Death of a Store–or of a Mall?

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What fun times those were when Virginia Center Commons opened in 1991. It was the newest and the best of Richmond’s malls. And what delights awaited us when we got there. I don’t recall many of the stores from that era, but I do remember a candy store where one of four or five jewelry stores is now. No telling how many hours we spent in that store; if you’ve ever lived with a four-year-old or taken one shopping for candy, you know what I’m talking about.

Now that my wife and I live just a mile from VCC, it’s no longer the newest or the best. Some of you may have read my blog post about the aging mall (check HERE if you want to read it) some months back, in which I lamented the sad condition of VCC and noted the interesting uses being made of some of the store spaces. I believe things have gone even further downhill since then, however. Even the Henrico County Police substation moved out.

When I walk at the mall, something I do frequently, I can’t help noticing all of the empty stores. One hallway is particularly depressing. A person would almost have to know where Lens Crafters is located because it’s around the corner from what looks like a basically empty hall. Probably three-quarters of the stores in that area have either closed or moved to a busier part of the mall.

The most recent store closure is the Macy’s at the far end from the Food Court. It’s been going out of business for a couple of months now, and every week or two the discounts have grown deeper and deeper. You can see in one of the pictures above what the current discounts are. Since the 13 Days sign I took through the window this morning was for yesterday, next week will mark the end.

Yesterday I wandered in just out of curiosity, and I couldn’t help feeling depressed. So many empty fixtures–they were for sale, too–and a rather disgusting crowd of nude female manikins. And whatever stock was left was starting to look pretty well picked over.

But those weren’t the things that made me sad. It was the thought of all those people losing their jobs–and still working as long as they can before the final day.

I keep thinking the whole situation–not just Macy’s, but the mall in general–is a which-comes-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg problem. How long can stores remain in business if people don’t come to the mall? Yet how many people are going to visit the mall if the number and variety of stores has so seriously shrunk that it’s not worth the effort?

Mr. Obama, feel free to keep trying to make us believe the economy is improving when you’re apparently blind to problems like this. And, Lord, please protect us from any more of the kinds of efforts the administration has been using to improve the economy.

What are your thoughts? A comment would be welcome.


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Best regards,

4 thoughts on “Death of a Store–or of a Mall?

  1. VCC stopped being a popular place to go when the teenage crowd became rough and rowdy, I’m afraid. When a place has to post signs about not allowing groups larger than 5 to be together, people tend to be concerned for their safety. The open-air mall is now the rage, but not sure why – in cold or bad weather, the indoor mall is so much nicer. Maybe the owners of VCC need to consider revamping the area, and creating some outdoor space. Had to go out to Short Pump to go to Things Remembered – not a fun experience as far as traffic and parking were concerned!


    • Ugh! I vaguely remember that sign, but didn’t know about rough and rowdy teens. Rumor has it they’re going to make VCC an open air mall. Bad for us folks who go there to walk when it’s too cold, too hot, or too rainy to walk outside.


  2. My restaurant is in an old, somewhat empty mall. I went there because it was very, very cheap. The rent is one sixth of the nearest competitor mall. It’s in a bad neighborhood, very congested area, but… we’ve had steady growth for 2+ years now.

    Since I’ve moved in a lot of business have moved out, businesses that had years of experience there and lots of clients. Other restaurants have opened since me and all have closed but 1 and it changed hands. Is that the governments fault?

    Nope. I’ve had to work hard to capture a clientelle. I’ve had to innovate, experiment, THINK! Our customers come from a good distance away, afluent areas, to a dingy mall because they want to eat my food. They invite their families, their friends. The ask us to do events for them. We serve judges, magistrates, police, doctors, lawyers, engineers. Why? Because we offer something soooo good they have to come here to scratch that itch.

    Folks tell us we should move to another part of the city (and pay 15 times the rent) but I aint budging. If you have a good product people where come to you. It’s simple. Too bad for the mall.


  3. Tom, I wish you’d quit making me want to visit Colombia just to eat at your restaurant! *big smile* Your success says a lot about you, and I appreciate your sharing this part of your story here.


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