The death of the American shopping mall

When I was a kid growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., everyone who needed a job headed straight for the nearby Jefferson Valley Mall. I actually held three gigs there:

1. Dishwasher, J.B. Danigan’s Restaurant: I was 15 … had never held down a job before. The manager introduces himself, hands me a schmock and throws me into the kitchen. “This is the dishwasher,” he sayd, pointing to a large steel box. “You’ll figure it out.” Before I know it, plate after nasty plate is headed my way. They’re piling up, and I’m screaming for help. I take the dirtiest dish, one covered with melted cheese and half-eaten nachos, and slide it under the dish washer. Then I storm out—50 minutes after I started. For all I know, the manager still thinks I’m back there.

2. Opinion Taker, National Opinion Center: Without question, the worst job I’ll ever have. Imagine: You’re 16, with no self-confidence, and your task is to roam the mall with a clipboard, asking people for 10 minutes to discuss soap or pretzels or a new line of binders. Whenever you’re spotted, everyone dashes the opposite direction.

3. Salesman, Great American Cookie Company: Come closing time, we’d have dozens upon dozens of cookies left over for the staffers to take home. Best gig ever.

Anyhow, I digress. The point of this post was to note how, nowadays, malls are flatlining at an insanely fast pace. Just yesterday evening, I took the kids to the Westchester Mall for some fun and kicks. Nathan’s—gone. City Limits Diner—gone. Sharper Image—gone. That cruddy kids store with the $40 T-shirts—gone. Disney Store—gone. Obviously, some of this has to do with the swooning economy, and years of Bush neglect. But I’d say the biggest factor is an obvious one: Thanks to Amazon, Target.com, etc … etc, who needs to waste hours roaming shop to shop?

Oddly, I’m sort of saddened by this. Malls symbolize part of my youth. I can vividly recall strolling the JV Mall on my down time, hitting up Foot Locker, Burger King, Merry Go Round (where parachute pants were always 2 for 1), CVS. I had my left ear pierced at the Piercing Pagoda; saw my father’s book on sale for the first time at Waldenbooks; bought Whitney Houston’s debut album at Record World. You’d see familiar friends, smile at the hottie girls, roam aimlessly until the security guards chased you off. It wasn’t exactly Mayberry, but the mall was a halfway decent way to blow an afternoon.

Oh, well …

10 thoughts on “The death of the American shopping mall”

  1. Try crossing the Hudson and going to the Nanuet Mall, the second mall built in the tri-state area…thet second floor is closed! I have heard that Xanadu may be the last indoor mall ever built in the US…there hasnt been one in over six years and given the issues of Xanadu I can see why.

    Can’t wait to see the Clemens book

  2. I was also a clipboard guy! My favorite part was…oh wait, I didn’t have a favorite part.

    Crooked business – between convincing people to lie about certain characteristics to qualify for the surveys to having staff complete surveys several times over as “different people” – I wouldn’t trust any “research” that comes from those places.

  3. The pic you used for the post is from the Northway Mall (obviously) in Albany NY. The BJ’s is still alive and kicking but the theater and Lechmere were both razed years ago. Now there’s a giant Loews. The mall is now a plaza containing a Target, Joanne Fabrics, a liquor store, and Eddie Bauer outlet. the furniture store and Linens and Things both closed up in the past few months.

    I can barely remember walking around that mall as a youngster…but I remember it had fountains…and I liked the fountains.

    The theater was a huge loss. 2nd run movies for two bucks and free refills on popcorn with real butter!

  4. You know, this reminds me… About 10 or 12 years ago, I was at the mall with a few of my buddies when we got roped into doing a taste test for a new Gatorade-like sports drink. When we got done, they promised to mail us coupons for the new beverage. Of course, they never did. Bastards. I want my free Gatorade-ripoff drink!

    It is a bit sad to walk through any mall these days and see so many empty stores and so few people. That being said, Christmas time certainly still draws people to the malls. It’s still impossible to find a parking spot for about a 5 or 6 week span!

  5. Stop with the Bush neglect nonsense. 6 years of solid economy followe dby two years of struggle. The same two years the Dems took over Congress. Subprime mortgages started this downturn. Clinton era policy.

  6. And strangely enough, the #1 grossing movie so far in 2009 is about a Mall Cop. And get this… Seth Rogan has another Mall Cop movie coming out this year (Observe and Report). Stunning.

  7. City Limits Diner is gone? Crap, I love all diners. My wife and I spent many nights at the Westchester mall but that place is pricy. You should head over to the airplane hangar of a mall that is the Palisades Mall…. that place is ginormous. And sinking, according to rumors I’ve heard (literally, sinking into the Rockland County muck).

  8. funny! The Jefferson Valley Mall was supposedly sinking when they built that as well….it’s still standing. The Palisades Center Mall will never vanish. The second floor is NOT closed! I worked at Sears in the linen dept when I was 18…how boring was that!!! I loved JB Danigans and Friendlies in the mall as well. Malls are differnt, they are changing. The strip malls are dying…if it weren’t for target & walmart, they’d all be gone!

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