivey's wing at center court.

Looking down the Ivey's wing.  20 years ago, this place would actually have people in it on a Saturday night.

Ahead is the former mall entrance to Ivey's.  A side entrance to the front parking lot is on the left.  Both anchors had mall entrances next to the anchors.

In 1995, the end was imminent for McAlister Square.  Apparently Haywood Mall had aspirations of greatness, and the Dillard's was lured away to a bigger, newer, brighter store at Haywood Mall complete with a new wing, which greatly increased the size of the city's only two-level mall.  In addition, dying Greenville Mall was suddenly given a huge shot in the arm with a renovation including a Parisian: a new upscale anchor for the city.  Suddenly, McAlister Square was truly looking tired and out of the way.  McAlister Square was unable to replace that lost anchor, but the worst was yet to come.  Belk Simpson closed in 1999, leaving the mall with one anchor and a quickly emptying mall.  Belk had the best reason to leave since they already maintained a store at Haywood Mall less than two miles away.  Upton's folded later the same year when the chain went out of business.  When that happened, what was a maimed mall was suddenly a dead mall almost overnight. 

The back entrance of Ivey's maintains its original configuration.  The front has been modified with college labels and logos.

Belk Simpson maintains a very prominent labelscar.  It is a simple, but stately looking store and I am quite happy this last vestige of Belk Simpson remains although it is a bit creepy looking.

Upton's/Meyers-Arnold was an extremely plain, bunkerlike stores in desperate need of updating even when it did close. 

By 2000, all hope was lost of McAlister Square ever functioning as a retail center again.  It was historically significant, but it was by then a very small, boring, empty mall with absolutely no reason to go there.  What was worse was that the big box and other chain retail of the city also preferred the company Greenville and Haywood Malls meaning the mall relied solely on its anchors to keep it afloat.  McAlister likely would have been abandoned or demolished, but apparently the local colleges looking to expand enrollment took over the mall, converting the White's and Ivey's into satellite campuses.  However, Belk Simpson did not find new life in this conversion.  The store has remained vacant since it closed, though the store does not appear to be in disrepair and is still open to view from the mall itself.  The mall itself also does not pretend not to be a mall anymore.  It is still McAlister Square Mall and still has a very early 90's sign posted along the highway proclaiming it.   In all, South Carolina's first mall proved that it was able to last even if nobody wanted to shop there anymore.

McAlister Square also maintains a very late 80's/early 90's sign continuing to flash announcements.  One of those should be "Thank you for educating yourself at McAlister Square Mall!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vintage Western Sizzlin: Clemson, SC

Western Sizzlin was once the undisputed star of the family steakhouse industry. Since the 80's, however, most steakhouse chains with their old-fashioned comfort food, stuff-your-face buffets and aging crowds have fallen out of favor with the young, weight conscious and hipster crowd. Because of that, the chain exists in fewer and fewer locations. Nevertheless, it is far from dead and remains quite successful in secondary and tourist-oriented markets.

Most Western Sizzlins I see today are fairly recently built with their older locations long closed, abandoned or repurposed. None, though, are as puzzling as this location in Clemson, SC. That is because not only is it an original location mostly unmodified, but also because if the chain is not what it used to be, you would never know it by the full parking lot I saw there. The sign and style of this location I have not seen in years, so that is why I wanted to show you this rare treat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Biltmore Square Mall: Asheville, NC

Throughout the fall, I have been featuring several retail points of interest in the Asheville Series, and this post wraps up the set.  This is the last of the enclosed malls in Asheville, and it is also the newest.  Built in 1989, Biltmore Square brought real competition to then completely dominant Asheville Mall with anchors Proffitt's, Hess's and Belk, a movie theater and junior anchor Goody's.  Both Proffitt's and Hess's specifically were new to the city and the state, providing two shopping options very unfamiliar to Asheville shoppers.  It was then built by Simon and featured very elegant design on a pretty basic footprint.  The location was quite odd in that it was in a place with a lack of adequate buildable land for adjacent retail as it was close to the Blue Ridge Parkway and across I-26 from Biltmore Estate.  Also, the mall struggled to attract much attention as it got its start in the middle of a recession.  It was an interesting idea, but it was also cursed.  A combination of poor planning and the mall's slow start were warning signs of the future.

Biltmore Square has continued to struggle since it was built.  While the mall hung on, it was always a second-tier mall in an area easy to overlook.  The exit showing "NC 191: To Blue Ridge Parkway" is not the type of exit you would expect to find a mall and extravagant retail options on.  In fact, most of the new retail eventually found a home two exits down on much more heavily traveled NC 280, and the mall's fortunes would have been better if they had located there.  Whlie the city has always been popular with tourists and a hopeful destination for many to live in, the anti-growth atmosphere and general lack of jobs made it difficult for the mall to get a foothold.  It would have required significant suburban expansion for the mall to have really taken off, and this never really happened.  Most people in the city would rather not see sprawl anyway, because they want to protect views from the Parkway, Biltmore Estate and not be priced out of the city by a flood of newcomers with more money than them.


Two views along the entrance wing next to Belk, originally Proffitt's.  This part of the mall is in really, really bad shape.  Mall owners need to realize that we don't relish the death of malls that take pictures of them dying: we just want to capture them on film before they're gone.


The mall map is somewhat out of date still showing Steve & Barry's and Dillard's as anchors, yet Davis Furniture is shown in the former Goody's.  Biltmore Square lost 3 out of 4 anchors in early 2009.

The mall's design was also extremely outlandish and not in character with the city.  Having a mall full of palm trees, arched skylights and turquoise/pastel tones has never been an appropriate image for a city surrounded by mountains full of actual fir, spruce and hemlock trees.  Something just felt very gaudy about a mall that looked like Las Vegas in the middle of the Western North Carolina mountains.  The owners would have done much better to build a mall with more earthtones, possibly a German theme and lots of wood trim, but such designs were firmly and completely out of style in 1989 after the 60's and 70's overkill of it.  They could have at least tried to model it somewhat after the Biltmore House, but they failed in this category as well aside from many ornate touches found throughout.  People in the city have been asking for years why it was built.


To me, the most fascinating aspect of this mall is the variety of skylight features including high windows, domed skylights and overhead box skylights.  They truly went all out, and at the time it was built there was little concern about the older mall.  That plan did not work so well in the 90's as growth no longer followed the mall.

Some additional skylight details near the Belk (Proffitt's) entrance.

I guess this is supposed to be deer jumping through a neon (flaming?) hoop?  This mall had much attention to detail when it was built.

Palm trees, domed skylights and'd think you were in Vegas.

After the mall opened, the anchors saw some shuffling, which Asheville has seen more of than most.  The first was in 1992 when Hess's, the northern  anchor of the mall, became Dillard's when the chain sold out.  It would have otherwise become Proffitt's, but Proffitt's already anchored the mall.  Proffitt's found a less than receptive market in Belk-centric North Carolina, and their bold attempt to expand into that market weakened the company, which is part of why Belk eventually bought it out.  Belk at the time was the mall's middle anchor with Proffitt's on the south end of the mall.



I have to admit, I really like the ironworks.  This particular structure in center court, which my camera did not seem to like, has a clock with "ASHEVILLE" on top and "BILTMORE SQUARE" underneath.  The clock had stopped at almost 1 o'clock and I was there about 7.  It's not a good sign that they don't even bother to keep the clock running.  The last photo is by Pat Richardson.

Here is a look at the mall's fountain.  Nice, but not terribly impressive.  The vegetation around it was nearly obscuring it.  The fountain is one thing it has the Asheville Mall doesn't.

The merger of Proffitt's and Belk is what has really wreaked havoc on Biltmore Square.  When Proffitt's was merged with Belk, Belk took over the former Proffitt's location leaving an empty anchor in the middle instead of opening a second store.  For a time, the old Belk was filled by Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, but the bankruptcy in the chain early in the year coincided with the downgrading of the Dillard's at the mall to a clearance store (next step closing).  Even before this happened, the mall was suffering from vacancies and was already pretty much dying.  In fact, there was already talk that the mall was going under before any department stores closed.  The lack of retail expansion around it suggested that it wasn't doing so well early on.  I was quite suprised in the 90's to see that not one thing had built near the mall since it opened.  Ryan's Steakhouse and Kmart on outlots makes the mall feel firmly trapped in the 80's, and it is.  To make matters worse, Goody's also went bankrupt and closed their location in the mall in early 2009. No struggling mall could have ever had a worse turn of events than losing two major anchors in a short time with the third nearly closing by downgrading to a clearance store.  I encountered a similar scenario when I visited Century Plaza in Birmingham, which closed only two years after I visited and took the pics for an earlier post.

Beyond the fountain, the mall starts looking more lively.  From the center court to Dillard's, the mall still has quite a few businesses in operation.  Waldenbooks is still in the mall when this photo was taken.



The food court is really nice if you're looking at design alone.  The reality is that less than half of it is full.  A Chick-Fil-A holds on in the background, but it definitely has customers.

Mall entrance near the former Dillard's.  Garfield's Restaurant used to be on the left.

In all, Biltmore Square has had terrible luck in 2009.  The mall is now going from struggling mall to a mall in very serious trouble.  What major tenants do remain are likely just filling out their leases.  Most of the tenants in the mall are B-tenants including Davis Furniture, which moved from Westgate Shopping Center to fill the old Goody's.  Traffic is low in the mall, and people in the mall are in marvel at the sudden dramatic decline of the center.  Shoppers in the mall carrying Belk bags seem to be the major business in the mall, but they are finding little beyond it other than mom and pop stores such as irreverent "I Got Balls" selling, you guessed it, golf balls at the edge of the food court.  The movie theater is still hanging on, though, and it is still featuring first run movies.


Some of the oddest shops show up in malls that have difficulty keeping chains.  Once upon a time, this was part of the food court.  Today, you can...ummm...get balls here.  Eunichs need not apply.


This is the mall entrance close to Belk (Proffitt's).  Dollar Tree does not have an inside mall entrance.

This is the mall entrance closest to Dillard's.  The red building used to be Garfield's Restaurant.

Biltmore Square's main sign out on NC 191.  "Over 50 stores open for business" is sadly intepreted as "Please don't stop shopping here!"

In all, there really is not anything positive I can say about the mall.  The thing is, when malls die, they generally die quietly.  For awhile, nobody wants to admit they're dying.  The town who makes money from it and faces blight, the owners who don't want to go under and the shopkeepers in the mall who are losing business.  The tenants just quietly leave as the mall withers away until one day the doors are locked forever.  A dying mall is like cancer.  It is usually fatal, and sometimes it can be cured but more often than not it tends to come back.  Sometimes you can save them, but generally the owners just let it go and try to build something new where it was before as if it never existed.  As for Biltmore Square, I don't know, but I do know that the people are right, it should never have been built.

Belk (former Proffitt's) mall entrance.  The store seems to be holding on fairly well.  Belk carries an exclusive "Biltmore" line of products that are of course a perfect fit for this mall.  The second photo is by Pat Richardson, which brings out a bit more color in the mall entrance.  Teal was by far the trendiest color around at the time of Nirvana and Umbro soccer shorts.

Originally, this was the Belk mall entrance.  Steve & Barry's took over the spot when they took over the old Proffitt's.  Steve & Barry's had such a tacky logo...even worse than Burlington Coat Factory.  Everybody thought when they got going a few years ago they would save many of the dead anchors in the malls.  However, the poor locations in ailing malls combined with the poor quality merchandise did not set too well with the public, which led to the rapid death of the chain.


The mirrored entrance to the Dillard's Clearance Store here is frightening, because it sneaks up on you.  I did not even notice it until I was practically on top of it.  This store opened as Allentown, PA based Hess's.

Goody's mall entrance jumped out of the side of the Belk wing looking like an inline tenant.  If not for the white sign frame, I would not have even guessed this was a former anchor.  

Personally, I never did like the idea of a mall that close to Biltmore Estate, and the mall looks terribly dated now since it has never once been renovated since the day it opened.  I cannot even give any shadow of hope for it.  It is obvious there is no way it can be saved other than total redevelopment.  It is also a totally boring mall in comparison to Asheville Mall, and the new lifestyle center development at Biltmore Village has lured away many of the upscale shoppers as well.  The best course of action for the mall would be to tear everything down except for the Belk.  In its place, put up a new multi-screen movie theater, a decent grocery store to compete with Ingles and lay it out somewhat like a lifestyle center.  If not that, find some community or government use for it.  Regardless, no matter what happens the place is a goner, and no matter what the reason I hate to see a mall go.  It still had a respectable 20 year run, but I hope that next time that they will build something more appropriate.

Belk (former Proffitt's) at the mall.  More and better pictures can be found on Live Malls. The second picture is by Pat Richarson highlighting that teal again suggesting a good selection of flannel shirts to grunge out to.


The original Belk location, last operating as Steve & Barry's University Sportswear.  The second photo is by Pat Richardson showing the same on a sunnier day.



Dillard's sign was still in place and working, but it was not open when I visited, so I thought it had shut down.  In the second photo, I took the sign in reference to the rare Carolina Hemlocks planted on the corner.  I wondered why more retail in Asheville area did not feature Carolina Hemlocks as part of their landscaping, since it is native to the area.

Former Goody's entrance.  Davis Furniture did little to disguise its former function.  Photo by Pat Richardson.

 Cinnebarre sounds like a place to buy cinnamon rolls, not a place to watch movies.  I have never heard of it before, but I think I heard it was added recently in hopes of drawing more traffic to the mall.  It is drawing traffic, but unfortunately not in the mall itself.