Thursday, May 11, 2017

Business Thursday

I minored in public relations and advertising because I thought it would help me in journalism.  I was right.  I learned the tricks of the other side.

Even though I was never part of it, the retail world always fascinated me.  I am old enough to remember when the Viewmont Mall was built, when the Wyoming Valley Mall actually had fountains and a much cooler mix of stores.

I also remember when the Schuylkill Mall had stores.  Period.

The hammer dropped this week.  The entire mall will close.  No surprise. Most stores bailed.  The place was sad and empty.  In the old days, a trip there was rather enjoyable.  Good stores.  Fayva Shoes.  Chik Fil A.

For the life of me, I don't know why this place failed.  At its peak, it was much nicer than another smaller mall in the area.  It was adjacent to Interstate 81, even though you had to take a curvy and confusing access road to get there.

The same goes for the Columbia Mall near Bloomsburg.  I could never figure out why most stores there closed.  Great location, right next to Interstate 81.  It is the only mall for miles.  Yet, it struggled.

Looking at what used to be the Mall at Steamtown, it's easy to see why it failed.  People didn't feel safe there.  Cavernous parking garage.  Poorly lit.  Montgomery Ward went bankrupt and closed.  Bon Ton was nothing special.  The Globe flamed out shortly after the mall opened.  Nothing in the food court.  Other than Boscov's, there was no reason to go there.  Viewmont and the Shoppes at Montage simply did it better.  The mall, now a "marketplace" is in the midst of a make over.  I hope it works.  I raise a skeptical eyebrow.

I don't fault the construction of the mall.  As I've said time and again, it was the best, and only option, available at the time.  Those blocks of Lackawanna Avenue were a bloody mess.

Back in the day, I was a frequent Baltimore vacationer.  It was a great place to get away for a few days.  Close.  Inexpensive.  Plenty to do.  I'd visit friends in Harrisburg on the way down, or on the way back.  I'd get a room at the Hampton Inn just north of the city, near the Hunt Valley Mall.  What a great place!   Two levels.  Stores we didn't have here.  Rockin' food court, including Sbarro pizza (love it) and Chil Fil A.  The mall failed.   Don't ask me why.  It was de-malled and is now a strip shopping center.  Plus:  Wegman's.  Minus:  Walmart.  There are web sites and Facebook pages dedicated to the old mall.  There's a wave of melancholy any time I look.

I'm sure the experts have all the answers of why some malls work and others don't.  I still enjoy visiting the malls that actually have stores, even if it's only to sit on a bench and eat a soft pretzel.  Cal me strange, but I love being there at opening time and watching the gates roll up or sideways.  Loved it as a kid.  Still do.  Don't ask me why.

Maybe there will be a day when malls will be popular again.  I'm not holding my breath.