April 24 2018

The Moorestown Mall – The Demise of Mall Culture

Vintage Moorestown Mall NJ

I love(d) the Moorestown Mall.

I am at the age where the phrases, “I remember when”, and “this used to be such-and-such”, are stated in conversation more times than I care to count.

Sentimentality and Romanticism have always occupied a small space in my heart and soul.

I practically grew up in the Moorestown Mall.

Moorestown Mall Macys Demolition
Macy’s Demolition

The Macy’s department store, one of the anchors of the Moorestown Mall, closed up on March 31, 2017.

Not that I ever really cared about Macy’s, but the sight of the initial demolishing has dredged up memories and images from my youth.

I was raised in the 70’s and 80’s and grew up visiting the Moorestown Mall every Friday night.

First visits, were with my parents and then later, when I could drive, in my first car to hang out with friends, shop at the bookstores, and work.

When I was still too young to drive, my parents would take my brother and I to the mall. It was an adventure! All those stores under one roof. You could get a soft pretzel at Woolworth’s, or eat a burger and fries at the Roy Rogers, and then drop some quarters in the arcade room.

I was fortunate enough to see The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen there at the movie theatre.

My favorite was The Book End bookstore right next to the entrance to Sears. It was there that I first came across Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, modules, dice, and Dragon Magazines. I could have stayed there all night reading and flipping through the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, and Fiend Folio.

That was also back when Science Fiction & Fantasy were lumped together in one category and comprised about two bays of shelves only. One could tear through books rather quickly back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. There were not that many options.

My parents would be shopping at Sears and I would be left sitting on the bookstore floor lost in my own world, books and magazines in my lap.

I worked in the Men’s department at Sears for a time in the early 90’s. I was there at the time of the Mall fire back in 1992/93 and have some recorded video of the grand re-opening that I need to digitize from analog VHS tape.

Before the internet and Amazon and the like, there was the Mall. It was the Place to Be. The Moorestown Mall opened in 1963.

This is where you did your shopping. You could get just about anything there. Toys, clothes, household goods, pets, music, and books.

In fact, the Moorestown Mall boasted a Pathmark food store situated along the main entrance and across from the Twin Eric Movie Theatre, in what is now roughly the food court area. It had no wall and was open to the Mall hallway. The checkout lines emptied right out into the mall. There was also the side-entrance to Woolworth’s and a bakery and arcade there as well.

There were monkey and bird cages, too. I don’t recall those, however, I do remember the little streams with the wooden bridges and jungle-like plants and flowers along the middle of the mall walkways. There were always ducks in the streams and my parents would tell the story of the time I was chased by a mother duck for my attempt to grab or touch one of her precious eggs.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a fenced off area around the perimeter of the boarded up entrances and the wrecking equipment poised to engage in the slow dismantling of that abandoned mall icon.

John Wanamaker Eagle
The famous “Meet me by the Eagle”, Golden Wanamaker Eagle

It made me sad to see. That Macy’s was originally the home of the John Wanamaker department store, complete with the famous golden eagle perched stoically in the middle of the fountain. We tossed coins in that fountain under the bird’s watchful eye.

All that is gone now. The landscape of my youth is forever changing. I get it. I do. Change is inevitable, despite our feelings about it.

My memories and experiences are always with me even as aspects of the environment and the people come and go.

Now, restaurants & liquor licenses are built into the Mall culture, keeping the floundering businesses afloat.

The Malls are dying a slow death. Many of the stores inside are vacant. What is next?

 

Further Reading

http://mall-hall-of-fame.blogspot.com/2008/02/moorestown-mall-kaighn-avenue-and.html

http://www.labelscar.com/new-jersey/moorestown-mall



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Posted April 24, 2018 by Vincent in category "Journal