Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eden Mall: Eden, NC

The South is littered with tiny malls that probably should never have been built.  They are usually isolated enough in small cities that they really do not do very well, but offer enough to the community to linger.  Usually, the mall opened in better times before the city's main industrial base declined and retail outside of downtown was not yet established.  Nearby, there might have been a grocery store, but nothing that could really compete with the mall.   Eventually, as the suburban retail offerings in the city expand, and the base of shopping dwindles due to the local economy, the mall either drifts to alternative uses or outright fails.  Stores that remain in the mall begin to vacate to nearby strip centers.  Better stores in nearby larger cities also begin to move closer to the mall's market area chipping away at any market share it might have had.  This is because growth in the area was too stagnant to insulate the mall when this occurred.  In the case of Eden, probably all of this applied.

The town of Eden itself has a strange history as the consolidation of three separate towns in 1967 known as Leaksville, Spray and Draper.  The town got its name from its origin as a large estate that existed in the 1700's that was also named Eden.  Today it is a city with nearly 16,000 residents: a population not adequate for much more than a Wal-Mart and a couple grocery stores.  Add to this that better shopping is available close by across the state line in Danville, Virginia.  Additionally, the larger municipalities of the Piedmont Triad to the southwest offer a broader range of choices that have grown increasingly upscale.  Thrown all together, the mall was destined to fail from the very beginning.

Views of this mall take you back to a simpler time...architecturally.  It was hardly one of the showier malls built in 1980, and from this angle it looks like a middle school.  The first photo, however, shows that the retro skylights found in the former Kmart wing are basic, yet profound.  The photo above is in the Belk wing.  All photos in this post were taken by digitalsky on February 19, 2011.
Center court features a few small skylights and the cylinder light fixtures, which still look classy today.

Here is a former restaurant in the mall.  Fast food?  Morrison's Cafeteria?

The wall mural in the background was originally the Kmart mall entrance.  I would so love to see a pic of any Kmart mall entrance prior to the logo upgrade in 1992.
While you're probably out of luck on finding a summer outfit in the mall part,  you can still get your nails done!
Eden Mall's origins dated to 1980 when the mall first opened.  With its disco-themed appearance, the mall sported anchors Belk Cline, Kmart and Globman's, a Martinsville, Va. based store.  Belk is located on the west end of the mall, Globman's was on the north end and Kmart on the east end.  The first few years were most likely also its most successful as well.  The mall joined an enormous boom in mall construction in smaller cities that came on the heels of phenomenal success for malls in larger cities.  In North Carolina, Belk was heavily influential in this boom of small town shopping malls as they attempted to upscale their image, market share and offerings.

You know it's vintage when you see the diagonal wood.   You know it's sleazy when a no-name cafe with a letter board is the only hot meal in the mall.

I'm assuming mall management is too strapped to fix this train wreck storefront.  This is on the opposite side of the Globman's/Peeble's wing.

Mail Boxes, Etc, high speed internet and Publisher's Clearinghouse Gimmicks all wrapped into one neat little package!  Seeing that this store took up some space, I would love to know its history.

Diagonal wood and lattice.  I assume the store on the left was Foot Locker, but I have no clue on the right.

Funky and sinister looking diagonal wood sits next to a shop sporting a faux Colonial facade.  This is found on the former Globman's/Peeble's wing.

The mall's fortunes came into question by the early 1990's.  With a high vacancy rate, the mall was also in a time warp.  By this time, national chain retailers within the mall started to flee.  First, Globman's closed at the mall, but the store was then immediately filled by Peeble's.  The worst hit came, however, when major anchor Kmart closed at the mall.  The closing of the store was also not part of the later restructuring, but came much earlier when it shut down at the mall in 1994 when Kmart was still truly competitive with Wal-Mart and the discount store market had more players.  By this point, the mall was already being re-purposed as a haven for non-traditional tenants.  This was a move made by many of the ailing shopping malls in that era before the building boom of the 2000's resulted in the demolition of many of these failing malls.  Eden Mall, however, did not enjoy the building boom that gripped the larger cities of the South, thus it managed to survive in its diminished capacity.

Belk here blends shiny copper with fake stone, but they have the mall entrance firmly shut.  Nevertheless, they are still putting up a new sign.  I guess this is a reminder to the few patrons of the mall that yes, there is still a Belk here, but no, they are not going to lose any air conditioning to this hole.
Close-up of mall entrance doors with "Used Front Door Entrance" on the mall side and "Not An Exit" on the other side.  

Inside Belk, store merchandise is placed in front of the former mall entrance.

Overhead lights inside Belk

Here is some vintage decor inside the Belk.

Today, Eden Mall is in the twilight zone.  The mall is effectively dead with no chain store operations at all except for Belk.  Almost the entire mall is made up of small shops and offices filling less than 50 percent of the empty shops, and the mall is in near disrepair never having received a single renovation since the day it opened 31 years ago.  Curiously, however, Belk hangs on at the mall.  I assume that Belk just has not found a strip shopping center to anchor onto.  Peeble's did, however, relocating to Kingsway Plaza in 2008.  Belk, however, simply snubs the mall having sealed off their mall entrance since Peeble's fled to higher ground.  The Belk store itself looks as old as the mall, but even then it still got the new sign treatment with the blue flower and loopy letters: even on the mall entrance.

Inside Belk, it is obvious that maintenance of the building is lacking judging by this water damage.  This was a brand new sign and was already falling apart!

In front of Belk is, well was, a mall directory.  Leave your business card there, though, and you might get a free lunch!

NC DMV must be in partnership with all the dead malls, because this brings in guaranteed business.  The ceilings above this "store" also seem to look a bit older than 1980.

Here is the former Peeble's, originally Globman's, mall entrance at the end of the smaller north wing.  Note the lights on inside on what is now the Eden Events Center.

Inside the Eden Events Center, it still looks like a department store...sort of.

The mall today hangs on with obviously the bare minimum for upkeep.  New uses have been rather creative, however, such as the events center situated in the former Globman's/Peeble's store.  What once sold blouses and perfume recently hosted a wrestling match.  A DMV office also draws frowning traffic into the mall, and "Eden Business Center" seems to be an odd hybrid of Mail Boxes, Etc., a sweepstakes portal and internet cafe.  DMV offices seem to be a good fit for dead malls considering at least two other malls I covered had them.  Still, with the many dead malls I have covered, this one may possibly rate as one of the trashiest, most forgotten and most forlorn malls ever to still have the lights on.

THIS has to be one of the best examples of an unsightly Mom N Pop makeover of a mall tenant.  They even put in their own doors and painted on "awnings".  It's somewhat endearing, I guess.

This florist here captures more of that "last chance" spirit next to the mural that appears to depict a big waterfall.  The only thing I expect to be falling here are ceiling tiles.

The reference is clearly to the Garden of Eden having this apple here, but I can't help but have Ruckzuck from Newton's Apple playing in my head when I look at this.

Full-scale view of the front mall entrance shows that the mall sought to use staggered geometrics to draw in customers.  It must not have worked very well.  Is the sign original?

Another view of the Eden Mall main entrance looking east (it faces south).

Judging by the appearance of the mall, the days for this mall may have been prolonged about 15 years or so, but its days are numbered at least as a public retail operation.  With Belk being the last legitimate retailer, it does absolutely nothing for the rest of the mall.  I believe they will eventually relocate if given the chance, but they may have to build their own store considering the complete lack of new shopping centers in the area.  Why that has not already happened I cannot figure out.  Once Belk goes, I expect the mall will probably close.  What will take its place is anyone's guess.  I am sure that it could function well as a school, church, medical center, corporate offices or government multimodal facility.  It could also sit empty until it deteriorates beyond repair as well.

The Belk store at the mall now has the new logo and one of its most popular styles from the era of single level stores as well.  The clean looking store stands at contrast to the pothole-filled empty parking lot.

Closer inspection, though, shows some details have been overlooked such as the burnt out and damaged light fixture in front of Belk.

Kmart from the front of the mall looks to be in pretty decent condition considering it has been abandoned for 17 years.  It looks like it got an early remodel, too, with the red K with the cursive "mart".

Peebles here is a plain vanilla box with an awning that has all the charm of a garage door on a warehouse.

Close-up of the awning with "Eden Events Center" down in the Everlast branding style.  It's a perfect fit for "rasslin'".

Eden Mall pretty much can be summed up by the average person to be a total economic loss and a complete dump.  The Biblical Eden probably was as well after it's two most famous residents were evicted.  For modern history buffs and retail enthusiasts, however, this mall is amazing.  The chance of finding any well-preserved, largely unmodified 1980 shopping mall in 2011 is remote, but they do exist if you know where to look.  I personally have not yet had the chance to visit this mall, but I hope to see it one day to get a few pics of my own.  I might not have even known about it had I not been tipped-off about it, but thanks to digitalsky here I have this excellent collection of photos of a mall that clearly has seen better days.

Thwe back entrance to Kmart, which was like all mall-based Kmarts only accessable through the mall.

The back parking lot of the Kmart found new use as a Go-Kart track.  
Words fail me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Oak Hollow Mall: High Point, NC

One thing that is certain with North Carolina retail is that planning for retail development, notably malls, is complicated.  Instead of a couple large cities, the state is full of smaller cities that form several collective metropolitan areas such as the Triad, where Oak Hollow Mall is located.  More specifically, Oak Hollow Mall is located in High Point, the smallest of the three cities in the Triad as well as the city struggling the most economically of the three .

When the mall opened on August 9, 1995, it opened at the end of the mall era with great expectations of being a regional powerhouse sporting an enormous 1.3 million square feet.  When built, Oak Hollow also competed indirectly with two malls in Winston-Salem and directly with Friendly Center, an enormous outdoor shopping center in Greensboro.  Building a large mall, however, did not exactly increase the appeal of High Point, and the area surrounding the mall has not developed much since it opened.  The result is that the newest mall in the region is also a dying mall, and on February 24, 2011 it was sold to High Point University ultimately sealing the mall's fate.

The first photo shows center court with the elevator.  The second photo here provides excellent detail of the skylights with the high clouds giving a dreamy effect.  While not the most impressive, it certainly is not hideous either and this mall is pure 90's.  Many elements of this mall remind me a stripped down version of North Point Mall in Alpharetta, GA.  This and all photos published here by digitalsky.

I guess if the mall had been doing better, the palm trees would have been long gone by now.  Exactly why were trees removed from most malls?   Palms especially are interesting in the Piedmont since they do not grow there naturally.  Photo by digitalsky.

A view of the lower level shows a few chain stores still around.  It reminds me of the waning days of Century Plaza in how fast the mall is dying.   Photo by digitalsky.

Escalators with mirrored sides apparently all the rage in the 90's.  So were snap bracelets, bowl cuts and soccer shorts for casual wear.  Photo by digitalsky.

This image proves that even newer malls are spooky when they die.  Imagine how this scene wood look with brown tiles and dark wood trim.  Photo by digitalsky.

This mall map presents a mall as healthy as a double bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings.  It hasn't quite gotten to the milkshake yet, but it's coming for desert.  The sale to the university is definitely the "special sauce" on the burger.  Photo by digitalsky.

When the mall opened, the anchor lineup was promising.  Belk Beck, Dillard's, JCPenney, Sears and Goody's provided a new upgraded shopping experience for the city.  Shoppers previously flocked to Westchester Mall, an older, smaller mall built in 1970 that quickly died after Oak Hollow opened.  Both Belk Beck and JCPenney left Westchester for the mall leaving the older mall anchorless since Thalhimer's had already long since closed.  With only one level, a dated layout and three anchors the mall was incapable of competing with such a large mall closing later that year.  Sadly, Westchester Mall was the right size for the city as well as being better located to capture High Point shoppers exclusively while the current mall has faced more direct competition.

You would think the mall's declining fortunes would have resulted in Belk saving the money on rebranding some of its stores, but when even Eden Mall gets a new sign they aren't going to let it show.  Photo by digitalsky.

Dillard's tends to close the upper level when they downgrade to a clearance store.  You tend to wonder why they take this intermediate step.  Are they just stuck in a lease?  Photo by digitalsky.

Inside the Dillard's upper level.  Photo by digitalsky.

Goody's former mall entrance, now an unmarked entrance to Sears Operations Center.   Goody's, later Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, was only one level, and the entrance is there obviously for employees to enjoy what is left of the mall on their break.  Photo by digitalsky.

A former Express store on the upper level.   Photo by digitalsky.

Inside the former Express store with all-American colors.  Photo by digitalsky.

While Westchester complimented other malls in the region, all of the major shopping centers strongly reacted to the opening of Oak Hollow Mall.  Four Seasons Town Centre added a third level.  Carolina Circle Mall in Greensboro, already struggling, faded into history.  The most direct blow, however, came when Friendly Center greatly expanded with a new outdoor "lifestyle center" addition (though the center technically was one to start with) in October 2006 further drawing shoppers away from the mall.  It was clear that unlike the earlier Westchester Mall, other shopping centers saw Oak Hollow as a threat, and their reactionary improvements began the downward spiral at the mall.  The anchor overlap also was a problem with Dillard's and JCPenney also at Four Seasons.  Belk was also at Four Seasons as well, but also located at Friendly Center not that far away.  Not attracting a Macy's also lowered the long-term appeal of the mall.  Macy's not having a presence at the mall was peculiar enough since Westchester had Thalhimer's, which was destined through mergers to ultimately become Macy's anyway.

With JCPenney closing shortly, I am adding more photos than usual of the entrance.  JCPenney built its most attractive stores in the 1990's compared to the Target-inspired look they are obsessed with today.   Photo by digitalsky.

JCPenney upper level entrance with neon and octagon skylights there to make you feel like you are about to be abducted by a UFO.  Photo by digitalsky.

Here is close-up detail of the upper and lower level mall entrances, respectively giving a glimpse into the inside of the stores.  The dark green fake marble flooring is tasteful.  Photos by digitalsky.

American Eagle...absolutely essential for at least a marginally successful mall.  Rolls of brown paper...absolutely essential to hide the insides when management won't spring for termporary white walls.  Photo by digitalsky.

Sears, of course, will be here to shut out the lights when everybody else is gone: at least store-wise.  Photo by digitalsky.

Oak Hollow Mall is a very young mall to be so troubled.  Its problems became apparent before the mall even reached 15 years old.  The first was more subtle when Goody's closed at the mall.  I cannot confirm the date, but it appears to have been in early 2008 awhile before the company liquidated.  Steve & Barry's University Sportswear briefly took over the spot before that company also folded in 2008.  On December 8, 2009 Sears relocated its customer service center in that location after Steve & Barry's left.  What came next, though, was more ominous with Dillard's converting to a clearance store in November 2009.  The worst news of all, however, came on January 24, 2011 when JCPenney decided to ax its store at the mall with the store closing its doors by June 1st.  On February 11, 2011, Belk added insult to injury announced that is mulling closing its location at the mall as well.  However, Belk has had a long presence in High Point and also mentioned that it would open a new location at High Point if they closed at the mall.  Too bad reopening its store at Westchester Mall is not in the cards.

This is why I generally hate it when they renovate malls: this mall entrance looks rather distinctive.  When places are original, they have the unique, personal touches intended by the original architects.  Photo by digitalsky.

I really do like the mall entrances from the outside a lot.  The 90's was the beginning of more elaborate mall entrances compared to the typically impersonal boxes found in 70's and 80's malls.  That was one thing that did improve in mall design.  The best part is that the mall logo is not in lower case letters in the same font that used in every other logo today.  Photos by digitalsky.

Fortunately, hungry shoppers will find the food court has held onto some chain restaurants including Subway, Panda Express and Sbarro.  When these pictures were taken, it appeared it hadn't yet gotten to the level yet where the only place to eat in the mall is some local dig named something like Annie's Hot Dogs.  Photo by digitalsky.

Sears aimed for a generic design in the 90's with this store pretty much a clone of the store added onto Riverchase Galleria around the same time.   Photo by digitalsky.

The 90's was also a time that putting a retro plaque on the door was popular as a way to show the strength and proud history of a company.  That doesn't seem to be working much for younger shoppers, though.  Photo by digitalsky.

Now with the mall in crisis, the value of the mall plummeted finally triggering the sale to the university.  Selling at only $9 million, it is clear that despite the continued presence of Belk, Sears and a Dillard's Clearance Center that the mall has reached the end of its life as a retail center only 15 years after opening.  In all, it is rather curious since CBL also owns the highly successful Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem why this property became a troubled asset for them.  CBL still manages the mall despite the sale, but this agreement will likely terminate once all the anchors and inline tenants depart. 

Here are a couple views of JCPenney from the outside.  It is rather odd to see them depart considering they moved here from Westchester Mall and have been part of the city for years.  Photos by digitalsky.

Belk, which opened as Belk Beck, looks odd with the new logo.  The logo looks too small for the building.  It is definitely not one of my favorite Belk designs with its gaudy horizontal stripes.  Photos by digitalsky.

Dillard's in its ugliest era.   I bet if Ivey's had still been around when the mall was built they would have made this store look so much better.  Photo by digitalsky.

Sears Operations Center definitely has the Goody's signatures on the outside.  They did a nice job covering up where the "G" used to be.  Photo by digitalsky.

Seeing how quickly High Point's retail jewel lost its shimmer, I have to wonder how different things would have been had it never been built and Westchester remained the only game in town.  Unfortunately, Westchester Mall is now a church, but I wonder if they would let it convert back to a mall if the price was right.  The word on the street, though, is that the city itself is failing, so possibly that mall's death would have only been postponed if Oak Hollow had not stolen its soul 15 years ago (before it was born again as a church)!  Four Seasons Town Centre itself has struggled partly due to this mall, so maybe its departure will give it the shot in the arm it needs.  In the next couple years, Oak Hollow Mall will fade into history like a wrinkle in time, but maybe a silver lining can be found in the death of a mall that obviously was not too big to fail.

ALSO: More photos below all taken by Mike Kalasnik:

The planters on the side are among some of the most interesting I've seen

The mall also has some 70's sensibilities about it such as these octagonal skylights.

Detail on the upper level back in the days when mall developers realized there were more colors available for flooring than slate and light tan.

Another 70's astroturf in the center court.

Palm trees grace the lower level.  I remember when Town Center at Cobb near Atlanta had those when it first opened in the 80's.

Closed storefronts

This is a most beautiful pic.  Mike Kalasnik states that this reminds him of now-defunct Eastland Mall in Charlotte.  From this angle, I at least agree in regards to the steps.

More empty storefronts.

This is the last view on the upper level, but I can't tell which department store that is on the right.