Enclosed shopping malls are dinosaurs. In the Kansas City area there are only a couple of big enclosed malls left standing. One, in Independence, Missouri, is in bankruptcy. The other in Overland Park, Kansas is still going well, although it faces challenges.
If you’ve seen the documentary, Big Sonia, you know that her tailor shop was one of only a couple of businesses left in Metcalf South Mall (Overland Park), before she was evicted to make way for the mall to be torn down and the area redeveloped. Many malls in the area have gone this route, replaced with variations of strip malls, or mixed use development of shopping, office, restaurants and even apartment/condo units.
Oak Park Mall wasn’t the first enclosed mall in the area but it was the biggest and most successful mall in the region. It was a destination for shoppers from surrounding states and it has been a huge sales tax generator for the city, county and state. The State of Kansas received millions of dollars annually for state services.
Surrounding communities got smart and built malls, or in recent years the mixed use developments, and shoppers had other options beside the Overland Park malls. Then the internet happened and people could shop from home. Malls all over the country went out of business, just like big chain stores.
There is even a website listing dead malls across the country. http://deadmalls.com/index.html
Best Buy, which put electronic, music, video, computer and appliance stores out of business, is now struggling. One Best Buy store down the street from me (and across the street from Oak Park Mall) has leased part of it’s space to a gym. Another Best Buy store, at a very popular shopping location, just a few miles away, has shuttered. Changing times.
A big sign of trouble for malls is when anchor stores close, as national retailers like Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penneys are reducing stores. Then smaller retailers like J.Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, Foot Locker and Gap follow suit, which they have.
Just the other day I walked through Oak Park Mall, to get some exercise and to check out a clothing store.
I was amazed at how few stores I recognized and how several more have changed their focus, meaning they don’t stock things for my generation.
Nordstrom’s, has a huge footprint in the mall. Their store is multiple stories of space. It was announced earlier this year they are moving to a smaller space in the Country Club Plaza area in Kansas City, Missouri. That will leave a huge anchor hole at Oak Park Mall. I suspect they will subdivide the space for several retailers.
As a teenager, trips from my town to Oak Park Mall was a big deal. The mall was a happening place. The mall had shops I had never seen before, many places to eat, movie theaters, and and more importantly, it was a magnet for other teenagers. Who can forget their first trip to Spencer’s Gifts to see lava lamps and black light posters? The occasional trip with my pals was a fun time. The place was always packed and you had to park what felt like miles away.
Going to the mall now is an infrequent occurrence, even though it is about two miles from my house. When I go, I usually go with a very specific purpose. Parking is no big deal because it isn’t very busy. If you like to walk, it’s great exercise, but if you’re in a hurry, don’t try to do it on a lunch hour.
Even stores I know, have changed there their merchandise lines. If I’m looking for a certain kind of shirt or pants, it will take visiting several stores and probably not finding what I want. If I was under age thirty and a more standard size, there are stores galore, but not for someone over age 60, who is hard to fit and has very specific tastes.
If you are a teenager, there is a lot to interest you at the mall. If you are looking for higher end merchandise, the mall has plenty for you. Mall stores have adapted; they’ve had to.
I looked into every store I passed and most weren’t busy. More sales staff than customers. As the holidays approach, the mall will get busy and it will transform into a decorative and inviting place to visit.
Those memories from years ago included some visits near Christmas time. When I visit the mall I sometimes think back to those days. Wall to wall people, but it didn’t matter. It was a fun time. I’m just glad I don’t have to walk as far to the car now. Old memories, but even older feet.