Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Remember the Mall?

Happy unofficial Autumn, everyone!  I hope my North American readers (and friends!) had a lovely 3-day weekend.  As you may have noticed, I took advantage of Labor Day this year and took the day off.  But I'm back and rarin' to go!  :D

Over the weekend, I got a lovely surprise - the giver-away won a giveaway!  :D  My friend Dave Aldrich over at Pleasant Family Shopping, one of my absolute FAVORITE blogs, was giving away five copies of Randhurst: Suburban Chicago's Grandest Shopping Center, and I was one of the lucky five!  I received my copy in Saturday's mail and I immediately had to flip through my autographed copy!  :D

This is a book that I would have purchased if I hadn't won it.  It's a veritable gold mine of information about Randhurst in particular, but also about how shopping malls revolutionized the retail industry in the latter half of the 20th century.  It just turned FIFTY!!!  If you lived in Mount Prospect, Illinois in 1962, I can't imagine what an exciting time it must've been - these were the days of folks flocking to a supermarket grand opening, so multiply that by 100 and that would've been the excitement level.  Here's how popular it was - the mall greeted its millionth customer - MILLIONTH! - only 28 DAYS after opening.  That's roughly 35,700 customers a DAY.  That's like the entire city of Fond du Lac visiting the mall every single day for a month!!

Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, my youth was marked by two malls - Port Plaza Mall, which opened in 1977, was downtown and a very popular destination (at first).  In 1980, Bay Park Square opened right in Ashwaubenon, the suburb where I lived.  "Bay Park" had distinct advantages for my parents - free parking and about 6 miles closer than "Port Plaza".  For my sister and me, Bay Park was perfect because it was right across (very busy) Oneida street from our middle and high schools.  Guess where we hung out after school?  Bay Park didn't have a food court in the beginning, which really didn't matter because Oneida Street was (and is) also known as "restaurant row" due to its huge cluster of fast-food restaurants.  I have many happy memories of these two malls - I actually worked at Musicland (remember that store?) at Port Plaza during my college years.  Good times!

I worked at the mall here in Fond du Lac (Forest Mall) for five years at Waldenbooks.  It was the most fun job I ever had!  I was there from 1998-2003 and the only reason I left is because I had to find full-time work.  We had the best customers ever and what had to be record-setting longevity in our staff - many of them had been there for over 25 years!  Only a handful of booksellers quit during my tenure and that was only because they were moving away.  It pains me to visit Forest Mall and see Waldenbooks gone - all of us who worked there had a very hard time with the closing of those stores, and ours in particular.

There is no doubt that the retail scene is changing again, mainly because of this thing called the "Internet".  I would be lying to you if I said I didn't frequently utilize online shopping - ironically, it's where I find much of my ephemera!  Heck, even my OWN shop is online!  But I miss the days when mall-shopping was an event. A happening.  It's a decidedly comfortable and convenient way to shop, but only time will tell what lay ahead for our shopping centers.  Much of it is up to us.

P.S.  I know that this post doesn't really contain any ephemera per se, but I am on a quest for the "holy grail" of shopping center ephemera - the "Randhurst Seal", which was placed on every gift purchased at Randhurst during the shopping center's heyday.  I have done Google searches, auction sites - I even contacted the mall office itself - alas, they had no idea what I was talking about.  But someday, dear readers.....someday I will be giddily writing about my newfound loot and it WILL be those seals!  Someone, SOMEWHERE has to have one or two in the bottom of a drawer.  Right?  :D

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