Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vintage Postcards - Solano Mall

This postcard shows Solano Mall, now Westfield Solano, probably about the year of opening in 1981. The mall originally had 3 anchors, JC Penney, Mervyn's,and Sears. In subsequent years, Macy's and Emporium-Capwell joined the mall. When Macy's bought Emporium-Capwell, instead of converting it to a Macy's Mens Store, like many other locations, they simply shuttered the store. Later, Sears moved from one end of the mall to the space formerly occupied by Emporium-Capwell. The old Sears location was replaced by Best Buy on the lower level of the mall, and Edwards Cinema on the upper level. The theater was one of the first new cinemas to debut in a mall in a long time. By this time, most malls had abandoned the entertainment concept, instead focusing on fashion retailers. Since the Macy's purchase of Emporium started the decline of fashion-oriented anchor stores, Solano Mall was taking a risk with a theater. Since that time, a cinema has almost become the preferred anchor in new shopping centers (mostly, lifestyle centers). Considering the perceived popularity of the Edwards Cinema, clearly it has paid off for Solano Mall.

Since this postcard was taken, Westfied bought the mall and made some minor renovations. Notably, the hand railings were painted a neutral color, and the triangular light covers in the ceiling were changed to white. The floor and ceiling colors still are white, which seems to have a longer appeal than some of the more colorful malls in the Bay Area region.

The back of the postcard reads "Solano Mall - Fairfield, California. Showing unique style and skylights, to serve an approximate population of 90,000."

Incidentally, the triangular lighting in the ceiling isn't a skylight at all, just a bank of artificial lighting. However, there is a thin strip of real skylights running the length of the mall, also encircling the triangular "skylights."

Please share your memories of Solano Mall here.


See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Solano Mall.


dean said...

Yes, it's kind of a nice mall. It used to have some very bright colored tile and other decorations that have been subdued a bit. But overall, the mall has a timeless Taubman quality to it. The theaters and Best Buy are in the location where Sears used to be. I don't know why Sears decided to close that particular store, but they pretty much demolished the building to build the new stuff. It was one of those wierd Sears stores where one level is much larger than the other. Also, the Macy's Women's store looks to me like it used to be a Liberty House, but I might be mistaken.

randy said...

There never was a Liberty House here. JCPenney was around since the early 1970s. Any idea what the mall was like that time? I know Emporium-Capwell opened in February of 1983, and Macy's in August of 1985. If the Emporium and Capwell's were still seperate divisions, or if it opened before their combination in 1980, would it have been the Emporium, Capwell's, or even Weinstock's?

BIGMallrat said...

Supposedly the mall opened in 1979. Although, I thought it followed Stoneridge's opening in 1980. The only reason I remember that is because the Emporium-Capwell at Stoneridge was thought to be the first "Emporium-Capwell" nameplate, including new signage. If I recall correctly, Solano Mall's Emporium-Capwell had the same signage as Stoneridge. It was closest to I-80 so it was visible during my frequent trips to Sacramento. Of course, if Emporium came in 1983, I could see why I thought the mall opened later than Stoneridge.

I vaguely remember seeing the Emporium-Capwell sign change to the newer (and lastly used) "Emporium" nameplate before Macy's gobbled them up. Perhaps that was NewPark.

I'm definitely sure it wasn't a Weinstocks. I have an advertisement from 1984 with the Emporium-Capwell locations (somewhere on this blog).

A was pretty sure that JC Penney was not onsite before the mall was built. Perhaps it moved from another location in Fairfield?

If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were talking about a different mall?


BIGMallrat said...

I just heard back from Westfield. Solano Mall opened in 1981.
Randy is right. I was truly surprised about JC Penney! Although Westfield didn't have the exact opening date, they said Penney's opened "pre-1981."
Well done Randy!

BIGMallrat said...

Okay, I updated the description with what I learned. Thank you Dean and Randy!
I'll be posting a mall directory shortly.

Georob said...

JC Penney indeed opened as a free standing store several years before the rest of Solano mall was built, much the same way that the Southland and Sun Valley Sears stores pre-dated their respective malls. I don't recall Penney doing that anywhere else, though.

I'm sure that a mall was on the drawing boards but for some reason was delayed. Since Penneys was on the furthest end of the site from I-80, for many years it appeared from the freeway as this huge structure in the middle of an open field. I don't even think they had an exterior entrance to what would now be the mall itself.

There had been a small JCPenney on North Texas St in downtown Fairfield no more than a block or two from the "Fairfield" sign that hung over the street(and likely still does). That store closed when the Solano Mall store opened.

If you check postcards on Ebay from time to time, you'll likely run across a photo of it.

dean said...

Thanks for clearing things up. That's very interesting information about JC Penney. I should have checked the aerial photos, ( I haven't been to Solano Mall in several years. It seems that they still have a Sears store so perhaps Macy's moved to E-C's old store and Stars move into the former Macy's?? I absolutely remember there being a Sears where the theaters are now. As for my confusion about Liberty House, It could be because so many of then were turned into Emporium-Capwell stores.

I remember the mall itself having very colorful mosaic tiled planters and seating walls inside. There were also several colorful flying "contraptions" hanging from the ceiling. I think those are all gone now.

randy said...

The were only two Liberty House stores that Emporium-Capwell took over. The first was in Eastridge in 1978 as the Emproium (two years prior to the combination with Capwell's), and the other was at Southland in 1983 as they were relocating from their downtown Hayward store, where it became offices for Mervyn's which is based there.

Angry Albino said...

I grew up in Fairfield. I moved there from Milpitas back in 89. We visited the mall and Toys R Us on our first visit. I gotta say I was excited living in a town with a mall and TRU at the time. I was 9.

I remember that the mall had these janky looking Wright Brothers era planes as decoration at each end in front of an anchor. Your postcard vaguely shows the one in front of Mervyns.

I love the 80's era malls with the bright orange and yellow colors that would bounce off the white lights and give it that mood lighting that just does not exist in the malls of today. For that matter, I really enjoyed the lighting of old arcades in malls. The Gold Mine in Solano was no different.

I miss the wooden handrails and the black banisters they sat on. I hate the subdued black-white-grey look of the mall now.

The old Sears building was completely demolished and they redesigned the entrances around it, so yes, that is all "new". Also, when they put in the Old Navy in the area where Arbys used to be (in your directory it is a Rax Restaurant), they reconfigured that whole end as well.

I love looking at this postcard. If you have anymore, please post it. Vintage pictures of malls make me feel like a kid again. I miss walking into an old KayBee and buying a generic Transformers toy while stopping by the Orange Julius on my way to Comix and Comix.

Those were the days.

Great site! Keep up the good work.