Monday, August 14, 2017

Northlake Mall, Tucker/Decatur, GA

     It is becoming increasing hard to find a vintage urban mall, but if you know where to look, it's possible. One of these trapped malls is trapped between the trendy Decatur and Tucker, thirteen and a half miles from downtown Atlanta. Northlake is unique, in that it has a chance to survive the apocalypse if stupid mistakes are avoided. While you can find bigger and better in the Atlanta area, Northlake still exists primarily due to its anchors. On the day I visited, Macy's and Sears showed good business, yet mom & pop dominate the interior. If the inside is saved, Atlanta's own Sumter Mall scenario is avoided. If little is done, something similar to Columbia Mall (now a Wal-Mart on Memorial Drive) will form in its wake, and the Two Eyesores of North DeKalb will exist. Not good.

Two views of the infamous sign. Inviting, huh? Original, too.

Looking down the mall. Looked pretty busy on the outside, which is always a good sign.

The Penney head is original according to prior knowledge.

~swervy~ . Second time I've said that on this blog.

Main entrance to the mall with Penney head behind. Nothing worth going insane about here.
     Northlake Mall joined the scene as the final mall built in DeKalb until 2001. It was located on I-285 at the LaVista Road exit, completed only two years earlier. JCPenney, Davison's, and Sears were the original anchors, without a Rich's. This was due to the nearby North DeKalb location. If Rich's opened a store at Northlake, the NDM location would suffer and probably close by 1975. NDM would be dead by 1990, being that all replacements were in the area already. Rich's would eventually join the merchandisers at Northlake in 2003, in a way probably taken more as offensive and half-minded.

Hidden third floor in Macy's. As I entered, nostalgia swept over me as the form of Christmas presents of years past awakened. It was raining outside and we sprinted in, greeted by this outlandish entrance (and before I knew its secrets). Walking straight to the jewelry department and selecting 14-karat earrings. I'm not old enough to have experienced the true golden age of malls and stuff like this still happens to me. Pinch me if I'm asleep. And I have more dank memories of this from Mall of Georgia, NDM (declining as I grew) and more area malls. 
     Northlake opened up to a grand start, all 97 stores open with then-governor Jimmy Carter officiating. The three-level Davison's and two-level Penney's opened on the same day as the mall, October 6th, 1971. Immediate competition came with Perimeter Mall and the North DeKalb Mall. What carried Northlake over the others was how much more it had. Three anchors, a McCrory's, Piccadilly, and all of the 70's architectural bits made it just a tad more special. A hidden piece is that Northlake killed off the Avondale/Columbia Mall and gave what else the area had a push. If Northlake wasn't built, A/C would have still been dead for about eighty other reasons.

Sears and salmon colored tile sighting. Younger me remembers buying a fridge here on the day before Labor Day, and it was rainy again. Being the bored self I was, not caring much for stainless steel, I roamed the mall and visited the food court where I would sit with my brother, celebrating his newfound independences of starting high school a month earlier. Aaannnnddd.....
...this fridge has not disappointed.
     As DeKalb continued to grow and succeed, so did Northlake. The first huge problem came with newer ventures up I-85, forming Gwinnett Place Mall, a massive superregional mall bringing in shoppers from as far as Chattanooga, Greenville-Spartanburg, and Macon as early as 1984. This was the mark of the growth of Gwinnett, now a county of over 1 million residents. Only Penney's wasn't a duplicate, and well, that's called speaking too soon.

This Penney's would look good with the "new look."
     To deal with the greater forces against it, Northlake underwent a large-scale renovation adding the Food Garden and Birmingham-based Parisian to the mall. This pushed the mall over the one million mark of square footage. This would be successful, and improve fortunes. In 2001, Discover Mills and Mall of Georgia were completed, and were very successful with numerous anchors. This would almost help the mall indirectly, hurting the much closer Gwinnett Place Mall and essentially killing off North DeKalb. In 2007, Parisian closed as part of the Belk purchase. This would be occupied by Kohl's, which closed in 2016. 

Kohl's is.....still there?

The dollar store to the right has been there for a loooong time. Pranks were done with their supplies.

Dead Best Buy Mobile looks fairly recent. Down that hallway is the food court.

Food court detail. I like the glass atrium at the end. Another JCPenney entrance is down there. Memories of eating at CFA and Wendy's come up here, before shopping for wares.
     Being completely honest, I seriously hope Northlake doesn't die. I have trust in ATR Corinth to rehab this mall like the others they have helped. Filling in Kohl's and other vacancies will go a long way, and while I love the look, a renovation would do something. Atlanta shoppers are simply too picky and ignore Northlake like NDM, Gwinnett Place, and South DeKalb. Don't let Northlake join those ranks, save it. I grew up here, and let those like me do the same.

Second floor planter detail.

Macy's fountain/planter detail.

Sears court on first floor. Payless is dead. 

I love this fountain in the middle. Not wacky, but practical.

Photos from June 2017:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Night Exterior Photos of Gwinnett Place

     While I've said for a while that the post on GPM is coming soon, I've found a problem with that. I'm waiting for a response on so I can make posting a little easier. I'm just going to copy and paste, add photos, and edit or add some information. I find it silly to make two posts on two sites but both are very different. I was in the area mini-golfing, so I was able to take some shots of the outside. It's the proverbial appetizer.

Here's a three-story Mega Mart. This was the Korean chain's first US locale. They could have chosen so many better places, including the not-far-away Buford Hwy. 

Sears looks like 80's Sears. Even though it's a special Sears (one with a post on it), nothing is different.

This is Beauty Master, apparently the new Burlington for dead malls.

This says Foo Court. I will go take a break to enjoy myself some foo. 

Old Rich's, which became a Macy's.

If you look carefully, and turn up brightness, you will see a dead Parisian. This is the only vacant anchor, and I don't know how that ever happened. All Parisians look the same.

Sorry for the bad shots, but this was never planned. I quickly thought about it without any real thinking.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rich's in Knoxville : The Rich's Series #1

     While it will be a while before much is covered in Tennessee, I want to cover a weird part of retail history that isn't very well known. This is the story of Rich's Knoxville, the odd store that probably shouldn't have happened.

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Wikimedia photo of the store while in operation.
     The men behind Rich's saw the extreme success of the Atlanta store, and thought they could recreate it in another market. The city named was Knoxville, and that's where the store would be put. To go ahead, Rich's purchased SH George and Sons department store for $2 million in stock.
The 50-year old company wasn't a large behemoth, and it seemed this would be perfect for the new foray. The deal closed on Feb 12, 1954, though the change wasn't immediate. It wasn't until the last day of 1954 that the name became George's-Rich's (sounds oddly familiar) Before that, Rich's announced plans of the closing of the downtown Knoxville George's store, to construct a newer, larger one on the corner of Henley and Locust.

     The building "Store of Tomorrow" was designed by Atlanta's Stevens and Wilkinson and won an AIoA Award of Merit for design. The two structures cost a total of $3.5 million and had 500,000 square feet of room. The other building was a parking structure with capacity large enough for 1,500 cars daily. The main store had a mid-century modern design that included a green-glazed front, with glass on the sides going all top to bottom. Inside the store was the Laurel Room restaurant, a luncheonette, beauty salon, a travel bureau, and more. The store opened in late August 1955, with a literal bomb, courtesy of Oak Ridge.

     Even with the grand opening and excitement, Rich's Knoxville lasted only five years. Towards the end, what partially could have contributed to the store's demise was a sit-in. Students from the HBCU Knoxville College demanded service at the Laurel Room and luncheonette, and the response wasn't great, as one may expect. This changed the picture of the store, and people avoided. And just like that, the store closed at age 5. The store was sold to Miller's, and is now a conference center for the University of Tennessee. 

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Before - Pinterest

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And after. Not much has changed. Born and Raised in the South

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Georgia Square Mall, Athens, GA

     While some cities with malls are closer to larger ones in larger cities, there are still cities with malls and needs for ones. One of those cities is Athens, GA, with the Georgia Square Mall leading the city's retail hotspot. The mall is located on US 78, which developed around the mall after the construction, and Georgia Square needs the surrounding retail to survive. If this didn't happen, Georgia Square would have died already. Anyways, Georgia Square is a case of a mall that serves well despite the apparent unknown hate from UGA students.

Nice wide mallways are always nice in smaller towns. It's nearly a privilege for Athens to have a 2-story mall, especially one built in 1981.

Sears court still shows its age. The stairs, ramps, seating area, and wide court scream 80's. I don't hate it, but it would look better if there were stores to the left. That is a State of Georgia Revenue Office.
     What really helps the mall is what is in Athens. In the center is the University of Georgia, the nation's oldest public university. This provides the area with thousands of jobs and well paying ones at that. To maintain the area, more workers are hired which causes a huge ripple in business. These workers and faculty need somewhere to eat, shop, and live, driving area business. The workers at the businesses need somewhere to do the same, making everything go around. And let's not talk about the 40,000 students who drive the city.  Visit in the summertime, and the city is nearly deserted, giving an idea of the impact of the students. All this requires the need of a mall.

Here's the center court at a weird angle. To the right is the old Macy's, which closed in 2017, leaving the MoG location closest to Athens.

This is looking back from the JCPenney area. This is easily the most alive section of the mall with the largest store sizes being over here.

     One common thing pretty well received about the mall is the architecture. This would mean the mall was known as "Disco Mall" due to the overwhelmingly 80's design. The mall has seen two renovations ever since its opening, but the latest restored this image if anything. While this is very obvious, the mall is still pretty attractive. I believe that a new main entrance was constructed since the last renovation, which peels off the image a little bit. The old entrance featured earthtones and the logo, and is visible in a Sky City post of the mall.
It's not a SkyMall post without the directory photos. Or really any blog post, come to think of it....

Entrance by the JCPenney. Stuff like this shows the terrain the mall is on, as this is on the second floor. On the left is a possible restaurant location, being that 60's and 70's malls commonly had that feature. This would probably have been a Piccadilly or Garfield's if there was something there.

Belk court with another exit on the bottom.

Aside from the Sears court, the mall is very bright and wide, which is rarely seen in small town malls. Or should I say smaller.
     The history is one that was thought to give Athens Atlanta shopping. The mall had Atlanta's Davison's, Belk, Sears, and JCPenney. This meant that Davison's was taken from downtown Athens for the mall. While the last three still exist and never changed, plenty happened with the Davison's spot. Five years later, Davison's was Macy's, which lasted 12 years, before Rich's came in. Rich's lasted until 2003, when Cincinnati-based Federated made the awful decision to consolidate it into Rich's-Macy's. This hurt the mall a bit, with Rich's entrance reestablishing the "Atlanta" shopping experience. When R-M became the full-fledged Macy's, all vestiges of Atlanta stores disappeared. The only novelty was Belk, being a Southeastern store.

All UGA fans, one being me, will wonder if this is where football coach Kirby Smart does his Belk commercials. There are no other Belk's in town, and driving to Atlanta would be a pain during the busy fall.

A traditional JCPenney is down there. This is sorta the "upscale" section of the mall.

The plainness is killing me here. A fountain or planter here would spruce things up. Even a new Sears look would do something, as even the tiles are common. This looks awfully plain, and it's even ugly in a certain light.

If there was no roof shape or steps up, I may have vomited from the plain-as-paper look.
     I can imagine that if the old Macy's gets a replacement, the mall will stay in favor. Mall of Georgia took some business, and bringing a Dillard's or Kohl's is a possibility. This would win back some business, and wouldn't kill MoG. Kohl's is unique to both, but would probably have to move from a nearby location. Dillard's seems fitting for Athens, giving the city a slightly more upscale option. It's no Nordstrom or Lord & Taylor, but both would die quickly in Athens. GSM has the locals favor, and sometimes that's all you need to win an anchor.

     Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the architecture and description of Georgia Square. This is the first Southern mall in a while, and more are to come. The Southern malls tend to do well, but the Minnesota ones aren't, so go check them out. You'll be happy. ;) [insert blog advertisement]