Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Montgomery Mall: Montgomery, AL

Montgomery seems to be a city that is loaded with retail tragedy.  It seems there is no end to the carcasses of stores past, and the situation looks grimmer all the time as the classic "white flight" scenario will eventually threaten even the last standing actual mall.  While that mall is secure at the moment, Montgomery Mall was not so lucky.  As the second mall in the city and one of the oldest in the state, the center survived for 40 years before succumbing to a very real poverty and crime problem in the past decade that chased all the anchors away to its once friendly rival Eastdale Mall.  The dead mall that exists there today, though, is a far cry from the times when it was the premier shopping mall in the center of a thriving retail district in the city's first suburban corridor.

A visit to Montgomery Mall today is surreal.  It is not boarded up, and not even vandalized.  It just simply looks like one day all the shops came in and shut off the lights, locked the doors and never looked back.  While deterioration is setting in, the mall is still in decent shape.  However, the likelihood of it reopening for business is next to zero.  It is a fairly sizable one-level three-anchor mall, too, and passersby would definitely note that it is a mall that is apparently still trapped firmly in the 1980's.  If I had only made it two years prior, I could have seen the mall one last time.  Certainly the invitation to go inside was not open on this trip, but if I had gone in a happenstance open door I happen to wonder if anybody would even have noticed. 

A couple mall entrances featuring the 80's to a chrome and pink extreme.  The first is the main entrance going into the original mall and the second is the side entrance going into the newer Parisian wing.

The history of the mall dates to 1967 when a single local department store known as Montgomery Fair opened on the site.  A year later, the rest of the mall would be completed including a JCPenney store and the city's first fully enclosed shopping mall.  Located close to Normandale, the two malls would compliment each other as shoppers could find entirely different offerings at the two malls.  In 1970, the mall would see its first change as Montgomery Fair was purchased and converted to Mobile-based Gayfer's.  Montgomery Mall would then basically hold its own up until 1977 when its first real competition opened with Eastdale Mall.  Nevertheless, the opening of Eastdale had more of an effect on Normandale than Montgomery Mall, so the area would continue to boom all around it with major chain big box stores filling in the gap between the two malls on US 80/82.

This was a rare find here!  Apparently Piccadilly Cafeteria did not do the best job covering up who they bought out, so here is a very easy to read Morrison's Cafeteria labelscar.  Shoney's once owned the chain and sold them off in 1995.

Here is a glimpse into the mall from the side entrance above.  This area of the mall is not yet showing signs of deterioration, but the harsh subtropical climate will take this mall down quickly without upkeep.  I believe this is the southeast entrance in the old part of the mall near Gayfer's/Dillard's.

In the late 1980's, the mall began to see changes, but these changes were actually positive.  This was when the mall received a major renovation that coincided with the addition of a new anchor, Birmingham-based Parisian.  Parisian in a sense was the return of Loveman's for the area, which departed nearby Normandale early in the decade.  The new Parisian store was completed in 1988 and it definitely made the center more upscale.  The new store coincided with a new wing that, instead of extending off to form a T, it overlapped the western half of the mall on the north side extending past JCPenney.  This move was needed by the mall in order to keep it competitive with Eastdale, which featured a stellar line-up of Gayfer's, Sears, Parisian and McRae's despite being a smaller center.  The only problem with this was that the only store that did not overlap with Eastdale was JCPenney, which by then became an issue of whether the city could really support two malls.  The answer in the short term was yes. 

Here is the east anchor, which last operated as Steve & Barry's.  It had previously been Dillard's, Gayfer's and, originally, Montgomery Fair.  Gayfer's was there the longest.

Looking at the store entrance into the former Montgomery Fair/Gayfer's/Dillard's.  It looks pretty trapped in 1968 despite the mall itself looking a bit newer.

For the next 20 years, Montgomery Mall served south side customers while Eastdale served the east side.  When Glimcher Realty purchased the mall in 1998, it was a thriving mall with 95 percent occupancy.  One anchor change would also ensue the same year as Gayfer's, along with the rest of Mercantile Stores, was sold off to Dillard's.  Amazingly this overlap of two anchors between the two malls still did not seem to be a problem, but that changed as the vicinity around the mall began to rapidly deteriorate in the coming years combined with poor management from Glimcher Realty.  Glimcher Realty currently gained notoriety for famously running Eastland Mall in Charlotte in the ground.  A friend of mine was even telling me how rough it was around there around 2004 or so alerting me that the mall was in danger of failure.  I would like to have gotten down there at that time, but never could seem to make the trip.  At this point, Dillard's had already left the mall, closing its store in 2003 and some stores had already fled the mall.  Events that killed the mall unfolded quickly.

JCPenney looks stodgy and brutalist...and empty.  I bet it was more impressive early on without the drab white paint and the old blue hump "Penney's" logo.

Former Customer Pick-Up area at JCPenney

Along the front entrance, deterioration is starting to set in.  The store has been empty for five years.

The next to go was JCPenney.  JCPenney apparently saw the writing on the wall, and they constructed a new store at Eastdale.  When they opened the new store in 2005, they subsequently closed their Montgomery Mall store.  It is a bit curious, too, that JCPenney chose older Eastdale over The Shoppes at Eastchase lifestyle center, which opened in 2002.  It cannot be denied that Eastchase had an effect, because the opening of Dillard's at Eastchase came just before the closing of the Dillard's at Montgomery Mall.  Dillard's did find new life, though, when Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, the flash-in-the-pan cheap sportswear chain, took over the site in 2005.  Parisian proved to be the last department store standing, lasting another year.  Apparently with no planned expansion and a sell-off of the chain in the works, the owners simply closed the store in early 2006.  This left the mall in a tail spin when Parisian closed.  Despite the presence of Steve & Barry's, Parisian's closing roughly coincided with the decline of the surrounding area.

Never settle for less at Montgomery Mall!  Apparently the ground is not so solid under the mall especially since it appears to have been built on a former drainage area.

Close-up of one of the mall entrances.

This entrance along the newer Parisian wing is looking worse for wear.  Note the water on the floor and holes in the roof.  In the background is an advertisement for Steve & Barry's in the mall along with sponsorship posted for the local zoo.

In September 2008, Montgomery Mall finally gave up the fight to survive.  A year before, the mall that was purchased by Glimcher for $70 million ten years prior was resold for a meager $4.4 million.  Steve & Barry's was still open at this point, but they were in bankruptcy themselves and would close a short time after.  After Steve & Barry's closed, the mall fell into the state it is today.  With a city apparently over-retailed, discussion of revitalizing the mall as a mall was also apparently never on the table.  The latest proposal is to convert the mall into a new VA clinic, which actually does not seem like a bad idea, though it will do absolutely nothing to revive the area.  However, I would personally prefer any retail efforts to extend to restoring and possibly expanding still-standing classic Normandale Shopping Center in lieu of Montgomery Mall.

Parisian's stores always had that post-modern swanky look, so seeing one abandoned like this feels odd.

You're nobody special at Parisian anymore.  In fact, don't come back...ever.

A side view of the mall extending from the old Parisian toward Gayfer's/Dillard's.  This would have been more difficult to have gotten if the mall was operational.

The factors that led to the failure of Montgomery Mall seem not to be so clear, but it does very much seem that changing demographics led to its demise more than anything else despite the fact that new competition was the face of the change.  However, the city is truly over-retailed anyway, and the mall was only sustainable when it only had to compete with Eastdale.  Now with Eastchase sucking what life was left out of the area, it is not surprising this happened.  However, it is a bit odd how it had more of an effect on Montgomery Mall than closer Eastdale.  Judging by the fact, however, that Eastchase only has Dillard's and that the anchors mostly just retreated to Eastdale, I think the decline of the surrounding area is the most plausible.  Retail saturation is another factor, but this seems to also be deliberate.  Lastly, the slow growth rate in the city also provided little to sustain the mall when competition robbed much of its base.

Here is the southwest entrance wing near JCPenney, which I believe is on the left directly in the background.  What did they do to the store on the right?!

The main entrance wing...dead, but inviting.

I zoomed in on this shot to give a view of center court the best I could.  I bet that candy is pretty stale by now.  Was the mall foreclosed on?

Regardless of the reasons for Montgomery Mall's closure, what happened to West Blvd should be a signal to city leaders that Montgomery really needs to work on cleaning up the city and its image.  The poverty and crime are worse than many much larger cities I have visited, and apparently neither the will nor means is there to improve this.  In an era when most cities are actually growing inward and the declining areas pushing outward, the condition of the area around it is a failure on the part of the city and the developers in the region to reinvest in the area.  The entire area is full of mid-century apartment complexes and scattered housing projects that do nothing but scare away those with money to shop.  I guess it can be said that the mall at least had a remarkable 40 year run with 30 of those years fully successful.

On the outlot was this curious building.  It looks big enough to be a department store in its own right.  What was it originally?

A side view of the mall.  Note the concrete drainage structure.  These were common all over the city, so apparently flooding is common but free flowing streams are not.  I assume this flow used to go where the mall is now.

Here is another angle of the mall with Gayfer's/Dillard's on the left.

Does anyone have any shots of this mall when it was still alive?  I noticed a dearth of photos of this mall in any form before it closed in 2008.


  1. I visited this mall, and Eastdale, nearly every time I went to Montgomery, until it started going downhill badly. My last visit to Montgomery Mall would have been before 2005. I went to Montgomery in summer 2005 to meet up with a friend and that mall had already gone downhill badly and I didn't go in. I wish I had, though. The two malls seemed to flip-flop for a while in terms of which was "better". When I first went to Montgomery in the late 80s and early 90s, Eastdale seemed better, but at one point in the 90s, it seemed that Montgomery Mall was doing better, then it reversed again.

    I don't like the new Eastchase outside development out at I-85 and Taylor Road. If that is what killed Montgomery Mall, then Montgomery is in serious trouble. Eastchase is all outside and it was raining the day I went, so the center was useless to me. I went to Montgomery a few months ago and found the retail quite depressing.

    One problem with Montgomery is the bypass ring was built too far from downtown, which caused a huge area of blight inside it. The bypass wasn't a freeway, despite it being depicted that way on many maps (as a cruel joke to travelers, I guess), and is clogged with red lights. Development on the east side of the ring killed most of everything inside the loop. Now the only places for growth are outside the ring along the interstates, like I-85 east. The growth of Prattville and a greater selection of retail there has also eliminated the need for everyone there to drive to Montgomery, taking some of the customer base for the malls there.

    1. Eastdale Mall and Montgomery Mall have NEVER "flip-flopped" for which was better in the 80s and 90s. Eastdale has been far better in the last 20 years. I'm a child of the 60s and 70s, and loved Normandale, Eastbrook and Montgomery Mall (my favorite). Even in the 1980s I LOVED Montgomery Mall the most.

      I can only tell you a few stories regarding Montgomery Mall. I worked at Executive Park and spent many times having lunch at The Pub (now at Eastchase). In the early 1990s I was shopping with my Mother at Christmas time. A young punk ran into me, knocked me down, looked at me, didn't help me up or say excuse me.......he just walked away. That was the very last day that I ever went to Montgomery Mall.

      That is the day that I realized that North Montgomery wasn't a place that I wanted to share with my children.

      On another note, I'm not real crazy about the outdoor Eastchase area.......however, Eastdale seems to be going the way of Montgomery Mall. My family and I lived within blocks of Eastdale for 12 years, and we spent many hours shopping, skating, eating on weekends there for many years (16 years ago). I personally travel from Tallasse to Montgomery now and do my shopping/dining on the East-I-85 side of town. On occasion we venture downtown for a baseball game or a concert. I have to say that I'm so excited about the downtown revitalization of our historic city!

  2. What a museum piece! Malls often had large apartment complexes grow-up around them, as a buffer between retail and single-family residential. Unless an area is truly upscale, renatl housing doesn't age well, esp. on a large scale. I would imagine that apartments became neglected and less easy to keep filled without going the Section 8 route. These days, condos would be the buffer, which have the benefit of ownership.

    I'm surprised Montgomery isn't growing. State capitals, even in depressed parts of the country, generally have done well. State offices provide a stable economic base, along with the businesses that gravitate to state capitals like insurance companies, law firms, etc. Haven't been there in years, but I recall a downtown that had potential despite having lost its traditional retail.

  3. Thanks for this post, and the pictures. The last time I was in Montgomery Mall years ago, it was vibrant, but was just starting to go downhill. I remember going as a young kid a few years after it first opened, but I more distinctly remember how beautiful the new addition was when it opened in 1988. Finally, Montgomery had a mall it could brag about, with a Food Court, a Camelot Music, a Waldenbooks, and other stores that were brand-new to the area. It was kind of like a "mini-Riverchase Galleria", having been designed by the same company, Jim Wilson & Associates. I also liked shopping at the Parisian, which had a great selection of (particularly) Men's clothes. Now, it sits as only an empty shell of what it once sad.

  4. I believe that old looking store in the inside right of the south west entrance next to the Pennys was the old Crockmiers before the moved east. Trying to remember that long ago...

    The Mall wasn't forclosed, it was bought by investors that didn't do anything with it. In 2006 the north east corner roof by the food court was heavily damaged by a micro-burst, it was not repaired, instead with all the anchors gone, the mall owners elected to close the access to the remaining interior stores, just 6 stores. The only two that remained opened was a Rims and Tire store, they serviced customers through their back door for 3 months while the secured a new location, and the Culinary School that just moved downtown this year.

    Oh the memories....

  5. I preferred the modernist, airy layout of the Parisian at Montgomery Mall over the locations at nearby Eastdale Mall and Bel Air Mall in Mobile. The second level was almost like a mezzanine that followed the interior store perimeter and featured daylight windows that look out towards the parking lot entrances. I haven't seen a design like that since McRae's (now Belk) at Edgewater Mall in Biloxi, MS.

    Parisian Montgomery Mall was a handsome department store building, too bad it's now sitting there in a state of dereliction.

  6. You wondered, " What did they do to the store on the right?!" That was a restaurant called The Pub, which has now moved allllllll the way out east with the rest of the white flight.

    Also, the Bishop Parker building baffles me, because it wasn't part of the mall as far as I remember...

    It's sad to see these pictures. Montgomery Mall used to be the "upscale" mall, and was always packed with people, especially on weekends. It was THE place for bored teenagers to wander around...

    Enjoyed your Normandale story, too. They were going to put the creative and performing arts magnet school there -- a "magnet mall," they called it -- and then the tornado hit. No money to fix it, so they moved into an old school downtown instead. I went to Normandale a few times in the early 90's when there were still a few stores was deteriorated and empty even then.

  7. By the way, the shot with the gum balls (why on earth did they leave them behind? Weird) isn't a shot that would have the food court in it. If I remember right, you'd have to take a right at the clock to get there. MM had a pretty cool food court in its day, with a merry-go-round for the children....

  8. I grew up directly behind Eastdale mall. We would venture over to the "other side of Montgomery" every couple of monthes or so. Later, when I was in college, I lived within a few miles of Montgomery Mall for a brief time.
    MM always amazed me as a kid who would one day grow up to be in retail. Why were the "nicer stores" in the oldest of the 2 malls? During the 90's, MM had the Disney Store, The only Victoria Secrets for a while, and Eddie Bauer to name a few stores that weren't at Eastdale.
    Oh, the memories as a kid.
    Just to add some info with the pics. Just before you got to the Bubblegum machines on the right was the Disney Store. I believe on the corner to the left of the clock was Bath and Body works to the left of the Left Hallway, and Childrens place to the right of the hallway. If you went straight past the clock (where Santa was during X-mas) you see Underground Station on the right corner, followed by Gadzooks. Further down were Eddie Bauer and a big athletic shoe store. FootAction, maybe?
    Take a left at the clock would take you to the food court, where there was a carousel. From memory I would say about 7 or 8 openings for fast food places.
    In the pic with the Steve and Barrys sign and zoo advertisement. To the left of the entrance was Ruby Tuedays. If you took a left at the hallway that would take you to the food court from the other direction. On the way you would pass Victoria Secrets on the right and my wife's favorite as a little girl,Surprises inside on the left.
    Continueing with that pic. Straight ahead on the left corner was Cinnabon. On the right was a fine Jewelry store. I believe Carlisles. To the right, up a slight ramp took you past a big Lens Crafters, past roughly 10 stores into the anchor. I believe that was the Parisians.
    It was a very nice mall. It's amazing to me that it lasted as long as it did. But when the end came, it was as though it happened overnight. It felt like 30% of the mall left within a year. And then it's just hard to save a sinking ship.
    Bishop Parker furniture has been a furniture store ever since I can remember. It ws prob built to resemble the mall.
    FYI to the editor, if you ever see Glimcher buy a mall, you better go visit it within a few years before it closes down too.

  9. I think it was a systemic failure--including all the reasons you site. And the problem with systemic failure is that everyone has a convenient scapegoat with no shared responsibility.

    MMall did have a long run--but the same cannot be said for the surrounding developments that also collapsed--that were much younger.

    Montgomery has finally tried to steer some investment downtown. However, there is still a complete failure to make choices. They want everything that is to continue to expand; redevelop downtownn; redevelop west Montgomery; redevelop south Montgomery; redevelop Mont Mall area; while sending investment dollars up I-65 to Prattville.

    It was this basic failure to make decisions that led to over building. Developers seem not to get the relationship between a vital city and solid development

    1. The failure to make choices persists.

  10. Totally agree on redeveloping Normandale instead of MM...that Parisian's WAS awesome...interesting story-as this joint was going downhill in the 2000s, Ludacris came and made a visit sometime mid-decade, falling right in line with this mall becoming more and more urban/ghetto... something bad like a gunshot maybe? occurred upon his visit, and that was one of the bad publicity deals that helped seal its fate...BTW, is it just me, or is the fact that Steve and Barry's went under not a shock-I NEVER even went in there, but it just sounded like something that would not work...

  11. The large building separate from the mall is Bishop-Parker furniture store. From the website, it appears that they are still in business, but I don't know for sure.

    Also, I believe the ugly, wooden storefront belonged to some sort of candle store... not 100% sure though.

  12. The ugly,wooden storefront was a restuarant called "The Pub".

  13. Growing up in the Montgomery area I spent time at both Montgomery and Eastdale Malls and enjoyed them both. I worked at Gayfers in Montgomery Mall right after I finished high school in 1990 and I remember the security guys telling me even back then that Gayfers at Montgomery Mall had 5 times the shop lifting rate as did the other location at Eastdale.

    The gumball machines being left behind is kind of baffling??? Somebody posted a video on YouTube about Montgomery Mall and when he zoomed his camera into the food court area I noticed that all of the condiments and napkin holders were STILL on the tables in the food court! Very weird! It's like they just walked away and said what the heck!!! The water damage that you had in your pictures had gotten much worse in the video as well. Mother Nature waist no time! Thanks for making this blog I enjoyed it:)

  14. I used to love going to Montgomery Mall. Loved the Pub, and I used to love to eat at Frank n' Stein. And 30 years ago, there used to be an Orange Julius with the interior done up as hell... basically a big cave with "torches" lighting the place, with some chairs and a bar where they served the food. Anyone remember the two-story fast food place that used to be there? It may have been a Krystals, I don't know, but you bought the food on the first floor, and climbed the stairs up to the second level to sit and eat. It was pretty neat.

    Basically, increasing crime increased the rate of white flight as people moved out, scared for their families with all the gang activity. Seeing that area is so sad now. The surrounding shopping complexes have now died as well. I think the Longhorn steakhouse across the street is the last reputable place left in that whole intersection.

  15. I spent many a night at this mall growing up. All through Junior High and High School, it was the place to be. Had my 1st kiss at this mall. Every time we drive home I miss it greatly. Maybe having two malls fairly close apart killed the business. I also liked their arcade and spent lots of quarters in that place.

  16. A rapper came to the mall at some point. There was a riot style crowd, a gun I think went off. My wife would never go back. The crowd that took over trolling the mall kept all the folks who spent money away. It is sad.

  17. I was at this mall in 2008 and it was all closed up then. I wanted to get up to it and got stopped by a police officer and was told to leave. I was very diappointed. Hoping to get up to it and look inside soon. Was there anyone there to stop you when you took the recent pictures above?

  18. Somehow I avoided any cops at all. It must have been the fact it was two years later and the fact I was there early in the day. It was all around a successful trip.

  19. The two-story Orange Julius was at Eastdale.

  20. Thanks for posting this blog and the pictures. I grew up in the middle between Montgomery Mall and Eastdale. When I moved away, this mall was probably in its prime. So sad and shocking to hear that it's closed. I remember the mall before the renovation in 1988. The clock in the center and the fountains were original. Pizitz was one of the anchors back then. They were also an original anchor in Eastdale. I think that's what became MacRae's. Also loved your Normandale blog. I remember sitting on Santa's lap in the big window at Loveman's when I was very small. My stomach churned seeing the state of the place now.

  21. I remember the mall in its heyday and it was definitely the preferred shopping destination. After the 1980's remodel and expansion it revitalized that part of town and staved off the decline. The changing demographics of the area didn't help things but the final nail in the coffin for the mall was the improvement of Taylor Road from U.S. 231 to I-85 and the opening of Eastchase. When the mall opened, it was at the entrance to the city on U.S. 231 and shoppers from south Alabama came to it first. Suddenly, it was easy to avoid the mall and the entire area through a well marked 4 lane divided road leading straight to Eastchase and on to other east side retail.

    The mall was then geographically isolated and the surrounding population could not support it. The mall owner stopped providing maintenance and only minimal security, seemingly for mall property only, not merchants. The owners appeared to want to run off the remaining tenants. They then successfully subdivided the property making redevelopment difficult.

    The old Parisian store has been proposed as a church site. I know they were working on zoning for that and think it's going forward. The old Dillard's location is being acquired by the city for a fire station and police substation.

    Because of changing populations and road access (the population is moving steadily east and north) the mall and adjacent area will have to find its purpose supporting the immediate area and will never again be a regional mall.

  22. Where do teenagers in Montgomery hang out now? My friends and I must have walked a million miles up and down Montgomery Mall. There was a clothing store called "Teens and 'Tweens" where, if you were cool, that's where your prom dress was bought. Across from it was a "Villager" shop with women's clothing. "Memory Lane" was a kind of Hallmark store but wasn't a Hallmark store; it just sold the same kind of merchandise. There was a pet store that usually had some sort of amazing parrot or macaw. "Casual Corner" was another place to buy cool clothes (if you were a teenaged girl.) "Baker's" had snazzy shoes and purses for reasonable prices.

    Thank you so much for this website. It's brought back wonderful memories for me along with a sense of sadness. I've not been back to Montgomery in 11 years, and, when I was there last, did not have time to re-visit my old haunts. Now they really do look haunted.

  23. Montgomery Mall is very sad to drive by now. I loved it as a kid, and it angers me to see what happened to it. Thugs and violence closed the mall down. There isn't a nice way to say it, but to just say it. Eastdale Mall is going down as well. I was just in there a couple weeks ago and Dillards is pulling out slowly and Express is closing now. Express was one of the last stores to bail on Montgomery Mall, but they aren't waiting around and signing another lease at Eastdale because they know what is coming. Im sick of the violence in Montgomery, but what can you do??? I love an indoor mall too, but at least at Eastchase (outdoor mall) thugs can't just congregate and get into as much trouble. I just park at a store I like and run into it. Management isn't the problem of our malls in Montgomery, growing crime and thugs is our problem. And the poster above making the comment about the white people fled, I am sorry, I don't care what color you are, you want safety for yourself and your kids, period.

    1. Thank you for finally putting it into words here... it WAS the thugs, as you (and I) call them... for some reason they were allowed to run rampant inside the mall, doing what they wanted, intimidating customers, dressing the way they wanted, and on & on ad nauseum... and as you said, it's happening now at Eastdale...I don't quite understand it... if anyone should have rights, it's the people who are at the malls to shop and spend pleasant time strolling around with their kids... not a bunch of gang wannabes with their damned drawers hanging down their behinds, gold jewelry dripping off every limb, and attitude such as "We do want we want, and ain't nobody gonna stop us"... someone owned Montgomery Mall, and SOMEONE should have had the right to say enough is enough is enough... here's the dress code, here's our rules for respectful behavior, etc., and those rules should have been enforced... but they weren't because apparently thugs/gang wannabes have more rights than anyone else... MM was a beautiful mall and what happened to it sickens me.

    2. Back in the 90's the Brunswick Lanes had the same issue with the thugs running off the business. They came up with a simple solution to the problem. To enter the business you had to rent a pair of bowling shoes. I watched as dozens of droopy pants thugs walked away because they didn't want to surrender $1.50 to get in.

  24. I spent my youth in the mall. I remember there was a HUGE fountain in the middle of the mall, and a grocery store in the mall as well. My mom used to shop there. I actually grew up on the east side of Montgomery not too far from Eastdale Mall.

    In the late 80’s the mall was re done and became the upscale mall. Sadly, much as the author stated it was a victim of white flight and the un-progressive Montgomery leaders at the time. I do return to Montgomery once a year and it is “over retailed. Eastchase shopping center is non-descript and void of any character. Plus the oppressive Montgomery heat and humidity does not make for a comfortable shopping experience. Thank you so much for the wonderful blog! Reading the blog and the comments took me back to the salad days of my youth!

  25. It makes me sad to see Montgomery Mall like this. I have fond memories of going there as a child....peeping over the construction barriers when they did the big renovations in the 80s. In fact, I owe my very existence to this mall. My parents met while working holiday jobs at Gayfers in the early 70s. It's sad to see it go, but truthfully, I'm scared to even drive over to that area of town anymore.

  26. So to all, what are the next steps to ensuring that our older neighbor hoods are maintain and kept with dignity? Gentrification is alive and well and its happening in several parts of the city. A community cant thrive unless all participate and benefit from its growth.

  27. This mall was so much better than Eastdale, but it all started going down when they had the shooting in the food court.

  28. Good piece and appreciate all the comments. Went to Montgomery for the first time recently and happened to drive by this site. Glad to learn more about it as usual through your blog.

  29. A minor correction: while Montgomery Fair had occupied that corner for several years, the mall did not open til spring of '71. I was a senior in high school then and I recall driving out there with some friends in March or April that year. Perhaps a dozen stores were ready to open, but workmen were still laying the floor tiles on the west concourse just outside Pennys. We returned a couple of months later and were the first miscreants to soap the fountain.

    During the seventies this was the hangout for all the young people - teenybopper mall rats, ex-hippies, "freaks", rednecks, everyone went to Montgomery Mall. I remember the record store just outside Gayfers where you could buy Zap Comics under the counter; the candle store inside the main entrance where you could get anything from a small box of birthday candles to huge sculpted candles that must have weighed fifty pounds; the first Orange Julius in town.

    During this time everyone wondered when, or if, Eastdale would ever be built. The "coming soon" billboard was up at the intersection of the eastern bypass and Atlanta highway so long that it had to be replaced twice. When it finally did open, it scarcely affected Montgomery Mall; they were two different worlds. Eastdale was garish, gaudy, overly brightly lit, and loud; MM was sedate and peaceful. Each had its loyal clientele. The major effect from Eastland was Sears closing its West Fairview Ave. store to become one of Eastdale's anchors.

    It's sad to hear Montgomery Mall is dead, I've so many memories of it from '71-'83. The last time I was there was in '87 or early '88, before any work on the expansion had started. I didn't recognize most of the stores but the mall itself was the same. (I assume those horrid arches were part of the renovation.)

    I think the demise of Montgomery Mall was largely due to the expected growth of that area of town never taking place. When I left Montgomery in '83 the section of town around the southern bypass/Troy Highway looked pretty much as it had fifteen years earlier; most of the growth had taken place farther north along the eastern bypass. Also, as I've seen happen in other cities, developers convince the city to give them large tax abatements for "more jobs, more revenue" in newer shopping centers. These inevitably kill existing retail areas and are themselves killed by yet newer shopping centers, leaving those cities wringing their hands wondering what to do with dead malls. (Where I now live are two mall carcasses - including a scarcely twenty year old, three story monolith covering nearly two city blocks just a block from the state capital - caused by two new shopping centers opening in the past decade.)

  30. Montgomery died because of the "thugs" mentioned above. Plain and simple. People became scared to go there.

    Eastdale inherited MM's problems after it closed. They've just instituted a policy at Eastdale where minors must be accompanied by an adult:

    Perhaps this will keep Eastdale from going the way of Montgomery Mall. The only reason Montgomery Mall failed was because of the groups of nasty teenagers that roamed the mall and constantly caused fights and trouble. Lately Eastdale has suffered its own reports of gun shots and fights. This has to be their last resort.

  31. I used to work at the Montgomery Mall "the Great American Cookie co. From 2000 to 2003. It was BOOMING then I didnt notice the downward trend until after Christmas season of 04.
    The store to the right on the of the southwest entrance was an extreamly nice Pub. It was the most upscale resurant in that mall. It was known as "The Pub" The name "Pub" was on the front. I dont know if it was named anything else. It was like Applebees but more pub than resurant. They had the best Brugers and crab legs on the planet I am sure! I have many great memories of Montgomery Mall. Its a shame no one tried to save it. My entire working teen years was spent working at the mall. Im glad I got to see it when it was thriving I feel lucky about that.

  32. The Pub was, and still is, at it's location about a mile east of Eastchase, one of the best local restaurants our area has to offer. It is not your chain restaurant, such as, Applebees.

    I grew up in Montgomery and have seen many of it's changes. This blog really brings back memories.

    Bishop Parker remains open in the outer perimeter building, adjacent to MM. They also have a location in the revitalizing downtown in one of the old warehouses. It's a really nifty place to visit with it's three stories and floor to ceiling windows.

  33. They have put a fire station and a police substation in the former Steve & Barry's spot in the former Montgomery Mall.

  34. I am in Montgomery for work and I was looking for shopping in the area. My GPS took me to Montgomery Mall. Let's just say that apparently my GPS did not get the memo that the mall is CLOSED! When I arrived at my "destination", I thought that I had just arrived in a ghost town. Not only is the mall closed, but almost EVERYTHING surrounding it is closed. I'm not from Montgomery and even I was sad to see what appeared to be a once thriving area just sitting there going to waste, neglected and unloved. Thank you for posting this blog because I was really baffled to see a mall just sitting there empty. I was starting to wonder if they had a some kind of contamination going on there.

    I lived in Memphis for several years in early 2000's and I saw a very similiar situation happen to the malls and shopping there. The Mall of Memphis was a once thriving mall until someone got shot. There had also been problems there with gangs and thugs taking over the mall. Within a couple of years of the shooting, the mall closed and they bulldozed it to the ground. But here's the thing, the gangs and thugs just moved their business to the Wolfchase Mall in Bartlett and the Peabody Mall downtown. THEY DO NOT GO AWAY...THEY JUST RELOCATE! After I moved away from Memphis, I had heard that they closed the Peabody Mall and the Wolfchase Mall was going the same route as the Mall of Memphis. It's just sad.

    I believe that businesses need to take a stand and say ENOUGH! Stop moving away from the problem and stand your ground because that fancy new mall that was just built is going to be the next target once the Eastdale Mall closes.

  35. In the 1990s (1995-1999), the Montgomery Mall was the shopping destination for Troy students. Around 2000, things began shifting. It wasn't until I moved toward Birmingham for school in 2002 that Taylor Road had more businesses and suddenly Eastdale was booming again. I swear the shift was because businesses went with the people. South Montgomery pretty much died out while I was in school and visiting home in Troy. Sad and scary about the ghost districts.

  36. ah that store on the right in the pictures was Charles Anthony's Pub, which moved out to eastchase in 2005. Definatlty not the same feel though like it was in the Montgomery Mall. So sad how times have changed in Montgomery but for the worse.

  37. This is stretching my memory quite a bit since I was only a small child at the time, but I'm pretty sure there used to be a freestanding movie theatre and grocery store (Food World?) in the parking lot of Montgomery Mall near where Parisian was later located.
    What's really striking is how quickly the mall declined and how it took down the surrounding area (Brunos, Barnes & Noble, etc). I graduated high school in 1998 and at that time, the mall was still one of our main places to shop. I can remember going there in college as well but by that time, the mall was starting to lose favor.
    I'm glad to see that they have now turned the former Gayfers/Dillards into a police and fire station. There was speculation that Parisian would turn into the Lanier LAMP magnet school and MTEC campus but that appears to be in jeopardy due to funding constraints.

  38. Thanks so much for your thorough and wonderful blog. It kept me awake at 2:30 am. I love history, retail, abandoned building photos so go figure! I am in bliss right now. I am from Birmingham and have been to Montgomery about five times. I have always been fascinated about malls past. They had so much life; So much history and so many memories. People lived parts of their lives there! We have our share of abandoned malls here ( Century Plaza, the old Eastwood Mall now demolished). Happy times, happy memories. I think above all, your blog emphasizes and important point. Cherish your memories. Take nothing for granted. Enjoy each day.
    Thanks for the sad, joyful memories and riveting tale.

  39. The City of Montgomery pioneered a new Mall Revival strategy by transforming an anchor property into a ugly police precinct and fire station.

    The plight of this mall and surrounding developments is a perfect example of systemic dysfunction. There were many restaurants and businesses which invested into new projects in the area while the City/investors/developers were pulling the plug on the area.

    There was simply no way a stagnant population and stagnant income base was going to support this area and Eastchase--while also losing higher income housetops across the river into an overbuilt Prattville and to Auburn, etc. Many businesses relocated but many just abandoned the market.

    I was at a meeting where City Planners were presenting one plan for this area while the Mayor was announcing other plans (that they had not even seen).

  40. Greater selection of retail there has also eliminated the need for everyone there to drive to Montgomery Alabama taking some of the customer base for the malls there.

  41. I'm suddenly addicted to the Alabama state photo archives images of this mall. Great source of vintage mall interiors as well as this image of Montgomery Fair as a freestanding store. Those awnings looked a little cheap:

  42. My husband and I were stationed at Maxwell AFB in the early 90's and used to go to MM quite a bit; until I was robbed--IN the mall. I demanded my money back from those thugs and yelled quite loudly when a plainclothes officer from JCP came out of the store. Shortly after, a police cruiser showed up and we all went to the administrative offices (where the thugs tried to intimidate me with hard staring). Turns out those girls were already banned from mall property, one had a knife, and one had a warrant. I told my husband "I don't think this place is going to last much longer". We never went back. It was a loverly mall and sounds like it lasted another 10 years after we left.

  43. Thanks for providing such good information about Montgomery MallL.


  45. WHITE FRIGHT changed this area.... the result was FLIGHT. I don't have a ton of historical references and did not look up any facts to support my comment, but I will tell you my personal experience. I was a Manager of a shoe store in the Riverchase Galleria in the early 90's and was offered a job to open a new store in the prime location and food court of the Montgomery Mall. I was there over 2 years. I am not white or black - just for full disclosure because what I am about to say may offend some....
    However, while I was there - I saw racial tension at an unsafe level. I saw places like Carriage hills and other areas around the mall get improved. More nice homes and stores. But the area between the mall and I65 became worse. Eventually the Food Court, parking lot, and gas stations around this area became dangerous. Young black people, maybe without another recreation or the proper parenting, started to congregate in an intimidating manner. It became what we now call social bullying.
    My store faced the food court and it was not uncommon for me and my employees to be watching a fist fight, chairs being thrown at people, and one time - an old white lady getting beaten and kicked on the ground by several black women. I am sure she never came back. Frightful, for sure.

    All in all, the black citizens had an opportunity to have a nice shopping and entertainment location, but it was ruined - mostly - by their behavior. Economic downturn naturally followed. I left in 1993, I think.... and was glad to get the hell out of there.
    The racial intimidation applied to white shoppers was unnerving and I always felt bad that racism had apparently swung back the other way, and to an even worse degree - still evident to the tourist or unbiased visitor.

    I can say for sure one thing - anyone surprised or misunderstanding the destruction of civility, can find Jackson Ms, Little Rock, At, and many other cities followed the same path. So, I ask - was it a city with too much retail, or was it a city with too much strife and not enough good-will. Maybe you ask the same question about Detroit and Baltimore, and by the way - Chicago is on its way and no one is even attempting to save it.

    1. I don't normally approve comments regarding to racial issues because they are usually full of slurs and short on facts, but I let this one pass because you were decent enough not to use slurs and because I know you are correct about racial strife. When I was visiting Montgomery covering the malls I experienced this racial strife you mention. It does not exist on this level in every city: it primarily exists in heavily segregated cities where blacks have a long history of being oppressed and provided no opportunities to advance coupled with extremely high levels of extreme poverty such as the cities you mentioned. Usually these cities are also very corrupt with leaders who do not care about solving the ills of those cities. I experienced this in Montgomery especially bad, but also in Chattanooga. When I was at Eastdale covering the mall six years ago, I was being deliberately shoved out of the way by black youths as I passed and harrassed by a black employee in the mall (NOTE: these situations are not typical in my experiences with black people). There are many fingers to point for this kind of antisocial behavior, but I find it depressing and disappointing that we cannot rise above this and find a way to see each other as humans instead of racial groups so that the issues that caused situations like Montgomery Mall can be cured. Racial conflict like this has killed many, many malls across the country prematurely, but some did manage to survive prior to the current period where malls are dying in general. Situations like this are why racism in America continues to be a major problem. I have visited many cities across the South and Northeast, and I grew up in Atlanta where blacks and whites usually got along well. I can honestly say Montgomery is by far the worst I have ever seen for this kind of conflict, and it can't be fixed until the culture changes in these places on BOTH sides of the conflict and they can meet in the middle.

  46. this was truly helpful to some research i'm doing. thank you so very much for sharing it!!

  47. I recall the watching the final phases of construction as the mall built up to one side of what was Montgomery Fair. My sister got a job at the new Penneys and I recall riding to that store on my bicycle and purchasing a Three Dog Night album and Led Zeppelin II from the record department at Penneys.I also recall buying the last Beatles releas- LET IT BE- there in 1970. I loved records, so I also shopped at Newsom' s record store on the other end of the mall near Montgomery Fair (Gayfers). All good memories of the mall when it was shiny and new.

    It was sad to watch the decline of the mall and the surrounding community as the ill-conceived federal social engineering imposed by the feds and and exploitation of racial tensions by Montgomery real estate and banking interests combined to turn previously safe and wonderful communities into blighted hellholes.