Monday, December 18, 2006

Mall Gift Card Values Swallowed by Hidden Fees

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers will spend approximately 17 billion dollars in gift cards. Many people choose the convenience of mall gift cards, which generally can be used at any store in the mall. Some larger mall operators also allow you to use the gift cards at any of their nationally owned malls. I've traditionally purchased mall gift certificates, before the rise of the gift card, and was surprised to find most mall owners have extensive terms and conditions, as well as a number of fees that eat away at the value of the card. For instance:
* The Mills Corporation, owners of Stoneridge Mall and others, deducts $2.50 a month from the value of the card after the seventh month of issuance of the card. Although the Mills Corp. does not charge consumers a fee to purchase gift cards online, shipping charges range from $10.75 to $14.75. Expect to pay 25 cents just to check the balance of your gift card, unless you verify balances online.

* The Taubman Company, owners of Sunvalley Mall and others, deducts $2.00 a month from the value of the card after the 366th day of issuance. Just to purchase the gift card, there is a $2.50 fee per card. Gift Cards are issued by American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. and are only good at stores that already accept the American Express card.

* Macerich Properties, owners of Broadway Plaza and others, deducts $2.00 a month from the value of the card beginning with the thirteenth month after issuance. Just to purchase the gift card online, there is a $6.95 service fee. To check the balance of your gift card via telephone, the first call is free. Subsequent requests will set you back 50 cents an inquiry. If you need to talk to a real person, expect to pay $1.00 per inquiry. To avoid a balance-inquiry fee, check your balance online (free).

* Westfield, owners of Valley Fair Mall, San Francisco Centre, and others, also deducts $2.50 a month from the value of the card beginning with the thirteenth month after issuance. To purchase cards, whether online or at the mall, expect to shell out $2.00 per card. Online orders will be assessed shipping charge anywhere from $4.90 to $45.00! To add insult to injury, online orders are then assessed a third Processing Fee of $1.59 for one card, and more for addition cards. This particular fee is completely hidden to users until check out. Like Taubman, Westfield gift cards are issued by American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. and are only good at stores that already accept the American Express card.

* General Growth Properties, owners of Southland Mall and others, deducts $2.00 a month from the purchase of the card beginning with the thirteenth month after issuance. Each card will set you back $2.00 to purchase. If you loose your card, you'll be charged a $5.95 fee. Spend more than the card is worth? Expect a $15.00 transaction fee, per occurrence.

* Simon, owners of Stanford Shopping Centers and others, deducts $2.50 a month from the purchase of the card beginning with the thirteenth month after issuance. Each card will set you back $5.95 to purchase.

* Smaller independent malls may be a better bargain. Sacramento's Country Club Plaza Mall doesn't charge a monthly fee, and only charges $1.00 per card at time of purchase.

To protect yourself from hidden fees and unexpected charges, always read over terms and conditions before purchasing any gift card. Most have clearly spelled out fees and service charges, and reading them won't take much time to look over.

An alternative to mall gift cards may be gift cards issued by individual stores. For example, Macy's doesn't charge consumers to purchase a gift card, nor assessed a month fee after a set period. In California, all gift cards never expire.

For me, I think I'll just give my recipients cash.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Gottschalks For Sale?

According to Reuters, Fresno-based Gottschalks department store has hired USB Investment Bank to help it explore a sale or merger of the company.

Gottschalks is one of the very few independent family-run department stores in the country.

Department store consolidation has been in the works for decades. According to Kurt Barnard, president of Retail Forecasting consulting company, "the department store has lost much of its luster. They're struggling very hard to find an avenue that can lead [them], if not back to past glory, certainly onward to newfound success." According to, department store stocks have underperformed the S&P 500's 139% rise over a period from 1994 to 2004, with Nordstrom up 128%, Saks up 73% and May Company up 47%. Meanwhile, Dillard's shares have fallen a whopping 52% in the past 10 years.

Gottschalks has just one Bay Area location (Antioch, Somersville Town Center). A second location in Danville's Blackhawk Plaza closed this year (due to being forced out by the shopping center).

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Penney's Court - Sunvalley Mall in Concord

Sorry folks for slow postings. I'm spending more time AT malls than writing about them this month. Expect things to return to "normal" after the new year.
Here we have another beautiful postcard showing the JC Penney court in Sunvalley Mall.

Boy howdy do I remember those escalators. The handrails were grey with ridges. I don't know WHY I remember that, but I do. It wouldn't surprise me if they haven't replaced the handrail track, yet.

The classic "Penney's" logo displays, with its "P" in blue. That sign survived intact until the Nineties! Even Sears had updated their red classic-script sign by then.

On the lower level in this area was the food court, which was removed at some point. I'd love to find a photo of that, since it's just a blurry memory. It wouldn't surprise me if there is a postcard floating around with it (I'll keep my eyes peeled).

The back of the card reads "Over 120 stores are located on the two levels of the mammoth mall at SunValley, the world's largest enclosed, air-conditioned shopping center."

This is the first postcard I've seen that actually spells out Sunvalley as "SunValley" (capital S and V). Was the area previously known as "Sun Valley" (two words?). It's a mystery.

I'm always pleased to find a gem like this, but sometimes disappointed that two malls dominated the postcard market: Sunvalley and Eastridge. Of course, they were the "largest in the world" at one point, but there are plenty of other malls that would show well.


Read my guide to Sunvalley Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Stanford Shopping Center

Here's a beauty of early Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. It shows the main walkway, with The Emporium to the immediate left (note the big "E").

The center is flanked with overhangs, tropical landscaping, and unique circular patterns in the concrete. Absent, it appears, is Macy's. That must have been added later (anyone know when that was added?)

The back of the postcard reads: "One of the San Francisco Peninsula's newest and most modern shopping centers adjacent to the Stanford University Campus."

The center remains one of the most popular in the region, but faces increased competition from Santana Row and Valley Fair. The Silicon Valley Business Times has reported that they are eyeing an expansion. With limited land and neighborhood concerns, I'd expect a creative solution.


Read my guide to Stanford Shopping Center

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

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.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

1967 Del Monte Center Monterey Article

del monte center
del monte monterey
monterey ca mall
Here's a scan of an article that appeared in Architectural Record magazine, April 1968. It features the new Del Monte Center mall in Monterey.

I find it fascinating that this center has changed little since 1968, right down to the fountain. From what I can tell, the only changes are the 1987 expansion that brought Mervyn's and the adjoining building of inline stores, and the 2005 expansion which brought the cinema. I found most of the ancient trees pictured are gone, which often is the case when the root system of a tree is suddenly suffocated by asphalt or concrete.

By looking closely, I think I can see Joseph Magnin in the southwestern-most building from Macy's.

This is definitely one the few malls in Northern California that look as if time stood still. Yet, it still has a timeless charm that still works.


Read my Guide to Del Monte Center

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view (pre-cinema expansion).

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bay Street Emeryville Expanding

The East Bay Business Times is reporting the City of Emeryville is using money and eminent domain to acquire 3.3 acres of land to expand Bay Street Emeryille.

The land is bounded by Powell Street to the north, the train tracks to the east, Shellmound to the west and Bay Street to the south. The aerial view will give you a pretty good idea. Consider the land is a mix of five properties, all considered "blighted" by the City.

Business at Bay Street must be good and the public doesn't seem to mind paying to park. As long as the tenant mix is desirable and remains a strong draw, Bay Street will have no problem keeping shoppers.

Consider this, the last news to come out of Bay Street was the announcement H&M will be joining the line up spring 2007.


For the full story.

Visit the Bay Street website.

See the current aerial.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Eastridge Mall in San Jose

Wow... another postcard of the grand Eastridge Mall in San Jose. Can we get enough? You may be able to understand the massiveness of this mall with this picture. The center court was (and still is) enormous. A lot of floor space with wide-open spaces. In those days, they filled open spaces with gracious fountains and elegant sculptures. Or, in the case of Eastridge, sculptures IN fountains.

In the background, you can see Liberty House, which is now gone. Replaced by Emporium-Capwell, it was shuttered when Federated purchased the chain. Sitting vacant for a number of years, the building was torn down to make way for a mall addition.

The back of the card reads: "Eastridge Shopping Center, the largest in the West, is a shopper's paradise, comprising over 160 shops and four major department stores under one roof. The three climate controlled levels are unique in their bold design. Capitol Expressway, Tully and Quimby Roads, San Jose, California."


See more photos that'll make you say "oh, snap!"

Read my Guide to Eastridge Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mall Memories - Sunnyvale Town Center

Here's a scan of a mall directory for Sunnyvale Town Center. It's from sometime in the late Eighties or early Nineties. Sometime before JC Penney joined the mall.

The history of Sunnyvale Town Center is full of drama and intrigue. Intended to revitalize a languishing downtown, Sunnyvale city leaders approved the demolition of historic buildings and cleared the way for a new mall. Opened in 1979, Sunnyvale Town Center was popular for a number of years. It originally was anchored by Macy's and Montgomery Wards. The mall's greatest feature was an outdoor courtyard, encircled by the mall, that preserved six giant redwood trees planted in the 1920s.

Eventually, the mall began to fall out of favor. It was too distant from freeways and obscured by a large parking garage. Some area residents would "forget" that a mall was there (out-of-sight, out-of-mind, so to speak). The final nail in Sunnyvale Town Center's coffin was the changing habits of local shoppers. Newer, larger malls, like Valley Fair, would soon be the biggest retail draw in the region.

A fantastic redevelopment was planned. The mall would be de-malled by tearing off the roof and plowing a street through the middle. Sunnyvale's own version of Santana Row would materialize and make downtown Sunnyvale a shinning success!

In preparation of the redevelopment, leases weren't renewed and the interior of Sunnyvale Town Center closed in 2005. The current anchors, Macy's and Target, are still open and are part of the redevelopment plan. BUT... redevelopment plans have floundered. Mostly attributed to financial woes, the mall hasn't been demolished nor redevelopment begun. Although the monstrous parking garage hiding the center was knocked down this year, that's all that has happened. The future of the center remains muddled.


Visit the current Website.

View a live Web cam of the area.

See the aerial view.

Read an interesting article on the mall.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Corte Madera Center

Finally, something entirely different!
He's a vintage postcard for Corte Madera Center, now known as Town Center Corte Madera. Love the trendy stripes. I bet that got old fast.

The back of the card reads "Corte Madera Center, Marin County, California. This extensive Shopping Area (too big for a single picture) of large stores and specialty shops is easily accessible and adjoins U.S. #101."

Like the other postcards of Bay Area Malls, this one was taken by Mike Roberts. I can see he carefully framed Mt. Tamalpais and the surrounding hills. One thing this card confirms, colorization. Clearly the Woolworth's and Thrify signs are colored in. Thrifty glows so bright, it looks fake. But, their 15 cent ice cream cones of yesteryear is worthy of forgiveness.

Regrettably, I know very little of this shopping center. Outside that it opened in 1958 and once had JC Penney. Only after it remodeled did I visit the center. It's also the center of controversey because Barnes & Noble is opening there soon, to the dismay of a local book store, Book Passage. Ah, competition at its best.

Read my Guide to Town Center Corte Madera

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Country Club Plaza Mall Sacramento

I finally had the pleasure of visiting one the very few malls in Northern California that I haven't been to, Country Club Plaza Mall. Well, I tried to visit once before, but it was closed (at 7:30 on a Saturday!). I only got to see the inside from the gates of Gottschalks that time. Then it was gutted and in its place a new, expanded mall. I'm glad they kept the mall enclosed, but I'm not sure if the public is. The outside of the mall had a number of big-box retailers that were doing fine, but the interior of the mall wasn't so lively. Personally, I prefer less crowds, but that isn't good for business.

I especially enjoyed the architecture of the Macy's, which used to be Weinstocks. You can find this building type at other malls, like Sunrise Mall. I'm not sure what the Gottschalks was before, so if anyone can help me out by answering that question, that'd be great!

I wish I got to spend more time in the area because another classic, now dead, mall is across the street. Country Club Centre. I believe it had Rhodes, then Libery House, then, Montomery Ward? My history is a little sketchy on this one. Corrections, please!

I hope you enjoy the photos!


Read my Guide to Country Club Plaza Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the pre-renovation aerial view.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Sunvalley Mall in Concord

Just when I thought I had them all... along comes another postcard I haven't seen before. Luckily, I snatched it up (Buy It Now!). This beauty is of Sunvalley Mall in Concord in its early days. You'd never know the mall was two stories from this shot; the lower level is underground (least on this side of the mall).

If you look closely, you can see "Cinema" on the side, by Bank of America. Also, Macy's appears to have the same awnings they did thirty years ago! Well, same color and style, at least.

The back of the postcard reads "SunValley, the world's largest enclosed, air conditioned shopping center, contains free parking for 9,000 cars, including 16 acres of covered parking."

I *had* to cut and enlarge the shopping cart sitting in front of the blue car in the foreground. Where did that come from? Did Penney's have carts at one time?


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Retail Memories - The Big E Hillsdale

I *LOVE* this ad. Many thanks to a loyal fan for sending it to me. There is nothing more I remember of The Emporium than the giant "E." Always a site at many West-Bay Emporium Capwell locations until the very end.

Nevertheless, it looks as if The Emporium joined Hillsdale Mall in September 12, 1962. And late-night shopping until 9:30!

I was surprised to find Macy's preceded The Emporium by nearly 8 years at Hillsdale! What took The Emporium so long?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Retail Memories - Macy's Hillsdale

Here's a fan-submitted copy of a historic ad in the San Mateo Times newspaper. It advertises the grand opening of Macy's Hillsdale and is dated Thursday November 18, 1954. The ad shows their other locations in San Francisco, Richmond, and San Rafael.

I love the artist's rendering, without the mall and with what looks like a field in the background. One can only picture what that may have been like. And free parking for over 12,000 cars!

Coming soon is the ad for the opening of the Emporium!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo

Here's another little gem that shows Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo. No telling the year, but there is a "60" on the back of the card and the parking lot shows a car from the mid-to-late Fifties (confirmation, anyone? Make and model?).

Although my History of San Mateo County class touched a bit on the Hillsdale development, as a whole, I know little about this shopping center. Except for when it was enclosed in 1982 and Nordstrom joined the mall. I also spent a great deal of time here in the late Eighties, when nothing of any important interest took place.

The back of the card reads "Hillsdale, California. Heart of the San Francisco Peninsula. Located on the famous 'El Camino Real,' just 20 miles from San Francisco. This beautiful shopping center offers the newest and most modern shops and stores."

The front of the card shows the Macy's, which is now partially hidden due to a multi-story parking garage. You can also make out a J.J. Newberry on the left. I love the large Hillsdale sign in the foreground, with what looks like to be a giant penis. In actuality, it's the outline of the San Francisco Peninsula. Must have been before some of the landfills :)
Please share your memories about Hillsdale here.


Read my guide to Hillsdale Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Retail Memories - Emporium-Capwell

Ah, Emporium-Capwell, how I miss thee.

This is a scanned ad from 1984, as if you couldn't tell from the fashions. The more I looked at the ad, the farther back I went. They were celebrating their newest store at Vallco Fashion Park in Cupertino. They also listed locations like Stevens Creek Mall and Mountain View. Even Marin, which I don't remember at all (Northgate in San Rafael)?

I do miss Emporium-Capwell for the prices and selection. Who can forget a trip to the City and a visit to "The Market" downstairs, with its culinary treats.

Seemingly dependent on the side of the Bay you lived, you most likely called it either "The Emporium" or "Capwells." Of course, in its final days, they changed the name to "Emporium." It just didn't fly with us.

I seem to remember a commercial for Emporium-Capwell that sang "super station coppertop, Emporium-Capwell." Was I dreaming? The only connection I could make was the red tiles of many of the old Capwell buildings. I hope someone remembers.

Please, share your memories of Capwell's here.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Top 10 Malls in Northern California

Here is a list of the top 10 malls in Northern California according to the Overture Keyword Selector tool. It's based strictly on what people are searching for in the online world. Clearly, it doesn't tell us everything. For instance, we don't really know whether the Internet searchers actually found their destination target. Nonetheless, here are the top 10 based on searches in the month of August 2006:
1) Santana Row, San Jose - 7317 searches
2) Union Square, San Francisco - 7311 searches (the term "Union Square" is shared among a number of geographical areas. However, if you judged according to the number of searches for keywords "union square san francisco," you'd still have 2581 searches [and still be in the top 10])
3) Great Mall, Milpitas - 6051 (multiple malls share this name. However, if you judged according to the number of searches for keywords "great mall milpitas," you'd still have 2705 searches [and still be in the top 10])
4) Gilroy Premium Outlets, Gilroy - 5408 searches
5) Pier 39, San Francisco - 3755 searches
6) Westfield Valley Fair, San Jose - 3641 searches (multiple malls use the name "Valley Fair Mall" so this search is questionable. However, Valley Fair in San Jose clearly is the most popular of the lot.)
7) Stoneridge Shopping Center, Pleasanton - 3470 searches
8) Westfield Oakridge, San Jose - 2893 searches (multiple malls share this name, so this figure is questionable)
9) Arden Fair Mall, Sacramento - 2852 searches
10) Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto - 2648 searches

Santana Row beat out Valley Fair for the number 1 spot since my last top 10 using April 2006 statistics. Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento made its debut on the list while its major competitor, Westfield Roseville Galleria, did not.

For fun, here is the list of top 10 least popular malls according to Internet searches:
1) Carmel Plaza, Carmel-By-The-Sea - 36 searches
2) Reno Town Mall, Reno - 43 searches
3) Almaden Plaza, San Jose - 65 searches
4) Willows Shopping Center, Concord - 78 searches
5) Alameda Towne Centre, Alameda - 79 searches
6) San Francisco Japan Center, San Francisco - 90 searches (Tie)
6) St Helena Premier Outlets, St Helena - 90 searches (Tie)
7) Somersville Towne Center, Antioch - 110 searches
8) Blackhawk Plaza, Danville - 193 searches
9) Park Lane Mall, Reno - 221 searches
10) Fremont Hub, Fremont - 259 searches

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Sunvalley Mall Story

Here's a reprint from Concord Life magazine, December 1984. It talks about the history of Sunvalley Mall in Concord. I love the aerial shot in the article. You can see how open and pretty the area was before it was leveled and paved over. I tried to zoom in to the restaurant attached to Penney's. If I recall correctly, it was the Copper Penny. They had a huge penny on the side of the building. There also used to be a staircase to the ice rink below.

Does anyone remember the food court on the lower level near Penney's? I guess that was before Taubman changed his mind about them. They removed it at some point.
Most of this mall remained unchanged until a tragic plane crash in December 1985. The mall remodeled to its current state.

Read my guide to Sunvalley Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Friday, September 29, 2006

1977 Stanford Shopping Center Remodeling Article

Here's another scan of an article that appeared in Architectural Record magazine, June 1977. It talks about the significant update of the center that was groundbreaking for the time: An open-air mall during a period of mall enclosures.

I love that one of the photos shows "The Company" store, which was similiar to a Spencer Gifts. I used to shop there in 1988. Unfortunately, it's gone now. At that time, the mall featured some independent and mid-market stores, much like a neighborhood center. They even had a Woolworth's. Now, though, it's strictly upscale with many fashion-forward stores as Valley Fair. However, in terms of mall architectural and atmosphere, Stanford Shopping Center is still reigns in the Bay Area.

Field Paoli Architects designed this remodel and their work can be found in other Bay Area malls, such as Stonestown Galleria and Alameda Towne Centre.


Read my guide to Stanford Shopping Center

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Visit the site of Field Paoli.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Westfield San Francisco Centre Now Open

The much anticipated expansion of Westfield San Francisco Centre opened this morning, complete with pomp and circumstance. The newly expanded mall features 1.5 million square feet of shopping on five floors. The second-largest Bloomingdale's makes its debut in San Francisco, joining the second-largest Nordstrom. In addition, many new retailers to the Bay Area will open in the mall, including Forth & Towne, Aldo Accessories, and The Art of Shaving.

I personally look forward to seeing the architecture of the interior, including the restoration of the dome. I also understand the original Art Deco escalators used by The Emporium will be meticulously restored and used on the lower level.

My visit last weekend showed the facade of the Market Street entrance looks new again; still retaining its original character. That Mission Street entrance is an ultra-modern swank glass wall with a giant Bloomingdale's sign. Look forward to pictures when I return with a camera!

The newspapers have reported absolutely no parking available anywhere near the new mall. Least until the crowds die down. For now, BART or MUNI is the way to go.

I'll get myself down there as soon as possible for photos to share with everyone.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mall Memories - Stoneridge Mall

Right out of 1985, here is a promotional picture of the center court in Stoneridge Mall, Pleasanton. Although the mall has not received a major remodel, you can still find many differences just in this area. For instance, Emporium-Capwell is now Macy’s Men’s, Home, and Children, the fountain was shut off, the large sitting pit was covered with a permanent stage, and the Information booth was moved next to the center stairs. Earlier, someone mentioned the light fixtures, since removed. You can see examples of the little blue lights in the photo. Too bad they are gone. Perhaps it was one of those things that couldn’t be replaced when vandalized.

It also appears as if the magnificent hanging sculpture is a little low. When I worked in this mall, I'd watch them raise and lower the sculpture as needed. Even more exciting was the way it swayed in a moderate earthquake. For the trivia buffs out there, a similar sculpture hangs in the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero 5. I know little of the artist and maybe one of you out there can help.

Although Stoneridge is over twenty years old, many of its architectural elements are timeless. White Terrazzo floors are always a good choice. Glass railings appear invisible and never grown old. Constantly-changing store fronts also add a fresh feeling.
Read my guide to Stoneridge Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Story of Southland Mall Hayward

Here's a scan of the May 1965 edition of Architectural Record magazine. It featured Southland mall and its new concept, an enclosed mall with open store fronts. Finally, no more opening doors!

The best examples of retro styling are the oversized multi-light chandeliers in the Penney’s court. Sunvalley Mall in Concord had them, too, but not this size. I can specifically recall the aviaries being there in the late Seventies, but not sure exactly when they disappeared. The mall had a major remodel in 1985, so perhaps that is when they removed most of these things. I do know the food court under Penney's was added at that point. If I recall correctly, it replaced an ice rink. I know many of us have fond memories of Southland, especially being one of the original East Bay malls. Enjoy the article!

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mall Memories - NewPark Mall

Here's an early shot of NewPark Mall after it first opened. It's actually a scan of their promotional brochure that mall management sent to me in the mid to late Eighties. Notice the excessive use of brown tile? Very fitting for the era, but like most trends, they pass. I believe the original intent of brown was to make it look like a Eucalyptus forest. Probably because that’s what they demolished to make the mall. A fragment still remains outside the mall and is a popular Monarch Butterfly area.
If I remember correctly, the last major remodel saw the replacement of the brown tiles on the second level floor with white tiles. In addition, the railing was replaced with a clear glass one. A few minor things were also updated, but the lasting update is the Miami Vice glass elevator.
Last year, General Growth Properties (GGP), the mall’s owner and manager, promised an extensive remodel and expansion of a cinema. This year, though, they retracted their announcement. Mervyn's sold GGP their building, so that gives the mall some new options (and maybe some preferable ones) for an expansion. I'm sure we'll see a fresh remodeling soon, but nothing has been announced yet. I'm just wondering if Mervyn's will be closing?

Read my guide to NewPark Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view..

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gottschalk's Closes Blackhawk Plaza Location

Funny how this place always slips my mind.
August 26 was the last day for Gottschalks at Blackhawk Plaza in Danville. A news story I read made it seem like they closed it because it was underperforming (Gottschalks isn't doing so well this quarter). However, when Draegers supermarket was announced mid-year, it was apparent that Blackhawk Plaza was forcing Gottschalks out. So, what is the truth? The new owners are mum to the question.

Nevertheless, it leaves the beleaguered Blackhawk Plaza (I love that word, beleaguered) with another failure in the department store arena. But hey, they will be getting an upscale supermarket (again!). Some people in the tony area have been quoted as saying they didn't need or want another upscale market. And by god, there is Safeway across the street, which ultimately forced out the original upscale market at The Plaza, Blackhawk Market (remember cell-phones on gold-plated shopping carts?).

An exclusive overheard conversation with one of the Draegers was quoted as defensively saying in response to a "does the area need another upscale market?" question, "Gottschalks should never have been there to begin with." As in, the area is hoity toity and so should the stores in Blackhawk Plaza. Last I checked, Gottschalks sold Ralph Lauren and Waterford crystal. Anyway, the future should tell.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fiberglass Fabric Roofs - Bullock's San Jose and San Mateo

Nothing is more unusual than seeing a tent as a roof for a department store. Bullock's did just that. First, for their store at San Jose's Oakridge Mall. The single-level store was flooded with natural light using uber-cool space-age technology. Of course, the unusualness was a draw; everyone wanted to see inside. Later, Bullock's expanded the idea and built an even larger Fiberglass fabric roof on its new San Mateo store. Unlike the Oakridge store, the San Mateo store had freeway visibility. Thousands of commuters passed the "circus-tent" everyday. Regrettably, freeway access to San Mateo Fashion Island mall was terrible. Many of the commuters who wanted to stop and see inside just could not get there.
One significant downfall of a Fiberglass fabric roof was the heating and cooling. Cold temperatures soaked right through the tent and made the store unbearably cold. During summer, the opposite occurred. Hot stores were just uncomfortable.
The first picture is an ad in a Progressive Architecture magazine from 1981. It expounded the virtues of Fiberglass fabric roofs. The ad goes on to mention Bullock's was planning an even larger store using the concept. That, of course, we know is the San Mateo store. The second picture if an aerial view of the Bullock’s in San Mateo. If at anytime you passed this area off the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, you will certainly remember it.
Regrettably, neither of these architectural landmarks survived. Both stores met their fate with the wrecking ball.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mall Logos - Vintage Southland Mall

Another Bay Area old-timer, Southland Mall in Hayward has been around since 1964. This directory is in the style of a Taubman mall. Although the mall was developed by Taubman, I'm not sure if they owned it at the time. This directory comes from the late Eighties.

Mall Logos - Vintage Sunvalley Mall

One of my favorite logos, this one comes from Sunvalley Mall in Concord. It's circa late Eighties to Early Nineties. Taubman liked the simple logo design on their mall directories, although it lasted only a short time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mall Logos - Vintage NewPark Mall

Here's another logo from a scanned mall directory. This time, it's NewPark Mall in Newark, CA. The directory I scanned it from dates from the late Eighties. It's before JC Penney joined the mall and the Target was still Emporium-Capwell.
The NewPark Mall logo consists of two three-leaved clovers. This logo is still visible in some locations around the mall (such as, parking signs).

Mall Memories - San Mateo Fashion Island

Rummaging through my mall directory collection, I found this vintage directory for San Mateo Fashion Island. Lasting barely a decade, this mall opened in the early Eighties with Bullock's, Liberty House, JC Penney, and Montgomery Ward as anchor tenants. It also featured a movie theatre and food court surrounding an elegant ice skating rink. The mall opened to great fanfare and was popular for a short time. However, both Bullock's and Liberty House nearly simultaneously shuttered their Northern California stores. They were locked into leases at Fashion Island, so both stores had their only Northern California location here. Each barely dropped a dime into advertising. Bullock's closed first and Liberty House nearly a year later.

This directory was printed between that time, about 1983-4, and features the hottest in Eighties fashions (including red nylons).

Eventually, the mall's vacancy rate skyrocketed. The Bullock's was built with a unique Teflon tent roof, which made it costly to heat and cool. No store wanted to take on such a liability. A sports store eventually moved in, but it failed shortly thereafter. The empty Liberty House once housed a Whole Earth Access store, which closed after the concept failed. Eventually, the mall was sold and renamed "The Island." It was to be rebranded as an entertainment destination since the theatre and ice rink both remained popular. Eventually, Montgomery Ward's fell into hard times and closed. Penney's, too, decided to close. The mall was torn down and replaced by a power center, Bridgepointe.
How I do remember the brown tile floors. I also remember the layout being confusing because you were constantly questioning which direction to walk. If you made the wrong turn, you ended up outside, the food court, or somewhere else. In addition to the failures of the anchor stores and the strength of San Mateo's other mall, Hillsdale Shopping Center, I think Fashion Island's layout was the nail in its coffin.

Mall Logos - Vintage Stoneridge Mall

This is the first in a series of posts that will showcase mall logos, both vintage and current.
This first logo comes from Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton. I scanned a mall directory from the Eighties. Taubman, the builder and original owner of the mall, consistently built malls with artistic qualities and shapes. Their logos are no exception.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stoneridge Mall Renovation Flounders

The much-hyped renovation of Stoneridge Mall has fallen flat. According to the Pleasanton Weekly, permits haven't even been issued.

At fault is the Mills Corporation, the owner of Stoneridge Mall. They simply don't have the cash. They recently put the company up for sale, but no one wanted it. Other projects around the world and recent acquisitions have cost the company a fortune.

Renovation plans include a new 144,000 square foot Nordstrom, 900-car parking garage, and expanded mall and cinema in the old Nordstrom building.

However, construction has begun on the new Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang restaurants just outside Macy's Women. The parking lot is currently closed and detours in place.

According to Pleasanton Weekly, neither the Mills Corporation nor mall management would comment on the delays.

Read the full story.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Emervyille Becoming More Swedish with new H&M

&Already home to Swedish retailer, IKEA, another popular Swedish retailer is coming to Bay Street Emeryville next year: H&M. Described as "discount high-fashion," H&M plans to open next to the AMC Theatre in Spring 2007.

H&M also plans to open a store in the old Eddie Bower building at Broadway Pointe in Walnut Creek (across from Nordstrom). In addition, you can count on another new store in the expanded monolith, Westfield San Francisco Centre, which opens late September 2006.

Currently, H&M has a store in Union Square and a second store for women and girls in Concord's Sunvalley shopping center.

Read the full story.

Visit the H&M home page.

Visit the review of Bay Street Emeryville.

Monday, August 14, 2006

We Only Have Black

Macy's is reporting that they will be requiring their employees to wear all black to make them more visible to customers. Some Macy's employees have complained, and rightfully so, because being identifiable could make them targets by senseless customers.

Macy's is generously offering its employees a special 50% off black merchandise for a limited time. Not bad, considering they could have just changed their policy and told them to do it or be fired. We may want to key on eye on eBay for an influx of black clothing in the coming weeks.

At one time, uniforms were the norm and street clothes entirely unseen. Remember the turquoise Kmart smock? This reversal of casualness could bode well for shoppers, who've always preferred uniformed employees. Target requires its employees to wear khaki pants and red shirts. Wal-Mart, well, is just happy to have cheap labor with most of their teeth.

The bad news? Any fashionists who dons all black and shops at Macy's could face a barrage of questions, such as "do you have this in small?" "where are the bathrooms?" and "my baby just threw up."

The good news? Macy's could expand their slogan base. "We're a part of your life" could be expanded to "and death." How about, "is it a funeral? No, it's Macys! They are just DYING to see you."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Oh my god, they killed Park Lane. You bastards!

Before the ink dried on the deal, the owners of Park Lane Mall, M&H Realty Partners, announced the closure of the Reno landmark. The final day of the mall will be January 31, 2007. M&H says the it'll probably be demolished. What's next, no one knows. Since Gottschalk's and the Century Theatres will remain, it's likely a power center, with other big box retailers, may be built. Another theory is an office park, since the central Reno location near the airport is highly desireable.

Read the full story.

The loss of another mall is a sad day in retail history. The opening of The Summit Sierra surely was the nail in the coffin of this mall. Speaking of coffin, since this mall is listed as haunted, what happens to the ghost? Will it inhabit the new structure? Maybe move in to Gottschalks? =

Please share your memories of Park Lane here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Go to the Mall, Says National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued yet another severe weather warning for much of northern California today, advising people to "spend time in an air-conditioned locations such as malls..."

People seem to be heeding the advice by spending time in enclosed malls, enjoying climate-controlled comfort. Open-air malls, on the other hand, were completely deserted as oppressive global warming consumed the area. A record 115 degrees in Livermore was an all-time Bay Area high. It even put to shame Las Vegas, which only topped out at 99.

As the heat continued, people are advised to shop shop shop, but only in malls. Spend lots of money since loitering is not allowed.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Park Lane Mall Finally Offloaded

The Macerich Company just announced they offloaded, ahem, sold Park Lane Mall in Reno for an undisclosed amount (translation: we lost the shirts off our backs!). Although a surprise to some, they've been wanting to offload this property for while. In the past, if you went to Macerich's Website to view information about the mall, you'd find nothing. For years they haven't acknowledged the property at all. There is no customer Website for the mall, either. And the most obvious fact, Macerich keeps its tenants in month-the-month specialty leases. That way, they can make changes without any pesky contracts to get in the way of improvements.

The new owner, M&H Realty Partners, previously owned San Jose's Westgate Mall and revitalized the aging center. They recently sold that mall, making a hefty profit, to Federal Realty Investment Trust.

What does the future hold for Park Lane? My Many local retailers in the mall fear losing their leases or exorbitant rent increases. The fact remains, though, losing tenants is the last thing the mall could afford to do. Now with everyone driving miles and miles south to The Summit Sierra or to the major anchors at Meadowood, M&H would probably try to attract big box retailers. Least those not already in Shopper's Square across the street. I suspect the mall will remain enclosed, since that is logical in cold-winter areas. They could also capitalize on the cinema and add some sit-down restaurants. There are lots of possibilities, but we'll just have to wait.

Read the full story.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Broadway Plaza Walnut Creek Memories

Here's one for the memory files. A postcard showing Broadway Plaza and downtown Walnut Creek. I very nearly didn't recognize it myself.

It features a Safeway Foods, H.C. Capwell's department store (now Macy's) and a small collection of mostly downtown-looking retailers. The postcard is postmarked May 1970.

A few things have changed since then, most notable, much of Walnut Creek! It looks nearly rural here. Now it's very urban, built up, and hordes of traffic.

Safeway was torn down and replaced by a bank. The Nordstrom building isn't even there. That was added later when Bullock's joined the shopping center. The parking garage in the photo was replaced with a taller structure. And finally, the back of the shopping center was paved over with a multi-story parking garage. An entire transformation from sleepy downtown Walnut Creek to uber-chic Broadway Plaza.
The back of the postcard reads "Aerial view of one of the many shopping centers of this bustling East Bay area."

Make a comparison by checking out the current aerial.

Visit my review of Broadway Plaza, with photos!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Westfield Valley Fair Mall Expanding... again!

Cat's out of the bag. The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business journal reported that Westfield officials submitted plans to add a pair of anchor tenants to Valley Fair mall by the end of 2008. That would increase the square footage of the mall by a third, swelling the mall to a staggering two million square feet. Consider the mall already weighs in at approximately 1.4 million square feet now. So, where will they put two more anchor tenants? Parking at the mall is worse than an Israeli retaliation already. My only guess is more parking garages.

I contacted the mall to get more details on their planned expansion. Stacy Carroll, Marketing Director of the mall, responded to my inquiry with "As this time, we do not have specifics on the two new anchor stores."

It seems unlikely Westfield would plan an expansion without anchors already expressing interest in the mall. Maybe they are afraid they'll curse the deal. Nonetheless, now we move into the speculation phase. What two department stores would join one of California’s must successful malls? And with Stanford Shopping Center in nearby Palo Alto monopolizing the uber-chi big players of the retail luxury world, who could be interested in Valley Fair?

* Neiman Marcus? Is there enough wealth to go around to have two Neiman Marcus stores so close together?
* Saks Fifth Avenue? Well, since they are contracting rather than expanding, it doesn't seem likely.
* Bloomingdale's? Maybe, but do we really need ANOTHER Federated store at Valley Fair? They already have two Macy's and we all know Bloomingdale's is a Macy's with a bowtie.
* Dillard's? Could the Arkansas-based retailer make its way into the competitive Bay Area market? They've already tested the water with a store in Stockton. I, for one, would love to see Dillard's come to the Bay Area. We could use more choices.
* Mervyn's? They have new owners and are busy trying to turn things around. Seems unlikely they are expanding.
* Target? Could be. Seems like they are in every mall now. This could be a good choice for the high-end mall.
* Kohl's? Doubtful.

What's your guess?

Friday, July 07, 2006

More Sun Valley Mall Memories

Here's another vintage postcard of Sun Valley Mall in Concord CA. It's postmarked 1974. If my memory serves me well, I'd say this was taken from Macy's in the center court ("Great Hall"). I believe towards the JC Penney end. I just remember the cinema on the corner in the JC Penney court and one of two Anna Miller's Pies in the Sears court. Therefore, this must be the center court!

The back of the card reads "Graceful statuary collected from around the world adorn the two-level mall at SunValley, the world's largest enclosed, air conditioned shopping center."

Visit my review of Sun Valley Mall.

Previous entry

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Del Monte Center Monterey

After a recent visit to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, I've updated my review of the Del Monte Center mall. Four years have lapsed since my last visit and the mall indeed has changed some. Many new stores and still some favorites, the atmosphere still was inviting and encouraged lingering. New is a Century Cinemas, built off to one end, but close enough to walk to the mall for before or after-movie dining.

I still find it amazing that a mall with only two anchors manages to do so well. Occupancy was bursting and shoppers aplenty. After a visit to the congested and lack-of-parking downtown, we were pleased to find plenty of free parking.

Visit my review of Del Monte Center.