MALL OF MEMPHIS
Cherry Road and American Way
Memphis, Tennessee


One of the most revered of America's failed shopping centers, Tennessee's MALL OF MEMPHIS experienced a rapid ascent and decline. This "Marketplace of the Mid-South" mega mall would be in existence for only 23 years.


Planning for the dual level shopping hub got underway in 1972, when Memphians James Bridger and Stanley Trezevant, Junior started to acquire land at a site located 7.7 miles southeast of the "River City" Central Business District. Eventually, 100 acres were purchased. Construction commenced in September 1979.

By this time, a company known as Mall of Memphis Associates had been formed to oversee development of the project. The participants were the aforementioned Bridger and Trezevant and El Segundo, California-based Ernest W. Hahn, Incorporated. The shopping center portfolio of the Hahn company was acquired by the Toronto-based Trizec Corporation in 1980, with the entity eventually taking on the official title of TrizecHahn.

As originally planned, MALL OF MEMPHIS would feature five anchors; Memphis-based Lowenstein's, New Orleans-based Maison Blanche, New York City-based J.C. Penney, Richmond-based Thalhimers (the chain's sole Volunteer State store) and a Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalog Showroom.


The tentative lineup of anchor stores was never realized. Philadelphia-based City Stores, the parent company of the Lowenstein's and Maison Blanche chains, filed for bankruptcy in July 1979...with plans for MALL OF MEMPHIS stores being altered.


The 2-level (205,700 square foot) anchor store on the west end of the complex, originally plotted to be a branch of Lowenstein's, opened as a Dillard's. The Maison Blanche location was cancelled. Thalhimers, who intended to build a store on the south facade of the mall, opted -instead- to take the north side spot originally allocated for Maison Blanche. The original Thamhimers spot would never be filled.

MALL OF MEMPHIS was officially dedicated October 7, 1981. Charter tenants included Chick-Fil-A, GNC, Kay Jewelers, Spencer Gifts, Camelot Music, Docktor Pet Center, Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, Record Bar and Your Father's Moustache. The primary features of the shopping hub were its Ice Capades Chalet skating rink, 17-bay Food Court, Mall of Memphis I-II-III-IV-V multiplex and 175-seat Community Room.

A second -east end- anchor, a 2-level (160,000 square foot) J. C. Penney, was dedicated November 4, 1981. H.J. Wilson built a 2-level (61,200 square foot) structure which opened, as a third anchor, September 1, 1982. A fourth, and final, anchor was realized with the dedication of a 2-level (123,300 square foot) Thalhimers, in July 1983. With its completion, MALL OF MEMPHIS enveloped 885,600 leasable square feet and one hundred and sixty-seven stores and services.

Commercial contemporaries of MALL OF MEMPHIS were SOUTHLAND MALL (1966) {5.8 miles southwest, in Memphis}, RALEIGH SPRINGS MALL (1971) {9.7 miles north, in Memphis}, HICKORY RIDGE MALL (1981) {3.4 miles southeast, in Memphis}, OAK COURT MALL (1988) {6.8 miles north, in Memphis} and -eventually- WOLFCHASE GALLERIA (1997) {11 miles northeast, in Shelby County}.

In 1985, stores in the Wilson's Catalog Showroom chain were acquired, and rebranded, by Nashville-based Service Merchandise. The MALL OF MEMPHIS store would be in operation until 2001.

Thalhimers, a division of California's Carter Hawley Hale stores since 1978, was sold to St. Louis-based May Department Stores in 1990. The new owner decided to merge Thalhimers with its Hecht's division. The MALL OF MEMPHIS store was sold to Dillard's. It ceased to operate as Thalhimers May 19, 1992 and re-opened, as a Dillard's Men's, August 19, 1992. Simultaneously, the original Dillard's at the mall was refashioned into a Women's & Furniture Gallery operation.

The first renovation of the complex was done between July 1990 and July 1991. During the 10 million dollar project, larger skylights were installed and Food Court seating enlarged.

A second -mall-wide- renovation commenced in March 2000. Totalling 18 million dollars, the undertaking was completed the following December. The skating rink, now known as simply the Ice Chalet, was expanded, the parking lot repaved, a new HVAC system installed and a new teal color scheme applied to the interior. This was accompanied by a new logo.

A name change, to MEMPHIS PARK GALLERIA, had been proposed but was never officially instituted. Neither was a prospective 12-screen megaplex theatre.


In spite of all the improvements, the mall was foundering. Robberies and shootings (some fatal) topped the headlines in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1999. The public perception of MALL OF MEMPHIS as a haven for crime was (naturally) intensified by the local news media.

By 1991, James Bridger and Stanley Trezevant had sold their interest in the mall to Chicago-based JMB Retail Properties. TrizecHahn sold out, to the Chicago-based Carlyle Real Estate Limited Partnership, in October 1995. In June 1999, Sherman Oaks, California-based American Mall Properties established a 100 percent share in MALL OF MEMPHIS.

Attempts at a turnaround were unsuccessful. In 2002, an Atlanta-based entity known as Memphis Mall Holdings bought portions of the complex in increments. This phased acquisition ended with the foreclosure of the property later in the year. A division of New York City-based Lehman Brothers Holdings would be the final owner of the retail hub.

An anchor exodus was underway following the 2001 shuttering of Service Merchandise. Dillard's shut down its "Double-Header" operation at MALL OF MEMPHIS in October. J.C. Penney, the last operational department store, went dark November 29, 2001.

By November 2003, a mere twelve tenants were still in business at the gigantic shopping complex. December 24, 2003 was the last day of business. Demolition started October 1, 2004 and was completed September 16, 2005.

Wal-Mart entertained the notion of SuperCentering the vacant mall site but eventually abandoned the plan. Another scenario, to redevelop the property as Logistics Park, a five-building light industry and warehouse facility, fell through in September 2015. 


Sources:

http://www.mallofmemphis.org
"Mall of Memphis" article on Wikipedia

Comment posts by Randy and "Anonymous"
http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.mallofmemphis.com (Mall of Memphis website on the internet archive Wayback Machine)
The Memphis Commercial Appeal

www.bizjournals.com

10 comments:

  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Dillard's was originally Lowenstein's, based in Memphis, and owned by City Stores, when the Mall of Memphis opened. City Stores sold Lowenstein's to Dillard's early the following year, giving Dillard's their first stores east of the Mississippi River. Also, didn't Thalhimers become Lord & Taylor?

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  2. Randy,

    I'm rather perplexed here.

    All I can say, in regard to this Lowenstein's-Dillard's deal, is that a vintage advert -commemorating the Oct 7, 1981 grand opening of the MALL OF MEMPHIS- says, at the bottom, "Featuring Dillard's department store".

    [This advert is posted on the official MALL OF MEMPHIS website, http://www.mallofmemphis.org/ ]

    What little I can turn up about Lowenstein's indicates that three of the four stores closed in 1982 and were leased to Dillard's.

    The date of this conversion must be incorrect...it must have happened in 1981, before the MALL OF MEMPHIS opened...

    About Thalhimers...

    I researched this segment of our story thoroughly in the archives of the Commercial Appeal, a local newspaper (unfortunately, their archives do not go all the way back to 1981-1982...which would have covered details about the Lowenstein's-Dillard's conversion).

    Anyway, the Thalhimers store at MALL OF MEMPHIS did not become a Lord & Taylor. Of this, I am certain. The circa-1992 newspaper articles say that it went directly from being a Thalhimers to a Dillard's Men's (part of a "Double-Header deal) between May and August of 1992.

    Thanks much for posting. I like to get ALL such details set straight...and sometimes this "ain't" easy.

    Cheers,

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  3. No, Lord & Taylor's only Memphis location was at Oak Court, and that didn't last too long. It became Dillard's.
    Mall of Memphis was the only Thalhimer's location in all of Tennessee. Their other stores were far away, mostly in VA and NC, and a very few in SC.

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  4. Anon,

    Thanks for posting. I need to make note of the fact that Thalhimers (at MOM) was the chain's only Tennessee outpost.

    Cheers,

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  5. According to dshistory.com, Dillard's acquisition of Lowenstein's was chiefly prompted by the success of their MOM store, so now I have no more doubt that Dillard's at MOM was never a Lowenstein's.

    In the MOM site, I was quite surprised that Dillard's, during their dual-store stint, was the worst performing unit at the time. Perhaps the worst performing dual-store unit in Dillard's history.

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  6. The vintage article, dated October 1981, mentions a (quote-unquote) "Dillard's department store" at the newly-opened mall.

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  7. I'm certain that Dillard's was never a Lowenstein's.

    Opening day directory had Dillard's on the map (no Lowenstein's).
    http://www.mallofmemphis.org/Main/OpeningDayStoreDirectory

    The Maison Blanche was replaced with Thalhimers, and the original Thalhimers location was never developed...later some "embedded kiosks" came in-line.

    In 2000, they proposed renaming the mall to MEMPHIS PARK GALLERIA.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for posting.

    If the grand opening ad and original store directory are correct (as they surely must be...vintage -contemporary- advertisements and such HAVE TO BE "the way it was") then the store could never have operated as a Lowenstein's.

    Cheers,

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was 19 when the mall closed. Spent my teenage years at wolfchase and Raleigh. I do remember going to the mall when I was younger. But, I wish it was around a little longer. Seems the Raliegh mall will be next to go. Looks like there were good times at the mall of Memphis

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