Artist Sharon Hopper and Dark Horse Art Works owner Eric Stauffer take a break during the installation of Hopper’s new submission for the Alton History Mural Exhibit at Alton Square Mall.
This past week, a video showcasing a darkened tour of the now-closed Jamestown Mall in Florissant, Mo., went viral. You may have seen it posted on AdVantage News’ Facebook page. The creepy footage featured abandoned offices and shelving, greenery growing wild, and floors covered in mold.
Jamestown Mall is a local representation of a trend happening across the country. Indoor malls, popular and flourishing in the 1970s and ’80s, have become obsolete, and in turn become sprawling and neglected relics of times past. Today, very few indoor malls are being constructed, while more and more are closing.
That video made me think. Here at home, our own Alton Square Mall has survived the culling. Although it saw its heyday in the mid-80s, the nostalgic piece of youth for many of us continues to grow and adapt in its quest to remain relevant. This past holiday season, I found myself venturing there for some last-minute Christmas grabs and was surprised at what I found.
Shoppers. Lots of them. Fudge and crafts being sold from several nooks and crannies. People gathered at tables in the old food court. A line to see Santa stretching out beyond the escalators. A wait time to be seated at Olga’s.
Could it be our old mall has a little life left? With new stores, fairs and upcoming events such as the National Day of Prayer celebration, it sure seems so.
“Under the previous owners, we kind of moved away from community events,” Alton Square Mall General Manager Lori Ehlers told me. “Under Coyote (Management), we have that focus back.”
Today, the mall seems to be gaining a second wind not only with community events, but retail and culture, as well. National chain Hibbett Sports is looking to open a local store in late spring to early summer. Ross Dress for Less is preparing its new 28,000-square-foot facility on the lower floor. The Stitches & Littles children’s boutique already is open and doing well.
On the second floor, Dark Horse Art Works has added two new additions to its Alton History Mural exhibit, composed of artwork submitted by regional artists, both amateur and professional, chronicling Alton’s history.
The days of indoor malls as the ultimate home for record stores, fashion outlets and sprawling food courts may be fading, but Alton Square is proving that those who adapt survive … and, hopefully, thrive.