Growing up I remember spending weekend days meeting friends at the local Mall. There we would shop for music at Sam Goody, try on clothes at Jean Nicole, Benetton, and Contempo Casuals. Then we would grab a bite to eat at such food court greats as Orange Julius and Sbarro’s. As a teen the Mall held endless hours of entertainment. You could met “exotic” people from as far away as two town’s over, flirt with cute boys and hang out with friends.
Growing up the Mall became my home away from home. It started off as just a fun place to go but when I needed a part-time job the mall because my employer. Since I already knew where every store was (like any teen in the 80’s) I found the perfect job at the Mall information desk. This would not be the only job I held at the Mall however, I also work for a shoe stores, and various clothing stores.
Want to take a survey?
But the one Mall job will always hold a special place in my heart was Quick Test (a Mall Market Research Company.)
This was my first real job after having a paper route. The whole idea was you would approach shoppers and try to get them to take part in a market research survey. Sometimes this was a lot harder then it appeared.
During this time I met the most amazing people. My boss, Marianne was like the mother figure I desperately needed. There was the cool, tough, older girl I secretly wished I could be like. The smart kids I always looked up to. As well as the rotating group of teens from other schools who became great friends. Together share long, contemplative talks, or just plain silliness while we desperately tried to convince people to take a survey.
My Mall Family
The supervisors and co-workers where more then just friends they became like a family. Come to think of it, the entire Mall staff became like a family to me. The maintenance guys, the retail store clerks, and the security staff became an integral part of my coming of age. All during high school I felt like the Malls version of “Norm” from Cheers. I would go into the Mall and knew everyone working there and they knew me.
Friends came to visit me whenever they went shopping. So much of my high school life and growing up revolved around the time I spent at the Mall. It was more than just a place to shop and gather it became like a home.
Having such a history invested in the Mall, it saddens me to recognize the slow agonizing death of a place that held so many memories, life lessons and experiences of my youth. It was not hard to see the writing on the food court wall after the news following this holiday season.
Many major retailers are unable to compete with the convenience, value and infinite availability of products that online seller’s have. Historic chains like Macy’s, Sear’s and J.C. Penny’s are closing stores and preparing for what will most likely be their final days.
In the same respect, foot traffic at Mall’s all over America have fallen to all time low’s. These shopping spaces have to complete not only with online retailer but also big box stores that now offer everything from food the clothes to housewares in one easy location.
Likewise, kids no longer need the Mall to met people. They met virtually, online. They can spend hours Facebook messaging, commenting and texting instead of meeting up for shopping or a pretzel from Auntie Ann’s. The dynamic of teen relationships has changed and so to has the relationship to the Mall. The place that defined teen life in the 80’s and early 90’s is all but a non-entity to today’s youth. Thus the Mall is being phased out. It is dying and with it the anchor stores we have grown up with.
The landscape of teen life and the American consumer is changing. The town square was replace by Downtown’s, which eventually became the mega Mall. It is sad to see the Mall’s go. I grew up at there, learned about work, relationships and myself.
My kids and today’s youth will have to learn those things in a new venue, I guess. Don’t know what the future holds for the Mall but I don’t think it is total down for the count. It will probably be reinvented in some form in the future. Everything old becomes new again at some point. Who knows maybe we will return to the 1950’s malt shops, drive-in’s and bowling ally’s as the next generation of meeting places.
What do you think will replace the Mall? What are your favorite Mall memories? Please comment and share them. Would love to hear
If you want to jog your memory and have a good laugh take a look at Michael Galinsky: Malls Across America photo book. Also check out some really cool vintage pictures of your local Mall at Mallsofamerica.blogspot.com.