Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Harvey saw it coming

I got back from lunch today and there was a folded up note on my desk.
It was from Harvey Gittler, our, a-hem, somewhat liberal columnist.
He scribbled a note to me: "Who sounded the first warning about the Midway Mall?" and attached it to a copy of a column he wrote Aug. 16, 2004.
The headline is "Midway Mall is changing."
He begins the column writing about 1968, when he came to the area. Midway Mall was brand-spanking new and taking business from struggling downtown Elyria merchants, if not taking the businesses themselves. Penney's and Sears had left Broad Street for the mall.
And then the mall was expanded and stores -- such as Wal-Mart and Circuit City -- sprouted around its periphery.
"What I still stubbornly call the Midway Mall is changing in character," Harvey wrote in 2004.
While the four anchor stores remained, only a couple other original stores were still there.
Harvey counted 12 (12!) jewelry stores, a sword and knife emporium, two stores near Kaufmann's that had merchandise he couldn't even describe and nine sports stores. In addition, there were 10 boarded-up stores and one boarded-up restaurant in the Food Court.
The mall and its youth-oriented retail shops had become a mecca for teens.
"What is there for my wife and me -- mature shoppers that we are?" Harvey wrote.
"The mall she is a changin'. What has brought on these changes I can't say. It might have been the Wal-Mart just across the street; it could be changing tastes, or a changing customer base. Of course, Internet shopping certainly has shifted our shopping habits.
"The Old Gray Mall, she ain't what she used to be," Harvey wrote.
That was almost three years ago.
So, tell us, Harvey, what do you have to say now (other than "I told you so")?
What is going to happen to our Old Gray Mall?


Toni said...

I remember Midway mall back in 1968 or so. My dad had taken a second job selling suits at Higbees (which later became Dillards). I recall my mom dropping him off (minus a driver's license for herself, lol) and... ( this next point just busts me up laughing)...and I remember the cheesy "guards" standing watch in the guard stations mounted on the roof over Higbees. Uh huh, am too serious. Even at 4 years old, I realized they were plastic manequins. HA!!! Gotta wonder who came up with that plan. Was it supposed to be the equivalent of those plastic owls that scare away pigeons?

I worked at Camelot Music in the 80's, when the mall was still thriving. And I too watched as it decline to its current sad state. I must admit, I now prefer the "city-like" Metropolis Mall I live close to in Plainfield, IN. But I'll always remember the "glory days" of Midway Mall.

Bryan said...

I remember the Midway Mall expansion in the early '90s, and at the time, it filled a need. The addition brought in stores that normally we would have had to drive to Great Northern for. Before Wal*Mart and Target, it seemed Babbage's really was the only place to buy computer games, for example. And Aladdin's Castle still had fun arcade games that couldn't be reproduced on the old Nintendo system. And these days, who's ever heard of a mall without a food court?

But 17 years later, those needs are largely filled elsewhere. I buy my clothes at Target instead of JCPenney, and while I'm there I might stock up on Tylenol, greeting cards, and mac & cheese too instead of hopping over to Kroger -- er, I mean Fazio's -- er, Rini-Rego -- er, Giant Eagle.

I don't know what the answer is for Midway Mall, but I truly believe the "lifestyle centers" like Crocker Park and Legacy Village are merely a fad. Just look at the faces of frustrated shoppers in the bitter December wind and you'll see that all the outdoor latte vendors and 47-foot Christmas trees in the world won't change the realities of Cleveland weather. The novelty wears off quickly, especially after 30 minutes of trying to remember which of the four massive parking garages your car might be in. That's what brings me back to Midway Mall at Christmastime.

It also seems that folks are more willing to drive for their shopping these days. They have no problem driving 20+ minutes to Avon Commons, South Park, or Great Northern. Why? Again, because those places offer retail and restaurants we can't find here in Elyria. Panera? World Market? Olive Garden? Some say we're not middle class enough for those places, but whenever someone says that, I point to the stream of Elyria residents bypassing Cobblestone Square to head east on I-90.