Remembering the Marketplace of the Midsouth

HARD GRIP OF ILLUSIONS KILLED MALL

The Commercial Appeal - Wednesday, November 12, 2003 Author: David Waters

This past summer, I had to get my driver's license renewed in person. So for the first time in years, I went to the Mall of Memphis .

I got there early so I wouldn't have to wait in line at the driver's license office. A hundred other people had the same idea, so we all stood in line.

Before I got in line, though, I walked around the mall. I counted more vacant stores than occupied ones.

How sad, I thought. No wonder people don't shop here anymore. All you can buy are shoes, jewelry and sporting goods.

Now we hear that the mall is closing Christmas Eve. Whatever happened to the Mall of Memphis ?

I remember how excited we were when we heard they were building it. Finally, we said. Memphis is going to have a mall. A real mall.

Sure, there were two other malls then - Southland and Raleigh Springs. But those malls were in other parts of town where we didn't feel comfortable. We didn't feel safe. We were wrong, but perception is reality.

The Mall of Memphis was right there at the interstate, in the heart of the community, on that new avenue of commerce, American Way.

When the mall opened in 1981, it became more than a place to shop. It became a community center for us.

We couldn't imagine going to any other mall.

We took our kids there to skate, to look at toys and see Santa, to meet other kids to play. Sometimes, we went there without the kids. We'd grab a bite to eat, maybe catch a movie, or just walk around and watch other people walking around.

At some point, we began to notice that a lot of the other people walking around were younger and louder. And they seemed rowdier.

Soon, we began hearing stories about the dangers of the parking lot and the restrooms. We heard rumors the mall had become a hangout for gangs. People told us not to go there at night, especially weekend nights.

We never ever had a problem there. We never knew anyone else who did either. But we didn't feel comfortable there. We didn't feel safe. We were wrong, but perception is reality.

So we stopped going to the Mall of Memphis . And as our kids got older, we discouraged them from going there.

If they wanted to go to a movie that wasn't playing anywhere else, we'd let them, but only during the daytime. And we didn't let them walk around after the movie.

If they wanted to go to the mall to hang out with their friends, we'd drive past the Mall of Memphis all the way out to Hickory Ridge Mall. Until 1997, that is. That's when we started taking our kids and ourselves to the Wolfchase Galleria.

I remember how excited we were when we heard they were building the Wolfchase Galleria. Finally, we said. Memphis is going to have a great, big, new mall.

It's right there at the interstate, in the heart of the community, on that new avenue of commerce, Germantown Parkway.

We feel comfortable there. We feel safe.

We can't imagine going to any other mall.

Contact columnist David Waters at 529-2399 or E-mail waters@commercialappeal.com


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