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Parisian, Richland Mall: early 2000s   18 comments

Posted at 6:33 pm in Uncategorized

You'll Never Pay More at Parisian

Well, that's true, I suppose, though not in the way they hoped.

The decline of Richland Mall happened mostly while I was living out of town (though still spending quite a bit of time here). I think the first phase: The tearing down of most of the un-enclosed mall, and the renaming it to Richland Fashion Mall may have happened around the time I left for Fayetteville, though I'm a bit fuzzy on that. I do know that quite a bit of the brou-ha-ha justifying the Fashion part of the new name was inducing Parisian & Bonwit Teller to locate there.

As I think I have mentioned elsewhere, I felt pretty comfortable buying clothes at White's. I felt they were solidly middle-class, and that I could find clothes that wouldn't make me look funny from a staff that wouldn't try to make me feel like an idiot. I wasn't so sure about Parisian. I don't think I ever went in there, but I had the impression that it was something of a frou-frou upscale store, though perhaps less-so than Bonwit Teller. I don't know if that impression was accurate, but perhaps I wasn't the only one who had it because neither store lasted more than a few years. I see from Wikipedia that even if it had hung on, the whole chain was bought by Belk, so I imagine it would have closed anyway after Belk's got White's..

I think Parisian failed before Bonwit Teller and was the initial sign of the impending failure of the mall. I suppose it could have been the other way round -- it's a little hard to say since the BT building remained in use for Black Lion. I do know that nothing else ever used the Parisian space. I wondered a bit about that as I was taking these pictures. It's not good for buildings to remain empty, not only from the morale point of view, but also from the mold, fungus & vermin point of view. It seems to me it would have made sense for the mall owners to let some charity or other set up there rent-free rather than keep such a large space completely dark.

Written by ted on August 11th, 2008

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18 Responses to 'Parisian, Richland Mall: early 2000s'

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  1. Parisian did okay. I think they lasted about 15yrs. BWT only lasted about 2yrs and Dillards moved in after that. I think I only went in Parisian once. They also had one at Columbiana which is now JC Penny.

    Mr Bill

    12 Aug 08 at 8:13 am

  2. Really, 15 years? That goes to show you how good my senses of date and duration are!


    12 Aug 08 at 6:09 pm

  3. Parisian actually lasted until about a year ago. My wife liked it and that is the only way that I know that their doom was also because they got bought out by Belks.

    They moved out in the middle of the "Midtown at Forest Acres" debacle. They lasted longer than the Blacklion did. They still have the sample facades for the condos that never happened on the back of Blacklion/Dillards.


    12 Aug 08 at 8:34 pm

  4. haha Midtown. What a horrible idea. I like that mall and really wish it would come back.

    Mr Bill

    13 Aug 08 at 8:49 am

  5. I like that mall too, and I live pretty near it. I have never dragged myself out to shop at The Village at Sandhills, and chances are I never will, especially with the price of gas now. Here is a mall, sitting right in town, near lots of people, and it sits there dying, bit by bit. Sad.


    13 Aug 08 at 6:46 pm

  6. My wife too loved Parisian .. so much, she
    worked at the Columbiana location for
    a couple of years part time .. I
    have a dear friend who's from
    Birmingham where Parisian was based out of
    and he told me Belk made enemies of most of
    the loyal “Parisianites” from day one .. mass
    firings, shoddy merchandising and products
    .. it's really sad, too .. and John Belk
    received a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from
    a prestigious retail association I belong
    to .. what a joke .. Oh, and don't get me
    started on the personal toll of the employees !


    14 Aug 08 at 9:54 pm

  7. There is something going on with Richland Mall that is not quite right. I think the main reason everything started failing was because of high rent(although I don't know for sure). The place has a great location, so it is baffling why nothing is moving in. The mall itself is ugly, the parking garage out front was a bad design decision.


    16 Aug 08 at 7:06 am

  8. I heard somwhere that the original owners were in legal trouble for setting up malls to fail. I guess maybe it's some kind of tax write off.

    Mr Bill

    18 Aug 08 at 8:58 am

  9. Who came up with that retarded name "Midtown at Forrest Drive" Mall? It's as bad as when Columbia Mall became hip and was re-named "Columbia Place Mall"..and I'm sure it is too! You see what happened to that mall and Dutch RM will be the next place to fail..they should never have torn the original Mall down in the late 80's. Things could have been done to save it and keep it up. Still, it's typical Columbia not to have anything good anymore.


    12 Apr 09 at 7:35 pm

  10. Well, Richland "Fashion" Mall was a pretty poor name as well. Whenever the city of Forest Acres has an event there, they still have to say something like "At Midtown At Forest Acres (also known as Richland Mall) to people will know what they're talking about.

    As to whether it will go under -- by all rights it should have already, but they are lucky in that Verizon put a big call center in the old food court and that's carrying it.


    12 Apr 09 at 9:59 pm

  11. Richland Fashion Mall was built during the savings and loan scandal period in the late 80's using questionable funding. When the smoke cleared, the mall was already in foreclosure and in the hands of banks. A bank does not do a good job of running malls. I believe that DeBartolo bought it and ran it for a while without much success.

    It's lack of imminent success was because of the HIGH rents and HIGH overhead. It costs a lot to heat and cool a mall and keep the lights and the water pools running. Also, the stores did not fit Columbia's clientel. The rich and somewhat famous here travel to New York to get their high end stuff. It is their excuse to flaunt their money. Hence, the lukewarm reception of these fancy stores that the average Columbian could not afford and the rich and mildly famous snubbed their noses at. I think that the mall can survive if someone is willing to buy it from the bank, lower the rent and put more down to earth businesses in it. Columbia Place is too hip hop for the average Forest Acres citizen. It would be nice to have RM back to life with the right type of stores to reflect a middle class to higher class of income. But nothing will happen until the economy improves.


    13 Apr 09 at 1:53 am

  12. Wooow. Thank you Ted for posting these pix on here. I 'm so glad that i got to see more of the old parisian. I don't think i had a chance to go in there. Joec i wonder where u know about that info abt the high loans stuff from. I haven't seen the call center yet, and wonder if its still there. I agree with most ppl on the is a nice mall but unfortunately things happen and i suppose some ppl made poor choices of constructing this mall, what was the mission in the first place? Interesting post though nice job!

    Aliina J.

    4 Feb 11 at 2:33 pm

  13. Just a note about these stores "leaving" Richland Mall, and Columbia in general - most of these stores didn't really leave so much as the entire chain shut down. Parisian went out of business in 2006 (bought by Belk - which was already in almost every mall in Columbia), and Bonwit Teller actually went "defunct" in 1990, only a year after it opened in Columbia. It even stayed open here until 1993.


    7 Dec 11 at 11:37 pm

  14. I think this Parisian closed shortly before the acquision was announced but I recall reading somwhere else that someone was baffled with the way Parisian stuck it out with Richland Mall...but it closed in 2006 back when it was Midtown at Forest Acres:

    State, The (Columbia, SC) - Thursday, August 3, 2006
    Author: JASON RYAN,
    Columbia's last Parisian department store will be closed or rebranded after Belk's purchase of the 38-store chain.

    Charlotte-based Belk said Wednesday it will acquire Parisian 's stores, its Alabama headquarters and a warehouse from Saks Inc. for $285 million.

    Many, if not all, of the Parisian stores will be converted to Belks in 2007, said Steve Pernotto, executive vice president of human resources for Belk.

    No decision has been made whether to rebrand or shutter the Parisian stores at Midtown at Forest Acres -formerly Richland Mall - and the Citadel Mall in Charleston, Pernotto said.

    Both S.C. Parisians are nearly side-by-side with existing Belk stores, making it unlikely, one S.C. retail analyst said, that the company would continue to operate both.

    Belk and Parisian together cover about 40 percent of Midtown's 714,000 retail square feet. Parisian employs about 100 people there.

    Belk does operate two stores within the Colonial Mall in Myrtle Beach, splitting women's clothing and men's clothing between them.

    Still, "I don't see (Midtown) sustaining two department stores," said Richard Clodfelter, a USC business professor specializing in department store retailing.

    Midtown is in the midst of a transformation from a traditional shopping mall to a development that includes condominiums, office space, a hotel and smaller shops.

    Such a shift likely would mean fewer shoppers, Clodfelter said.

    Parisian closed its Columbiana Centre store in February. Belk plans to open a new store in the Village at Sandhill early next year.

    Shoppers strolling the aisles of Parisian on Wednesday worried about losing the variety that Parisian offers.

    "It's a good store," said Columbia's Jeanie Newell, holding hangers of sweaters and a skirt. "I'm sorry to hear they've been bought by Belk."

    Newell does most of her clothes shopping on the Internet because her arthritis makes it difficult to get around. She would go out to Parisian , though, for brands like Jones New York, which she said she can't find at Belk.

    "I guess I'll be shopping more online," she said.

    Donna Turner shopped for Ralph Lauren clothing in Parisian on Wednesday, though she said she prefers Belk and had just exchanged a sweater there.

    "It's more like the way department stores used to be," Turner said. "They have a little bit of everything."

    Newell and Turner both said they hoped their favorite designer lines would make the transition to Belk stores.

    Pernotto said Belk plans to incorporate some customer favorites from Parisian , such as the variety of shoe styles available there.

    Belk, the largest privately owned department store chain in the United States, also is the dominant chain in Richland and Lexington counties.

    According to a market survey conducted by Scarborough Research, more than 15 percent of the 437,000 adults in the two counties say they made a purchase at Belk in the past 30 days. That's almost double the number who said they shopped at any other store.

    Less than 2 percent said they made a purchase at Parisian , which ranks behind Kohl's, JC Penney, Dillard's, Sears and Macy's.

    Belk expects the Parisian acquisition to boost its sales to $4 billion next year, Pernotto said.

    The sale, which should close Oct. 2, also will give Belk five stores in three new states - Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Belk already operates in 16 states across the Southeast and the Midwest.

    In 2005, Belk purchased 47 Proffitt's and McRae's departments stores from Saks for $622 million.

    The acquisitions mimic the 2005 acquisition of more than 400 May department stores by Federated Department Stores, which runs Macy's.

    "It will give them stores to compete with the Dillard's and the Macy's of the world," said Clodfelter, the USC professor.

    Changing Parisian stores to Belk would not be unusual, Clodfelter said, pointing to Federated's rebranding of department stores such as Burdines and Rich's to Macy's. The Macy's at Columbia Place was once a Rich's.

    "That seems to be the approach most retailers are taking," Clodfelter said, also mentioning the bargaining and buying power larger firms enjoy.


    For 18 years, the mall now known as Midtown at Forest Acres has struggled to keep retailers and shoppers.

    1988 - After years as an open-air mall, Richland Fashion Mall is built, with plans for 200 stores

    1990 - Mall owner files for bankruptcy protection; original anchor Bonwit Teller closes

    1991 - Brittons men's clothing store closes

    1992 - Mall is sold to Jacksonville, Fla., company

    1993 - Dillard's moves in

    1996 - Richland Fashion Mall is renamed Richland Mall

    1997 - Mall is renovated; Barnes and Noble bookstore moves in

    1998 - Belk buys, takes over J.B. White department store

    2002 - North Carolina investors buy the mall for about $16 million - half its 2001 assessed value

    2003 - Dillard's and Talbot's close; interior-design store Blacklion moves into half the space vacated by Dillard's

    2005 - Blacklion and nine other stores close; Richland Mall is renamed Midtown at Forest Acres

    2006 - Belk buys Parisian , says no decision has been made on whether it will close

    © 2006 The State


    8 Dec 11 at 12:03 am

  15. Plans for 200 stores in 1988, huh? Did they even reach 50% of that goal?

    I remember my grandmother being so excited that Bretano's, some upscale bookstore was going to be there. I don't recall it lasting very long.


    8 Dec 11 at 8:02 am

  16. Richland Fashion Midtown at Forrest Acres Mall was and IS a total bust of a Mall. Mall's are 99% "Am-was" things. The only one in Columbia that has been a success compared to the others is Columbiana Mall..and that's because of Location, Location, Location.! Columbia Mall and Decker are as dead as the Latin Language itself, and Dutch Square may as well be torn down and just leave the Theater by itself. Strip Malls seem to be the thing again..


    8 Dec 11 at 6:00 pm

  17. I've always been partial to the early strip malls like Parkland Plaza with their wide covered perimeter walkways.


    9 Dec 11 at 7:53 am

  18. Parisian was a great store. There was also one in Greenville that lasted only a few years (as Parisian's owner bought a few other lower-end chains and switched some stores over to those other nameplates). Parisian was kind of like Ivey's or Lord & Taylor: higher-end than Belk, but not astronomically expensive. I miss it. The Richland Mall Parisian was kind of drab, but it was a great chain.


    30 Jul 17 at 4:42 pm

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