A glimmer of hope

Cincinnati Mall, almost completely decimated and flat-lining, is slowly starting to beat back to life.

My wife and I dated, by my visiting her twice a year. I would fly out for two weeks over Christmas, and two months over summer. Since we were so young, the only real dates we had were when her mother would drop us off at the mall for the afternoon during these special times of year.

One of the malls that we visited the most was Cincinnati Mall (formally Cincinnati Mills or Forest Fair Mall). The first time I visited it, was at the very end of 2004 shortly after it had re-opened. The place was packed, every space was open for business and the place was bustling. Over the next couple of years it became our favorite place to date on my visits.

During it’s height (for us anyway, I’ve heard its been through several booms and busts) it had a Bigg’s grocery store, a showcase cinema, 12 varieties of food companies at the food court, and in excess of one hundred stores including many high street brands. At its fall last year there were barely ten stores left and only two food companies remained open (barely).

What was once a dating haven for us, with everything you could imagine, from seeing a movie, eating out, doing some clothes shopping, and grabbing a couple things at the supermarket all in once place, had become completely decimated; a true sign of the failing economy.

It was heartbreaking for me to see the place in such a decline. I’ve heard it’s the second largest mall in America, and I’ve been to the largest (Mall of America) when I had a stop over flight in Minnesota one Christmas. To see such a large building, a place where I dated my wife, and the first mall I had ever been to, to be in such a sorry and dead state really pulled at the heartstrings. We have so many good memories there, and I didn’t like seeing it in such decline.

The one reason we still go there is because of the Danberry Dollar saver cinema. For $3 a piece we can watch the latest movies (albeit a month or two behind the big cinemas) for a reasonable rate, and its not far away for us to drive.

When we walked out of the cinema Friday night, we saw the two die hard food companies still serving meals, but something was different. Recently Arcade Legacy had moved in and was pulling the local gamers in, but in addition to that, today there was some loud music playing, and next door there was a venue being set up for an international ‘dance off’. Now that’s not particularly my style, but seeing as there is so much free space at the mall, it made sense to host it there. I smiled as we walked past and my wife picked up a leaflet for the event.

As we ascended the steps and walked up to the second floor, I saw some light breaking through a crack in the black plastic wrap covering one of the many vacant stores. This store used to be Bigg’s, and I was intrigued to see light breaking through from it. As we approached it we noticed a sign had been put up with designs for a huge indoor sports complex. After looking at each other in amazement and heading toward the doors and back to our car, I felt a sense of happiness swell over me as I thought about how the old mall was slowly but surely starting to beat back into life.

Many people fear the economy collapsing and what it will do to them and their families. I say let it collapse. If it was not built well to begin with, let it fall, but don’t let corrupt bureaucrats slowly and agonizingly pull it apart as they fumble their grimy fingers through it.

Anything can be rebuilt, and anything can be built better than before.

It is quite possible that Cincinnati Mall will come back stronger than ever. It may well end up being Cincinnati’s greatest entertainment area in years to come. All it takes is a little imagination, determination and skill.

Without government coercion, and with free markets and free spirits, we can create anything.

The economy may already be flat lining and the surgery isn’t working, but slowly but surely it will beat back into life. Sometimes you have to let a body die, so that it can be reborn again.

Published by

Paul Townsend

Paul is a freelance writer who grew up in the UK and became an American citizen.

2 thoughts on “A glimmer of hope”

  1. I remember when Forest Fair Mall opened. It originally had five anchor stores- three high-end smilar to Saks. It had Parisian, Bonwit Teller, B. Altman, Sakowitz, and Elder Beerman. You’ve got to know that there’s at least two primary reasons it failed, way before the economy bust. one was that the mall is situated in a very “middle-class” area. There just wasn’t enough affluent residents to support three high-end department stores. The second factor is that Cincinnati might at that time have been the leader in malls-per-capita, so to speak. Just to the west is Northgate Mall, and just to the east is a mall nearly as large as Forest Fair itself- Tri County Mall. Also just a few minutes east is Kenwood Towne Center, which remains Cincinnati’s mall leader for both conventional and high-end stores. That’s a lot of retail space to fill with a limited number of stores without duplicating a store mere miles away.

    There’s also another factor that I’ve noticed that never gets discussed. What killed many of the fashion and clothing stores that drew many women to malls? Casual Friday. Before Casual Friday was instituted in many companies women used to dress with much more sophistication for work. This supported many stores like Talbots, Petite Sophisticate, etc. Gradually over time Casual Friday was extended to the entire week in many companies. I’ve worked in downtown Cincinnati for nearly 25 years and I’ve seen the progression from skirts and dresses to “skorts”, shirts and believe it or not, flip-flops for many women not in management or executive positions. Now many women (my wife included) shop for their clothes at Target and Wal Mart.

    The final nail in the coffin was the behavior of teenagers who frequented the mall. When any mall institutes a policy that under-18-year-olds are not allowed in past 4:00 without adult supervision, the writing is on the wall. I was at Tri-County mall just yesterday and noticed that they have implemented a similar policy. It’s just a matter of time now.

    1. You know, Cincinnati does have a lot of malls. Thanks for the information Phil, I learnt a lot about the retail history of this area from your comment. And I did notice the new policy at Tri-County mall. Needless to say, I haven’t been shopping there for a while now. I don’t like feeling like I’m in a prison when I’m trying to buy new clothes or grab a bite to eat, and with all the mall cops walking around, it feels like that. Sorry for the late reply, I’ve just been busy. Hope you’re doing well.

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