Yesterday’s Food And Retail by Grady Ellis (Editorial)
Yesterday’s Food and Retail by Carrollton resident Grady Ellis is an editorial series brought to you by The City Menus, LLC.
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The year was 1976, and the old fairground was a sparkling new shopping center called First Tuesday Mall, opening one year after Lake Carroll Mall in 1975. Two malls across from each other, but why? Also a notable open space sat at the end of First Tuesday Mall, and in 1978 Belk Rhodes built a new store on that site, moving from its former location at the intersection of Alabama Street and Barnes Avenue in downtown.
I discovered from an online blog about LaGrange Mall that there had been mention of the absence of a mall in Carrollton, while in the 1970s malls around 200,000 to 500,000 square feet were being constructed in many towns the size of Carrollton in both Georgia and the Carolinas. Belk was moving from downtown locations and opening in enclosed malls. Although the fad was very popular, as I’ve learned from speaking with respected sources over the years, it’s very unlikely the enclosed mall would have ever happened due to the size of the property. However, many towns the size of Carrollton did get enclosed malls, like the ones in Gainesville, Statesboro, Milledgeville, Dublin, Tifton, and Waycross.
There’s a Belk connection with the malls in most of the major cities in Georgia, except in metro Atlanta and Columbus. In Atlanta, Rich’s and Davison’s reigned supreme. Had we’d gotten a mall, we’d have been connected to the other cities’ malls that had Belk as an anchor.
Keep in mind we are looking through the eyes of the 70s at this moment; and First Tuesday Mall, as well as Lake Carroll Mall, had stores that could be found in many enclosed malls in America at the time. With that we can see where the concept could have worked and paid dividends for Carrollton. It would likely have brought names like JCPenney (opened at Carrollton Crossroads in 1987 in the current location of Ross), and possibly Kmart. Although TG&Y was an anchor at First Tuesday Mall, they weren’t known to anchor malls; but this is the 70s, and malls are hot. Kmart arrived in 1978, also on the Bankhead corridor, closing last year.
Now with all we know, there’s more than enough evidence to have supported a mall; but how long would the mall have survived? Let’s build First Tuesday Mall as an enclosed mall and move Winn Dixie across the street, where Kroger was, and now we’ve got as anchors JCPenney, Belk, TG&Y, and Kroger. With these anchors, Kinney Shoes/Foot Locker, Pearle, Pic and Pay opened as well, along with the stores that also opened at First Tuesday at the time, like McClain’s Jewelers, Hibbett Sports, Zales, Shoe City, and let’s not forget the theaters, which were common in malls. We’ll add them to boot. We/ve got something here, and Chick Fil A was also common in malls.
First Tuesday Mall would the leader in the area at least until 1987 when Carrollton Crossroads opened. Kroger for certain would have left, and another store could have opened there, but otherwise there’s a vacancy. It’s a lot of money for upkeep with a mall; and in the late 1980s TG&Y was bought by rival dime store chain McCrory’s and then closed in the early 1990s. Two empty anchors by 1991. For a town the size of Carrollton, for certain JCPenney would have likely stayed instead of moving, as their store would probably have been slightly larger than what they had at Crossroads; and with Belk’s being there, and the theatres, there’s a positive. There are many ideas and options as to what could’ve filled the empty Kroger and TG&Y, but for a town our size at the time, and with what we are working with–a mall likely with 250,000-400,000 square feet of retail–and South Park Street (U.S. 27), being one of Carrollton’s main roads, the retail trends began to shift, and no longer was Bankhead the first choice for food and retail.
In 1997, McIntosh Plaza opened and, as we know, Belk opened there, moving from First Tuesday Mall after nineteen years. However, with the mall complex we’re in at this second; Belk is known in the smaller malls to hang around for a while, and sadly, I’d say after 21 years, First Tuesday Mall would now be on life support. With Belk, a Carrollton mainstay since the late 1940s, moving to the new shopping center that would likely have cleaned out more of the inline tenants that Crossroads didn’t get when it opened, although things would have looked differently I’d say. First Tuesday’s longtime attraction, the theaters, would definitely have been a boost to this struggling, small, enclosed mall. JCPenney’s remaining would have helped, but the mall would likely have begun to show decline, as more gates closed inside, and less neon lined the hallway.
By 2003, the end would be near, as JCPenney opened at Arbor Place, and the Carrollton store closed shortly afterwards. This would leave the theaters, which were added onto in the late 1980s, likely in the former TG&Y, or Kroger location. In 2005, the Carrollton theaters moved to their current location. This move would have spelled doom for an anchorless mall, and as we have seen over the years, the area has lost some national names. Had it been an anchorless, enclosed mall, that would have become a blight which would become an issue with few options. Most of the time, the remedy comes in the form of redevelopment, or a change to offices or medical, but it’d be a tough time to redevelop a mall that’s either dying, or empty, and closed.
Overall, it was best for Carrollton not to get an enclosed mall. I do think the Bankhead corridor is showing promise, which would’ve been difficult with a dead mall in the area. Only a few enclosed malls have been built since 2005, and I’d say there’s no chance of our ever getting an enclosed mall as of 2017. Looking around, we’ve got Carrollton Crossroads and McIntosh Plaza as our “malls”, with the retailers you find at most enclosed malls. As I’ve looked back, and done the research, and spoken to some wonderful people with considerable knowledge about the “Lost Mall,” I think it’s safe to say we got lucky. Carrollton is still going strong with great shopping options that will bring many from the West Georgia area here to shop for many, many years to come.