The Death of a Mall

A friend and I have recently been discussing the condition of the mall I walk at most mornings. She asks if the smells from the Food Court aren’t distracting while I’m walking. What smells, I tell her? Even by 9:00 a.m. there might not be anyone manning places in the Food Court, much less cooking anything.

She can’t picture just how far down Virginia Center Commons has grown. Grown down? Strange way to describe something that “dead” or “dying” seems to describe better .

I wonder whether American Family Fitness knew how badly VCC was dying when they bought and totally redid the  property on the other side of this wall. It’s one of the few places that are thriving, but it’s not even owned by the mall.

I recall how much fun it was to go to VCC  back in the 1990s when it was new and thriving. After years of going to a mall that was further away, a two-story mall, how amazing it was to be in a single-story mall that was oh! so spread out. With skylighted hallways–one that reaches from the Food Court all the way to the back and a shorter one off to one side–and decorated with humongous (live) palm trees.

Even though I know now that I can walk from one end of it to the other in five minutes and make a complete circle in fifteen, it was so crowded back then that it would probably have taken two to three times that long to move through the crowd at a snail’s pace.

As if I had any reason to rush then.

The Food Court wasn’t humongous, but it had a good selection, and right beside the front door was a Ruby Tuesday’s. Along with the variety of kiosks and normal-sized shops–the best I can recall, there were no empty stores–the mall housed a J. C. Penney’s, a Sears, and several other larger “big name” places.

The mall still has Penney’s and Sears, although the future of both chains is–from what I understand–up in the air. Burlington occupies one of the big store sites, but a good-sized Macy’s closed down many months ago. Interestingly, it’s for sale, not for lease. But what wise businessman (or woman) would want to invest so much in a place too few people shop at anymore?

Probably the most successful place is American Family Fitness. No wonder. The mall doesn’t own it and its success isn’t dependent on mall customers.

My wife helped me do a survey a couple of days ago. It’s hard to count while walking, but we ticked off the numbers on a tablet as we went along, so I believe these figures are relatively accurate.

  • Stores and kiosks still open: 47  (includes one that’s about to open)
  • Stores closed in the side hallway: 21
    • Stores open in that hallway: 3
  • Stores closed in the main hallway (includes two in the process of closing): 17

I detest walking in the one hallway that has lost twenty-one stores. It’s depressing.

This problem seems to be at least partially a chicken-or-egg problem. Which happened first–stores closing because customers were no longer coming to the mall or too many stores closing for customers to find going there to be worthwhile? I’ve heard several people claim that groups of teens hanging around there made customers afraid.

While that might have happened sometime in the past, I’ve never seen dangerous looking teens there. I rarely see a crowd at all. This is what the Food Court area looked like around 6:00 p.m. a couple of days ago:

In all fairness, Monday evening seems to be the most consistently empty time of the whole week. But it never looks anywhere close to full.

This picture is of the hall that branches off just past the Food Court. This is the one that only has three businesses–a LensCrafters, an optometrist’s office that’s all but officially a part of LensCrafters, and an African hair braiding place.

 

Some months ago the mall was sold to someone who supposedly likes to fix up malls like this one. I hope he can. He hasn’t done much so far. The lines in the parking lot are so faded it’s hard to be sure I’m parking within the lines.

Virginia Center Commons is just a mile down the road from us, and we do shop there–to whatever extent we can find what we want or need. We want to see it rejuvenated. Do we ever!

Any comments?



    

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Divisiveness – Not Something to Laugh At

American comedian Emo Philips is credited with having authored the following joke.

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heathen!” And I pushed him over.

I actually first heard it at a computer users symposium, although I can’t imagine why. I had no idea where it came from, and I’ve made a couple of minor changes to Emo’s version so it would match the one I was already familiar with. I hope Mr. Phillips won’t consider me divisive because of that.

But divisiveness as it exists in America today is nothing to joke about. When Mr. Obama took office, he claimed he wanted to unite Americans. All Americans. Only history will reveal whether the disunity that broke out during his eight years in office was intentional, but some people–perhaps many–believe Mr. Obama wanted to create division in this country. Perhaps even to start a civil war.

I just sighed. I wish you could have heard me. It was a sigh of deep frustration.

Thank goodness–thank God, that is–Heaven will be a place of peace and unity. In spite of jokes like this one:

St. Peter was showing a recent arrival around Heaven. A Methodist. On passing a room with a closed door–no windows–the Methodist asked Peter who was inside.

Peter laughed before answering. “Those are the Baptists. We keep the door shut so they won’t see they’re not the only ones in Heaven.”

Even though we’ll never know perfect unity among diverse groups here on earth, I get a small preview of what it might be like when I walk at the mall. There I encounter other walkers, custodians, security guards, and mall employees. Among those are blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and probably people from other racial groups as well. Some I know to be  Christian. Others are conspicuously Muslim. I have no idea what the rest are. I dare say we probably vary in our life styles and politics as well.

But we walkers are unified in purpose. Even though many of us are there by ourselves–at least part of the time–we’re there to walk. Some of us walk clockwise, on the left facing “traffic.” Others stay on the right in a counterclockwise manner. And a few like me reverse directions periodically.

Yet, the walking is not the only thing that unifies us. It’s the sense of comradery. With rare exceptions we greet one another as if we’re really glad to see each other. And we’ve learned some of one another’s names as we often end up walking in the same direction at the same time as another walker. It’s very uplifting.

My prayer today and every day is for God to break the spirit of diversity that has created too many different “us and them” groups and to unify us in His name.

If you have a comment, I’d love for you to post it.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

“Is she…?”

My wife and I walk together at the mall when weather doesn’t permit us to walk in our neighborhood. We enjoy the opportunity to be together and talk without the fear of her interrupting my writing or my interrupting her counting while she’s knitting or crocheting. Walking at the mall is a wonderful couple thing.

Although we don’t always have something special to talk about, each of us feels confident the other person is ready to listen and to respond appropriately. Dare I say that things we share at the mall are more easily remembered?

One of the things we do during our walks is observe other people. Since I dislike most makeup–I especially detest what I refer to as “the raccoon look,” which tends to keep me and everyone else from seeing whether a woman or girl has pretty eyes–we’re apt to point out what I consider overly made up females.

Same for women who are dressed in ways we deem inappropriate. Either too much–top or bottom–is showing or these people are simply too big overall to dress in their choice of styles. We especially notice older woman who’re wearing a style made for much younger women.

Of course, we would never dream of expressing our opinions to anyone else, and we readily concede to one another (and I concede to you) that these are only our opinions. People are perfectly free to dress and make themselves up as they please. They’re not doing it for us, and God has not made either of us active members of the Fashion Police. In reality, we’re apt to chastise ourselves for being so critical.

But one of our most interesting mall observation activities has to do with pregnant women. Or women who at least look pregnant.

One of us will glance conspicuously towards a particular woman. “What about her? Is she…?”

Then the other person looks at the subject in question, and we start analyzing the clues. If she appears to be within the normal child-bearing age range and of a normal size except for her abdominal protrusion, we’re apt to concur that she is pregnant.

Some woman are just too obviously pregnant not to be.

But therein lies the problem. Some of the most obviously pregnant looking women still probably aren’t. They are simply fat in an unfortunate-looking way.

Like the makeup and clothes we criticize between ourselves, we can’t do anything about those women. So we laugh and tease one another. “You go ask her.”

Have you ever asked a woman–hopefully a real friend–about her pregnancy, only to learn she’s not? Was it disastrous or did she take it well? How about sharing a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Death of a Store–or of a Mall?

  IMG_20160309_081954083     IMG_20160309_081959696_HDR     IMG_20160309_082013012_HDR

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.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

A Christmas Thought

Envelope

[NOTE: Just a reminder that this post takes the place of this coming Sunday’s.]

As many of you know, I like to walk at the local mall.  I love doing that and enjoy speaking to the variety of other people who’re walking at the same time I do. But I don’t know many of them. Not even their names.

I wanted to do something this Christmas–I believe God inspired this idea–to reach out to them in a non-preachy way about what I feel is the true significance of Christmas. So I composed the following message, which fits nicely on one page, printed copies to take on my Christmas Eve walk, stuffed them in an envelope like the one pictured above, and gave them out. Not just to fellow walkers, but also to security guards and custodians I’m especially fond of.

Here’s what it says:

Merry Christmas from a fellow mall walker!!!

As we smile and say hi to one another, I frequently think about something Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities: “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” Very few of us actually know one another, no matter how friendly and pleasant we seem while walking. In truth, most of us don’t even know one another’s names, much less anything more important.

Although I can’t solve that problem, I want to share something I think is important. I believe Christmas means much more than giving and receiving gifts. Not that any of us could match the Gift God gave in sending His only Son into the world for our benefit.

Although I wrote this poem almost forty years ago, I believe it’s still relevant. I not only hope you enjoy it, but that it will speak to you about the real meaning of Christmas.

I’ll bet You were some Proud Father
The day Your Son was born on Earth!

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday
When Mary began her labor in the stable?
You were there with her through it all,
Giving comfort and encouragement
With the same Perfect Spirit of Love
That Mary was accustomed to from You.

 When she contracted, You suffered with her.

 Though You realized what trauma Your
Son was going through in being born,
You knew it wasn’t right to interfere;
You had to let things happen as if
This Babe would be like just any other.

You watched the process You had created.
But I’ll bet you never felt so involved before;
You were actually watching Part of Yourself
Be born for the very first time,
And You monitored the whole non-sterile
Situation and saw that it was good –
Good for a world that just couldn’t seem
To understand or accept You any other way.

It’s no wonder You sent Your angels out
To deliver the Birth announcements in person!

 The merriest of Christmases to you in the true spirit of the Season!

Best regards,
Roger

You know what? I don’t know much about most of my blog readers, either. But I also want you to experience the true meaning of Christmas. So let me also wish you the merriest of Christmases in the true spirit of the Season!

Please share a comment with a Christmas thought of your own.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

What Have the Malls Turned Into?

vcc-1 vcc-2 vcc-3 vcc-4

policeStation  FamilyFitness

When Virginia Center Commons opened in 1991, it was beautiful. And special. A real eye opener. And a popular place to shop.

Today it looks a bit tired. Closer to dead, truth be known. Sure, the custodial staff does a great job of keeping it clean, but cleanliness isn’t the only thing necessary for keeping a mall alive. Especially if it lacks sparkle otherwise.

In all fairness, the state of the economy probably has a lot to do with the condition of Virginia Center Commons–and many other malls as well.

In a recent walk around VCC, I used a scrap of paper to help me keep count of the number of empty stores. Twenty-five, including three places in the Food Court. The not-overly-large-to-start-with Food Court.

And that’s not counting the decreased number of kiosks in the middle of the various hallways.

No more shoppers than I normally see there on my frequent walks–at least black Friday was an exception–it’s no wonder so many stores have closed. Competition for a small number of shoppers must be brutal. I marvel at the existence of five jewelry stores, several of which seem to have permanent liquidation sales going on.

But some people are enterprising in the way they use the mall.

American Family Fitness opened a full-size place, complete with pools. It began in a limited fashion where an Old Navy store had closed. The building of the full facility took forever. Interestingly, even though the AFF is attached to the mall, it’s not accessible from within the mall. Not even any windows for mall shoppers to stare at the exercise-hungry through.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when a Henrico County Police substation opened in a spot long empty of the jewelry store that used to occupy that spot.

Next came a counseling office. I’ve never seen anyone coming or going there–there’s a solid door several feet inside the glass door–but the fish in the aquarium in the window are alive, so at least somebody is feeding them.

Then came a dentist’s office. Appropriately for a mall, they take walk-ins and are open at different times from a normal dental office.

The government is really pushing Obamacare. One former store now houses someone whose job (apparently) is to sell people on the affordability of Obamacare. Good luck on that.

Most recently came the seasonal use of one store. WalMart–VCC is about five miles in either direction from a WalMart–has set up a number of computer terminals for people to use to apply for work at WalMart during the Christmas season.

If Virginia Center Commons can’t sustain itself in normal ways, may it continue to do so through unusual ones.

What about you? Are the malls near you healthy? Do any of them have unusual tenants? How about leaving a comment…

<>

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon. http://tinyurl.com/kktgeqt