By Kevin Williams
I could almost still smell the hot pretzels, warm from the oven.
"That's where it used to be," I told Aster.
"Where what used to be?" Aster asked.
"It was a pretzel store called Hot Sam, that's where we went to get soft pretzels in the days before Auntie Anne's"
And I point out where the Chik-fil-A used to be, the Waldenbooks, the Camelot Music Store, the Kay-Bee Toy Store, The Gap. Man, that is when you knew your mall had made it when you had a Gap. And that's when you knew your mall was tanking when the Gap left. Except I'm not sure many of us realized it at the time. Stores slowly leave the mall and you think "well, something else will come along to fill the spot." But then it never does and one by one the mall grows dark. Even the Radio Shack is long gone. They held on longer than almost anyone.
The Bath & Body Works gets the award for hanging on the longest,but they are finally on their way out. The developers have tried their best. New people bought the mall several years ago and gussied up the name from The Towne Mall to The Towne Mall Galleria. But they weren't really fooling anyone. To their credit, they did succeeding in bringing in a Burlington Coat Factory and a Planet Fitness, both are busy. But they couldn't fight off larger macroeconomic forces like Sears closing. Or Elder-Beerman/Bon-Ton pulling out.
But people can still be drawn into this mall. Aster, Bea, and I were in the center of the mall in what once used to be a bustling, airy atrium. Empty now. The fountains taken out, the plants gone. But we heard clapping, and cheering, and voices drifting from an empty wing of the mall. At first, I thought I was imagining something. But it continued.And soon we saw a small mall store filled with people, perhaps 50 or 60 souls. Only it wasn't a store, the name of the place was DIAMOND JUBILEE CHORUS. And they had managed to do what few others have succeeded doing: bringing people into the mall. A barbershop quarter of sorts was singing and everyone in the audience was cheering and clapping. It was eerie to see such a happy, contented scene in any otherwise deserted mall.
If only the rest of the store-fronts in the mall could be as successful....
The stores won't come back, you can stick a fork in this mall...once shopping habits shift it's very tough, if not impossible, to get them back....