Before the enclosed mall, department stores were the shopping experience in Memphis. Places like "DixieMart", "Zayre", "The Treasury", "Woolco", "Woolworth's", "J. B. Hunter", "Kress", "Montgomery Ward", "Goldsmith's" and many others were the Wal-Marts of the day. Most sold household goods, electronics, clothes and staple goods. The store was often the centerpiece of a shopping center with smaller boutique type shops in strip center buildings around the anchor. Parking surrounded the centerpiece and fronted the strip centers. Sales were very dependant on weather, as most shoppers would avoid moving between centerpiece and strips in inclimate weather, if they stopped at all. Shopping the different anchor stores required driving all over town.
It's not too hard to guess what happened next. Someone looked at one of these centers, thoght "what if we roofed all this" and the mall concept was born. According to About.com, the first enclosed mall called Southdale opened in Edina, Minnesota (near Minneapolis) in 1956. In the 1980s, giant megamalls were developed. 1
Construction of the Mall of Memphis.
Memphis was no stranger to enclosed malls before the Mall of Memphis. Southland Mall and Raleigh Springs Mall had been operating successfully for many years, but they were not nearly as BIG as the Mall of Memphis. The scale of MoM WAS new to Memphis and perhaps that is one reason why its quick life and death and burial are both a source of interest and sadness for many (people like you - reading a site about a building that is gone). It's interesting and perhaps meaningful to note that both Southland and Raleigh Springs are still open but struggling.
Of the department stores that were open in Memphis in the pre-mall days, only Goldsmith's remained open until they were bought out and turned into Macy's.
And today, malls are falling out of favor - instead, lifestyle centers (like the uncovered shopping centers of old) are making a comeback....
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