My Life Through Malls
As I sat watching my husband and granddaughter ride the merry-go-round I was transported back through time and space to Torrance, California; her father was about 3 years old riding this imported merry-go-round with his “Auntie Jennifer” (I even have a picture) at the “Old Towne Mall”. That mall housed old fashioned shops, glass-bowers, etc. ; it never caught on, it survived for decades but it slowly disappeared into oblivion like the “Carson Mall”, “The Hawthorne Mall”, “Gwinnett Place Mall”, to name a few I had encounters with. However, even before that as a teen when the mall phenomenon was just catching on my life-long friend(i.e just like a sister, only our parents are different) Kim and I spent many Saturdays at the nearby malls. We would spend hours there with money that would barely buy lunch, no wait a cookie and a drink now. The malls had everything from cute clothes, fun food, and attractive members of the opposite sex. Truly one stop shopping. As certain music can be attached to you , producing YOUR personal soundtrack , my mall experience served as a navigational tool. I was able to connect my shopping habits to where I was in my life at any given time. I thought , ” Wow this is crazy”! Yet it started me thinking about how true this was. I now see myself going out of my way to avoid trips to the mall. I buy online to avoid the crowds or go to local shopping areas, places that you have to walk from store to store by exiting the building and going outside. As everything in life, this trend of malls has made a full circle. Once the appeal of year-round-regardless-of-weather-conditions environment brought people out in droves. They had everything. There was a point that you could do it all at the mall. The Mall of America even had an amusement park inside. multiplex movie theaters were signs of a money making mall, the mall near my home “Peninsula Center” even had an ice skating rink. A little out of the ordinary for Southern Cal. It was a point that you not only dreaded going into malls because of crowds, but the area nearby because of traffic. Now the small local specialty shops are on the rise, “anchor stores” like Macy’s are losing ground to vintage clothing and second hand stores. The economy made us uncomfortable and unhappy, but it also made us think and become thrifty. We came up with new ideas to keep ourselves fashionable without spending a fortune. Of course the mall experience has not died, in many cases it is not even sick. I know my disdain began when I watched a report in the mid 1990’s and the “mall psychologist” was noted as a necessary part of mall planning. My first though was what-the-__ is a” mall psychologist”. As the report went on it explained things like appealing to people and promoting impulse buying, the use of tactic like end cap displays, but what ticked me off was when one of these professionals talked about how some malls had the up escalator on one end of the mall and the down escalator on the other end. If you wanted to just come into one particular store aside from those “anchor stores”, you would have to either climb stairs, wait on an elevator (also in an “anchor store” for the most part}, or walk a good distance past many stores clamoring for your attention and your money.
I thought of malls I knew of that were designed just like that, malls I frequented and how hard it was to just walk, not browse when you were in the mall walking past stores. Then the “mall psychologist” did not seem quite so ridiculous, I realized how predictable I was, how these individuals had sized me up. I hated that they were right. I set out to be a part of the resistance. Yeah well, finances were the biggest factor in my resistance. However, as time went by I did realize how little I needed the mall experience.
On this particular day as I sat recalling a time gone by, having a DeJeVu moment with my granddaughter I was once again able to appreciate the experience of indoor shopping. However, I did take note this mall is all on one level.