Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mall Memories - San Mateo Fashion Island - Redux



By popular demand (yes, popular), a scan of a directory for the now deceased San Mateo Fashion Island. This directory is one of the earliest, most likely 1983 or 1984.

Who can forget such favorite stores as Scott Alan, Video Concepts, Clothes Barn, and Pups on a Pole!

Of course, we know the history of San Mateo Fashion Island. Bullock's pulled out in 1986, then Liberty House in 1987. The mall spiraled into oblivion when Montgomery Ward filed for Bankruptcy and JC Penney closed. The rest is history! It was knocked down and replaced by a power center, featuring Target Greatland (now just regular Target). I believe the ice rink is still there, but I'm not sure if it's the exact same rink that was in the mall (anyone know?)

Just a tidbit, yours truly worked in space 120, Kay Bee Toy and Hobby. After Bullock's and Liberty House closed, all the inline stores from Kay Bee towards Bullock's went out of business. Although a few remained open near the opposing Liberty House mall entrance, such as Red Robin. Eventually mall management completely sealed off the mall at Liberty House. It just kept getting worse after that.

Enjoy!
Scott

37 comments:

dean said...

Yes, interestingly enough it's still the same ice rink!! I drove quite often past Fashion Island when they were demolishing it and the ice rink was the only part of the building left standing.

Ironically, the access to the site is pretty much the same as before -- it just seems more traffic friendly now that there is a street that goes through rather than a mall ring road.

I remember walking through the mall from Whole Earth Access to Montogomery Ward once and pretty much only seeing the Walden Books and the Food Court open. It's funny I don't remember seeing Penney's open. That entire section felt like desolation bend....very wierd feeling walking in a dead mall.

Anonymous said...

Clothes Barn! Priceless :-)

Georob said...

I've said this before, but if only Nordstrom had gone to Fashion Island instead of Hillsdale the story would have been completely different. Fashion Island would still be with us, and if anything was going to be torn down it would have been Hillsdale, though I think Hillsdale could have been redeveloped without help from the wreckers ball.

But think about it. Fashion Island was new, indoor, had great freeway access, a cimema, an ice rink, and room to expand. Hillsdale was thirty years old, still outdoor, had poor freeway visibility, was separated from two of its anchors by city streets, and no entertainment choices unless you counted the underground Cost Plus.

Excuse my french, but what the fuck happened? In ANY other market Fashion Island would have taken over, or at the very least found enough tenants to carry on even with a revitalized Hillsdale. But not only did it die, it died fast.

Did Fashion Island have internal, management, or financing problems? Was it backed by one of those "bad old S&L's" from the 80's? Were Liberty House and Bullocks already in trouble before they even opened their doors at Fashion Island?

Its no secret that Montgomery Ward had been playing catch up with Sears since the late '50s and didn't have the same financial resources(was this when Mobil owned them?) Still, Wards replaced a freestanding store on Delaware Street that had been only open for ten years with a store at Fashion Island. Did Wards get a deal they couldn't pass up from desperate developers at Fashion Island?

Did Penneys go into this blind, too? They DID have a small store in downtown San Mateo prevously, as well as downtown Redwood City. But after they pulled out of Fashion Island, JCPenney did not replace it, and with the demise of the Mountain View and Sunnyvale stores, there is to this day no Penney store from San Bruno to Cupertino. Doesn't say much about the Peninsula, does it?

In short, was Fashion Island doomed from day one and was Bohannon(the owners of Hillsdale)smart enough to see that and go full speed ahead with a renovation?

It would make for a great book.

BIGMallrat said...

I love this conversation. What did happen? Well, outside of some trivial stuff, like an ackward layout (bad feng shui?) and initially bad freeway access, I would think both Liberty House and Bullock's pulling the plug on their Northern California stores was a big part of it. They both were locked into leases, which kept them open longer than any others. I recall seeing Liberty House ads in the newspaper, but not Bullock's. I'd bet most people just didn't consider them anymore and didn't go. Besides, the Bullock's was downright uncomfortable inside (due to the tent roof). I'd bet people didn't linger and do any extra shopping. Wards and Penney's weren't big draws, as well. The only part of the mall that thrived was the ice rink, cinema, and food court--all grouped together. Once Bullock's and Liberty House left, there was nothing to fill their shoes. Department store consildation had already begun and there wasn't any left. Then, malls started to fall out of favor.
It's hard to imagine what it'd be like if Hillsdale closed and Fashion Island stayed open; but it sure is fun trying!
Scott

Georob said...

I still say there's a story to be told here. A big, sprawling mall opens to great fanfare and is pretty much done in ten years. Maybe that happens in places like Houston, Phoenix, or Atlanta; but not in the Bay Area, not with the price and scarcity of available land.

Again, I go back to Nordstrom. They didn't just come out of nowhere, they'd been an established player in the Pacific Northwest for some time by 1980, and I'm sure every mall developer knew they were looking at Northern California. Why didn't Fashion Island go after them? If you look at the layout, they easily could have added two more anchors had they wanted, even if Liberty House and Bullocks not had their problems.

Remember, even with an outdated layout Hillsdale still had Macys and Emporium and easily could have stood pat. But they didn't wait a second, they jumped right in, renovated, and got Nordstrom. I guess we'll never know.

Had Fashion Island hung on long enough for the dot-com boom, perhaps Saks, Bloomingdales, or even a Dillards or Gottschalks might have come in to save it. Then again, the dot-com bust might have still killed it.

And what about JCPenney, who opted not to replace the Fashion Island store after it closed? Even had just THEY stuck around the story might have been different. If Target had moved into the old Wards(like they did elsewhere), Penneys stayed and someone like Kohls took over the Liberty House, you might have gotten a multiplex in place of the old Bullocks, and VOILA! a revitalized Fashion Island.

Problem is that type of mall would attract stores like Old Navy and Bed Bath & Beyond, not Abercrombie and Ann Taylor. So essentially what you'd have is a replication of what was done to Tanforan. But could that region support two of them?

Bottom line is that Fashion Island never should have been built. But as I said, that's a mistake you normally don't see in the Bay Area.

I still say it would make for a great book.

Misha said...

Thanks for posting the directory.
It brought back many memories of hanging out in Games & Things and the Gold Mine. I worked at the Round Table Pizza Parlour and General Cinema back in the day. I was wondering if anyone has an old directory for Hillsdale from the eighties?

Bobby said...

Boy, do I love the names of those old stores. Hot Dog On a Stick. Mostly Brass. Things That Start With "H". (Okay, I made that last one up.)

I wish I lived nearer to the malls when I was younger. I have very vague memories of Bay City Mall (which isn't all that old anyway) and Fashion Square Mall (which is old, but I only remember two stores because they're the only ones we ever went into).

Then again, I am only 19... But still, why didn't I pick up any directories even five years ago?!

Anonymous said...

San Mateo Fashion Island opened and closed so fast I never went there.
Seeing the guide is great as I have most every one in California.
I would like to see one from the old La Jolla Village which is no longer a super regional mall.

Anonymous said...

Hey that is really boss. I worked briefly at Bullocks. At my interview, Christmas 85, I asked the manager, "How long do you expect to be in business for, its dead in this mall". She said, oh no, we have all sorts of studies and this place is really gonna catch on. Soon after Bullocks closed. I quit before so I couldnt get severance, but there was a great gang there, and it was the 80s =) I think that at the time the market was oversaturated. The Bay Area was a less crowded place. Why it failed, is simple as that.

Jonah N. said...

Wha ha ha! I started collecting mall directories even before I lost all my baby teeth! Unfortunatly, none from Cali. Unless, of course, you'd like to expand this site into Texas.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. Fashion Island shopping mall, stoned out of our minds after school, playing Gravitar until our fingers were sore.

That mall was "dead" when it opened, but was plenty of fun for kids with nowhere else to go.

good times, good times.

Misha said...

man i miss gravitar...
the gold mine was quite the hang out back then...

still looking for an old directory for hillsdale mall, back when mcdonald's was near mervyns and that lame record store was close by...rainbow records? i can't recall...

Anonymous said...

I started work at the Computer Products Center in September 1984, and even then you could see the place was not in good health. For the first 6 months I was there, the weekends did seem to have a lot of foot traffic, but there were not many buyers. I do remember one of our suppliers saying that he had seen a report on the traffic in the mall, and that it stated that there were enough "feet" in the corridors, but there were not many people carrying shopping bags. After that, I started watching, and sure enough, you saw very few bags. Hillsdale was just the opposite---it seemed everyone had them.

Our store was between Red Robin and Bullock's, and it was obvious that fewer and fewer people were coming to that end of the mall. All the activity was at the skating rink/food court/arcade. As you would expect it was mostly younger people. I think it was around March of '86 when our store closed up, but we were not the first, and it just went down hill from that point.

smitty said...

I miss the Ice Capades Chalet, the Haagen Daz, the Orange Julius, the greek place in the food court, and of course, Tilt.

Ben said...

I remember the first time going to Fashion Island Mall when it fist opened in 1981 or 1982. We live just a couple miles away from the place and we had a hard time finding it! lol

The Gold Mine Arcade was awesome. It was nice and dark inside, so all the lighting from the machines really stood out, once it was changed to Tilt, it was not the same. They expanded and had a wider opening for an entrance which killed the atmosphere.

I remember going to the video store and seeing VHS and Beta tapes for movies like Star Wars behind glass counters for like $119.99! Blank takes like $20.00-$30.00 each!

I did some ice skating a few times and they even had arcade machines by the lockers. I remember they would play that song "believe it or not, I'm walking on air" for the ice skaters. lol

The food was good. I liked the Greek and Chinese place. They made the best egg rolls!

I remember seeing a ton of movies at the theater over the years: Beverly Hills Cop, Rambo II, Jurassic Park, Etc..

On Halloweens kids would trick or treat in the mall.

I remember when a huge Sporting Good store opened around 1987 where Bullock's was. They charged a membership fee like Costco. They closed down pretty quick. Maybe 1-2 years tops.

I used to work at the Red Robin from 1989 until 1991 and it was VERY BUSY, but the rest of the mall was dead (like everyone else has been saying) except the food court, ice rink, and theater. It was sad seeing this great mall going down the tubes.

I bet the mall would be here to this day if they just had a few big name stores and big name fast food places. All the kids at school liked Hillsdale because it had McDonald's. If Fashion Island would have added McDonald's or Burger King it would have made a huge difference and stupid as it sounds.

Also the mall should have been a two story mall. All the walking killed peoples feet!

I also think the mall was built at the wrong time. If it was build in 1990 or so, I'm sure it would have been a big success. with more people living in this area.

By the way, I ate at the all you can eat Asian buffet yesterday located at the last standing building that was part of Fashion Island. To enter the restaurant you have to enter the door to the ice rink. The place is the same! The same tile floors, the same entrance to the ice rink. Man, I just sat on the floor of the place and just looked around. I think a tear even rolled down my cheek. :(

Great memories of this place that I wont forget!

Ben said...

I know for a fact that Fashion Island Mall first opened in 1981, but I'm not quite sure when it closed down.

I believe it was late 1995 or early 1996.

Anyone know?

Ben said...

I was able to stop by the old Fashion Island Mal location and take the pics today. The pics are the last remaining part of the mall that remains.

http://models-games.com/fash.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash1.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash2.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash3.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash4.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash5.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash6.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash7.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash8.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash9.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash10.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash11.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash12.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash13.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash14.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash15.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash16.jpg

http://models-games.com/fash17.jpg

Rob said...

First, I want to say that when I first saw that tent roof over Bullock's, I thought it was U G L Y ! ! !....a joke. Then as time went on and I saw it from different spots, it started frowing on me. I heard that the tent was guaranteed to last 100 years.

I think it was around 1995 when Fashion Island had that rude meeting with a wrecking ball. A part of me died that day. ;(

Tilt....oh what memories. (thank God for MAME so I can play all of those old games that I remember....especially Elevator Action [to this day, I have never seen another EA machine since Tilt])

I was a computer geek even back in those days before computers were cool and NO ONE (including me) heaqrd of the Internet. I used to hang out at Radio Shack and the managers were ALL cool to me. I remember when a friend got his 300 baud modem ($89.95) and we needed terminal software, the manger, Ed, gave me a 5 1/4" diskette and said to me (and I remember this like he told me 5 minutes ago) "Don't fuck it up". I brought it home, copied it and returned it the VERY next day.

WHy did FI die??????? *tears in eyes* I still, once in a while, think about going there, but, like the old saying goes, "You can't go `home' again". Yes, this waqs my home away from home for me. To this day, wheneever I hear The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", I think of all the time wasted.....er....creating fond memories there.

*looking up* Rest in peace, Fashion Island.

Rob said...

I should have re-read what I typed. I said that the tent started frowing...I meant growing

Rob said...

I'm SOOOO sorry for posting a 3rd post here, but I forgot to ask something: Around 1988 or so, I received a post card adcertising Fashion Island. I forgot what was on the back, but the front had an ariel view of the mall. even back then, I wantged to keep that card. I haven't seen it and I'm afraid that it might have hotten tossed out by mistake, If anybody has this card or knows where I can get a picture of an ariel shot of FI (either online or offline), can you let me know?? I would love to have a copy!

Anonymous said...

I was looking at the mall map and noticed something interesting...Were the only mall restrooms behind the food court?....that if you were at the Bullock's end and had to suddenly go, you were Shit out (pun intended) of luck? Did the developers KNOW that that would be the popular area? Ot am I missing a restroom?

Anonymous said...

I worked at Bullocks during its last year of operation. It was so dead, even before Christmas, that I asked the assistant manager, a Miss Louie, "So how much longer are you going to be in business for?, there's not a soul shopping in this store". She said I shoudlnt worry because it was a growing area and they had all sorts of market research reports indicating the economy was healthy. I worked with a very interesting crew of horny coke fiends, an equal distribution of males and females...coke was big at the time. IN fact the store closed about six months later, and all the people there got severence. It was interesting working in the tent, I do not recall it being uncomfortable at all. One of my coworkers, he had Pink Hair at the time, he went on to become a professor of physics! Happy memories of Beers at Red Robins!

Rob said...

I forgot to leave my email address if anyone has a picture of Fashion Island. My email is rricci428 at mail2world dot com. If you reply, please put FASHION ISLAND as the subject

Anonymous said...

I believe the demise of Fashion Island was a combination of things. Not the least of which being accessibility. It was actually very difficult to find once you got off the freeway even though it looked like it was right there. Also, they really didn't focus on a particular clientele and it was made up of one extreme to the other. Bullocks and Liberty House were high end stores, whereas Montgomery Wards and Penney's were lower class. If they had enticed Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Dillards or even Gottschalks, they may have survived. You cannot mix highend stores with lowend ones.

benl said...

View from the sky of Fashion Island Mall.

http://www.models-games.com/fashionisland3.jpg

Anonymous said...

Timeline:

Mall opened in late 1981 and closed down in November of 1996. Only the ice rink, Tilt and the food court were still open until the last day.

The theater closed down Sept. 1995.

Some nice photos of the theater. Grand opening pics too! http://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/2963.html

News articles regarding Fashion Island from the 1990's.

Discount Theater to Close At Fashion Island Mall

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1995/08/29/MN24829.DTL&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=013&sc=185

Fashion Island to get make over
San Mateo accepts developer's plans;


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1996/09/18/BUSINESS2880.dtl&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=021&sc=133
Council OKs Development At Fashion Island Site

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1996/09/18/MN73074.DTL&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=019&sc=153

New Plan For Old Fashion Island
Developer hopes to revive complex

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1996/08/03/MN52257.DTL&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=008&sc=196

Developer's Plans for Ward's Site
Fashion Island purchase deal believed to be near

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1996/03/12/MN6102.DTL&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=025&sc=127

Building on Fashion Island Failure
San Mateo's Bridgepointe attracts host of major stores

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1997/12/01/MN43164.DTL&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=011&sc=187

Fate in doubt for Peninsula ice skating rink

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1998/01/12/NEWS4615.dtl&hw=fashion+island+mall+san+mateo&sn=028&sc=118

Misha said...

I have created a group on Facebook just search for San Mateo Fashion Island.

Cheers,

Misha

Anonymous said...

Great scan of the pamphlet! I helped open the B Dalton (Space 122) in 1981. I worked there for a few weeks afterwards, "on loan" from the Hillsdale store, until the staff was fully hired and trained. It was amazing how slow that mall was, especially for being brand new. I do have fond memories of Gold Mine, and buying tons of shirts on clearance at Scott Alan. I think the issues with that mall were that it was too spread out (should've been a 2-level mall), and it didn't have a focus (upscale, midlevel, discount?).

Nevertheless, I have good memories of that mall. Wish it had stayed open.

Anonymous said...

worked in the food court in 1981 kid from east tenn loved it loved calif loved fashion island lived in los prados coolest place in the world greg

Hushpuppy212 said...

Don't underestimate the power of Macy's and The Emporium to dominate the department store market in the Bay Area in the early 80's. Both Federated (Bullock's) and Amfac (Liberty House) thought the area was understored, both entered the market at the same time (1971 for LH and '72 for Bullock's) and both left town a little more than a decade later with their corporate tails between their legs. Back then, everyone read The Chronicle and everyone read Herb Caen's column. And what was next to Caen's column every day? A full-page Macy's ad. And what was on the front of the entertainment section? A full-page Emporium ad. Emporium had the low-to-middle market shopper and Macy's skewed slightly higher. Luxury shoppers went to Stanford or the city to Saks Fifth Avenue, and I.Magnin (who had their own daily ad on page 3 of The Chronicle).

Into this comes Bullock's and Liberty House thinking they can position themselves between Macy's and Magnin. Bullock's was at least consistent, building beautiful (except for Fashion Island) stores in upmarket areas. But they did very little advertising. Liberty House never knew what they wanted to be. They merged with the dowdy Rhodes stores and confused the customer. Their San Francisco and Mountain View stores could sell the better goods, but Eastridge, Oakland, Southland, and Concord never could.

So you take the two weakest anchors, join them with two lackluster mass-market stores (Penney's and Wards), put them in an ugly, hard-to-get-to, meandering mall on the wrong side of the freeway, and it was doomed to failure from the start.

And to drive the nail in the coffin, Hillsdale woos the new guy in town, Nordstrom, which unilke Bullock's and Liberty House, sweeps into town with a great publicity machine, a shoe department to end all shoe departments, and a service level unseen in 20 years. Fashion Island didn't stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

We were talking today about what the main stores were at Fashion Island and I couldn't remember "Bullocks" so I did a search and came up with your awesome blog! The mall was basically in our back yard and when the kids were small I brought them there a lot - between the movie theater, the arcade and the little kiddie play area they had at an isolated area of the mall it was a great and cheap way to entertain the kids and get us out of the house. I too remember the gyros! Thanks for the blast from the past blog!

Anonymous said...

Way back in 92 & 93 I spent every Friday night on that rink or movies foodcourt etc. That sports shop too. Good memory's.

Anonymous said...

Sheila McNair, where are you? We used to spend ever Friday night at the food court. I drank my first cup of coffee there. Big blonde Jim worked at the ice rink. There was a cigarette vending machine by the bathrooms. Perfect for underage purchases.

Misha said...

There are four people on Facebook with that name.

Misha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What about the music place where you could sing and dance and be recorded on a video tape? I forgot the name. I remember doing this many times with friends thinking we were so cool. I still have those video... many good memories made and cannot wait to show the videos to my children.

Anonymous said...

Im David Hernandez Im 46 i was born and raised in SanMateo and remember fashion island mall when it was first built i cryed when i read that it was torn down and i also remember the ice rink cause i worked next to it in the arcade called the gold mine it was fun and my sister was one of the security todays date is 08/15/2014 love you fashion island mall gog bless