The “Malling of America” is a catchphrase used by several authors in recent history, including Andy Serwer of Fortune, Barbara Berenstein of PBS, and William Severini Kowinski. Most of these works (many now nearly a decade old) cite the decline of Main Street USA in favor of malls. In an a reversal, at least in this area our malls seem to be in decline. However, while there is regrowth in our downtown and along Main Street, the suburbs are seeing unrestricted growth as big box stores move outward, leaving a string of overpaved emptiness in their wake as they close other, perfectly good locations.
In my mind, malls started their decline when the Gap took over the world. I used to like going to the mall. As the Gap consolidated more and more stores, diversity suffered, and there seemed to be no attraction to going to one mass collection of sameness. It used to be interesting to go to malls in other cities. But, again, why bother when they look the same as what is only a couple of miles away. I now only go with a specific target in mind, with a surgical in-n-out strike.
So today I took a rare moment to visit Haywood Mall. It looks like we’re getting a new Pottery Barn, and the mall looks like it’s getting a major make-over. As I wandered through, I wondered if I am just getting older, or of the basic nature of malls has changed. The people seemed just really weird – especially the clothing. Half clothed girls accosted men with colognes from center aisle stalls, while roaming groups of guys eyed the girls. One girl who was impossibly skinny wore little more than a bikini – short, short shorts with a micro halter top. One couldn’t help wonder what else would be exposed the next time I get the nerve to go to the mall.