Retail Wasteland

Driving back from Nashville yesterday we stopped in Cookville to get gas and let Pea run wild through their mall. What we found was Zombie Mall. It was like something out of a Cormac McCarthy book. All the stores were empty with the gates pulled down, no one else inside but a couple of mall walkers. It smelled like an old country church, but you expected to be attacked at any moment by an undead congregation.

The only safe haven in the mall was a GNC at the far end of the mall. Why it was still open I don’t know…probably just to spite the owners into keeping every door at the mall unlocked. The only “big” store, JC Penny’s, wouldn’t even let you enter from the “mall”. You had to go outside and back in.

It would be cool if someone took these old retail spaces and put them to use with stuff like indoor skate parks, soccer fields, indoor playgrounds, etc. I mean, I’m not doing that with my money, but it would be cool if someone else did.

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Comments

Same thing exists in Oak Ridge. The mall there is completely empty, but I think the GNC is still hanging on. JC Penny and Belk still anchor, and for now, Goody’s. Even the theater is barely hanging on. It’s really strange too, because Oak Ridge is a fairly affluent town. They try to blame it on people going to Knoxville to do their shopping. Could be … maybe. The “mall wars” in the late 80s didn’t help much either.

East Town Mall (aka Knoxville Center Mall) is suffering a similar fate. We walked through last Saturday evening and with the exception of the areas around the food court and theater, you could have shot a cannon through the place and not hit a soul. Half the shops were closed too. The perceived risk of getting shot there probably isn’t helping, added to the population shift westward and the frequency of visits from those from less-than-savory neighborhoods.

@LissaKay The obvious solution–allow teenagers to cruise malls again. Oh, was it only us that did that?

It’s sort of hard for me to judge what’s really going on. I’m too old to “get” a mall, but too young to see it by proxy through kids. I know there’s not much value there for me.

It use to be one of the few places you could get really good coffee, now it’s just a place to let the kid run wild to get to nap time quicker when it’s cold outside.

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