Tracking the Rise and Fall of the American middle class with shopping malls

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There was no “best” part; that film is pure-D awful.


This topic is pretty hot. I’ve seen about 21 articles about this, and they go on forever. It’s best to buy now I suppose. I live in NE, so as a yankee I should probably light a candle to mourn.


I grew up with malls as a social space as much as a shopping space. As teens, it was a safe place to flirt with the opposite sex. It was a great place for families to spend an afternoon together, yet apart, before having hot dogs at the Orange Julius or roast beef from the Morrison’s Cafeteria. As much as this space was used for that purpose, I suspect internet culture has had as much impact on the decline of malls as on-line shopping and big box stores.


I’ve always disliked malls - I get an unpleasant sense of disorientation in the repetitive, artificial environment. Even as a teenager, I never spent much time in any. Haven’t been to one in years, so I’ve completely missed out on their decline. I was just reading about Epic, the game company behind the “Unreal” engine that’s getting a lot of use, just announced plans to set up a new headquarters - in an empty shopping mall. I can’t even imagine what that’s going to look like.

I’m reminded of an article in the early days of Wired magazine that set out the future of the early big-box stores such as Kmart, imagining a time when they fell into disuse, were taken over by artists and made into desirable bohemian housing and then eventually gentrified. Of course, that never happened in reality - I knew some people who worked in an office that had been a Kmart not long before they moved in (even still had the sign), which I sadly never got to see the inside of, but most “reuses,” particularly as housing, almost inevitably involves tearing the things down and building something new. The “big box” stores were built cheaply, not well or in ways that lent to different, future uses. Shopping malls may not be quite as bad, overall, but I’d be surprised if many kept much of their structure in reuses.


Obligatory. Carlin would be completely unsurprised by how late-stage capitalism has consumed and destroyed its middle-class consumer base.

In L.A., epicentre of '80s mall culture, the only malls that have a chance of surviving are those that cater to the wealthy. All the others were on life support even before COVID.


“You have to be asleep to believe it.”

I often wonder what GC would have thought of someone like AOC…


Agreed! That movie was junk. Glad I didn’t shell out $50 for the family to see it in the theater. Gal Gadot’s “imagine” fiasco really dinged her brand for me.

But lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for the malls of my childhood. COVID Christmas 2020 made me miss the family Xmas shopping trip to Golden Gate Mall in Denton, TX in the late 80s.

My teenage son and his girlfriend want to make a mall trip to upgrade his wardrobe, but I have to be like, “no, that would be bad citizenship.” Ugh.


Hey, she didn’t write the dialog, or the rest of that awful-ass script.

The first WW was very good; it’s just that the sequel was sooo bad, even by the low standard of sequels.


An empty mall has more to offer than that movie.



And we both say that as two very big Wonder Woman stans, so that really oughta tell people something.

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Times 100.


I’m reminded that when I was working for a dot com in the mid/late 1990s in the same building as HotWired, a co-worker was living in a converted department store. I believe it was a former Sears at the end of Mission St.

I can totally see how a Wired magazine writer would know about that building and extrapolate it to other places, whether they be department stores, big box stores, or malls.

Back then, cities could have disused/underutilized places like vacant stores. Now there’s much more real estate churn. For a brief period, that bohemian housing was a possibility. Now speculators are skipping straight to gentrification.


I used to work at my local mall, for (far too) many years.

When I started out, it had a decent mix of stores, with some lovely, unique offerings like an independent pet supply and a store selling science-related merchandise. Over time, the more uncommon sellers faded away, only to be replaced with more generic chain outlets, and there was much less variety available to purchase, mainly fashion wear, phones, jewelry, and shoes.

Company after company failed (KB Toys, Radio Shack, Suncoast Video, Waldenbooks), leaving more and more gaps in the storefronts, which were slower and slower to become reoccupied… if they ever were. An entire branch of the mall got walled off when one of the anchor stores shut its doors for good, its neighbors relocated to other spaces.

It wasn’t looking great the last time I was there, a few years ago, and that was before they lost another anchor (Sears.) Plus it has competition from several strip-mall complexes in the area, including one with a Walmart, so I don’t doubt the mall was continuing to struggle even before the pandemic hit. But according to its website, the mall’s still open, although operating under reduced hours and pandemic protocols (masks.)

I doubt I’ll be going there any time soon, even after the pandemic ends. There’s really nothing there I need that I can’t get online, or from other places if needed.


Meanwhile, shopping malls are still going strong here in Japan. I wonder how much of it reflects the strength of the Japanese middle class and how much of it has to do with the accessibility of shopping malls thanks to ubiquitous public transportation (even in rural areas, you can easily get a bus from a train station to a mall).


Of course this image illustrates something about the Belgian middle class, not the American one


The fire codes are very different for different occupancies. Ad hoc conversions of warehouses or big big box stores into housing tend to be fire traps. Witness the Ghost Ship disaster. Open spaces that people visit briefly while they are awake are very different from small separate apartments that people cook and sleep in. By the time you subdivide and add plumbing, more electricity and exits the value of a pre-existing roof and exterior walls is minimal.


Japanese shopping centers strike me as a different breed. You don’t have the same anchor stores and the same smaller chain shops filled with froufrou items and a food court with all the same chains. They’re more like a shopping street with a roof. You see a lot more independent shops selling necessities, a couple of chain coffee shops and pharmacies, and more independent little food places.


Orange Julius and a Wetzel Pretzel, what an incredibly tasty treat that actually probably wasn’t all that good in hindsight anyway.