On June 30, 2006, I briefly discussed some of my thoughts on the American Mall. I suppose the rise and decline of large shopping malls in America has been one of the major cultural trends that has occurred in my lifetime.
The other day, I went to our city’s largest mall. I’ve gone there several times over the past few years. I’m struck by the apparent lack of business, the lack of traffic, and how empty it feels while I walk through it. Grand Junction may not be a large city compared to where you live, but it is one of the largest cities for many miles around. I seem to expect there might be many more people there the next time I visit but the crowd always seems dwarfed by the size of the structure. I wonder how some of the retailers manage to stay in business. In contrast, the nearby Wal-Mart does seem busier.
I can recall how certain malls in Los Angeles were important destinations during my life. First was Century City mall. I have many fond memories of shopping there with my family. We had an established routine; eat at Clifton’s Cafeteria (which had great food), shop for clothing and household goods at the different retailers, and finish with grocery shopping at Gelson’s. This one-stop-for-all place suited us very well and had a very influential effect on my positive view of shopping. I also remember going there one day, when my girlfriend had not asked me to pick her up from work to drive her home, and seeing one of my friends had assumed that task, in my place.
Although many others opened over the years, the Beverly Center stood out as a major event for me, my family, and my friends. I may have felt a bit melancholy over its construction: the intersection of Beverly Blvd. and La Cienega Blvd. was the former site of a small amusement park and pony ride where my sister and I had some of our fondest memories from our early childhood. Soon enough, this became one of my most frequent destinations for clothes, food, buying presents, and movie watching. The Hard Rock Cafe on the street entrance was also a popular destination for me and my friends heading out for a drink.
Without question, the last stage in my mall-centered life was the Grove, near where I lived during the Lost Decade. By far the most upscale and inviting of these destinations, it has some of the best theatres in Los Angeles and some terrific dining attractions as well. Perhaps if you go to web sites that serve up celebrity chatter you’ll notice the Grove is often the backdrop. I went on a few dates with girlfriends there and it was there that Nicole Scherzinger and I crossed paths too many times.
What are your thoughts? Are large shopping malls doomed? Are we such creatures of habit that we will continue building these huge edifices to consumerism long after they stop being used at anything close to their capacity? If not, what do you think would replace them?
Below is a link to an article that lists notable malls that are no longer in use.