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Tumbleweeds   34 comments

Posted at 1:05 am in commentary

I went to Sears at Columbia Mall on Wednesday to look for something and decided to take the closing-cam and walk the mall afterwards. There are so many vacant storefronts that the place almost feels like Inlet Square Mall now. I thought about taking pictures, but then decided there was no point because I didn't even know what these places had been. In high school, I probably went several times a week, but now it's once every six months or so. Is the mall in trouble? Let me put it to you this way -- the Dollar Store is gone, and there are kiosks selling flea-market type merchandise...

I did take a few pictures, and I really like the first one. It is almost an Edward Hopper-esque scene of isolation.

Written by ted on July 30th, 2010

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34 Responses to 'Tumbleweeds'

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  1. The mall is dying. There is no doubt about it. It reminds me of the last years of the Northridge Mall in Brown Deer, WI. It went from fairly active to dead within 3 years, mostly because of the concern of crime. Much of the concern was racial but there were enough events that led to the departure of its main clientele. I do see the resurrection of Richland Mall and the Eastland Mall type end of Columbia Mall.

    joel

    30 Jul 10 at 1:25 am

  2. I am not sure what is going on, but with all the resurrection and influx of stores coming to Forest Acres, yet nothing in Richland Mall makes make think something is going on.

    ChiefDanGeorge

    30 Jul 10 at 6:06 am

  3. I don't know what will come of Columbia Mall...only time will tell but I've read that CBL Associates (the commerical real estate firm that leases said mall) is known for not letting properties slip on their watch so we'll simply have to wait and see as to what they have in mind for this mall...

    as an aside, am I the only person that prefers Columbia Mall to Columbia Place??

    Andrew

    30 Jul 10 at 4:19 pm

  4. Just looking at these pictures..seems like Columbia Mall Place or Place Mall or Columbia Mall is a DEAD ZONE..it's hey day was back in the 70's to early 80's.. they need to just tear it all down again. There USED to be some great stores there like Drakes Duck in, Lowery Organ, Tiffany Bakery, Orange Julius, Annabells and Morrison's just to name a few.. but those days are L O N G gone.. too bad.

    Del

    30 Jul 10 at 10:19 pm

  5. Columbia Place isn't done yet. I keep in contact with the management. More stores are to come to fill the empty spots. The economy and tight credit kept a lot of projects from starting. Give them a little while. DTLR is opening upstairs in a vacant store front.

    Rashaad Egister

    31 Jul 10 at 1:08 am

  6. @ Andrew. I don't know anyone who calls it Columbia Place

    Tom

    31 Jul 10 at 8:50 am

  7. I think Lowery's Organs pulled out because they had a bad problem with shoplifting.

    badger

    31 Jul 10 at 11:01 am

  8. This is just the way it is. The demographics have changed and there is no longer the same base to support the old-line stores. Chris Rock has a little piece he does on the shifting fortunes of shopping malls. It has been many years since I have set foot in Columbia Mall (mostly since I knew people who got mugged inside and was present for one shooting as far back as 1990).

    It's a shame, but the world changes.

    Larry

    31 Jul 10 at 2:08 pm

  9. I believe there are several contributing factors at play: Bad economy (biggest imho), difficulty in obtaining loans, shifting demographics. Factor in that malls are losing their prominence as shopping destinations and here we are.
    Not every town/location is right for a mall, yet most towns over a certain size get them. Recessions show which malls/locations are the best. The weak die off while the strong continue to survive.

    Jeff

    1 Aug 10 at 11:30 am

  10. Here's appropiate mood music for this listing by the Sons of the Pioneers:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UiSMyyj-Ac

    Tom

    2 Aug 10 at 5:33 am

  11. Da Hood Comes In -- da people go out -There is no Problem at Trenholm Plaza - Sandhills is next -- just look at any Friday or Saturday Night there -- On the way out Please turn the lights out and Pull your pants up! Thank you!

    discjo

    19 Aug 10 at 8:19 pm

  12. discjo, you are right on the money. The reputation of this mall was set in the early 90's and beyond. It became the mall of violence, crime, and gangs. They were way too soft on cracking down on these little thugs. By the time they addressed these issues, it was too late. Rebound could happen, but it will be many years before people forget the gunshots, etc. that went on here.

    JC

    19 Aug 10 at 11:55 pm

  13. Another thing that has hurt this mall is that the demographic area around it is getting grayer and the newest subdivisions near the mall were built in the 1960s-1970s. This is not the kind of things most retailors and developers look for when chosing a new location.

    Tom

    20 Aug 10 at 8:43 am

  14. Back in it's heyday..this Mall used to be super crowded just like Dutch Square, and Cola. Mall had LeisureTime Toys, some pet store, Orange Julius, Lowery Organs, Tiffany's Bakery amoung other great places..but then it just died, and the demographics and cliente changed. Now it's a DEAD ZONE Mall..they should tear this place down along with Dutch Square. It's outlived it's usefulness.

    Del

    20 Aug 10 at 1:09 pm

  15. [...] realize Columbia Place was this dead. See attached photos: Tumbleweeds at Columbia Closings At what point does Macy's pull the plug on this location and build a store at [...]

  16. I have a theory, based on years and years of completely non-scientific observation:

    It takes a population of approximately 250,000 people to support one mall, give or take. So if you have two malls, you're going to need 500,000 people. And so on and so forth.

    Having lived in a number of cities over the years, all with populations ranging between 250,000 and 5,000,000, it seems that there are always one or two malls above the 250,000 to 1 ratio, and invariably, one or two malls close, or turn into dead malls.

    I know Columbia used to have a whole lot of malls (Decker, Dutch Square, the one on Garner's Ferry where Target now is, Columbia Mall, Richland Mall, Columbiana). We're down to Columbiana, with Dutch Square and Richland effectively empty. Sandhills is the modern faux-mall, made to look like an outdoor shopping center, but we all know it's a mall. I know they're having problems too, with a lot of vacancies and anti-social behavior in the evenings.

    Matthew

    30 Aug 10 at 9:10 am

  17. I was one of the kiddie mallrats that hung out at Aladdin's Castle in the early 80's, and throughout high school, Columbia Mall was THE PLACE. I loved hanging out there, getting pizza, meeting friends at the arcade, acting cool in that great grotto that was beneath Annabelle's.

    But things changed at the end of 1988.

    Discjo is correct - The 'hood came in. I remember when they had to implement a police station right across from the arcade, due to all the shootings. At one point, we started calling it "Cambodia Mall". I was there the day that someone shot out the huge glass window at the back entrance; The whole mall went under lockdown.

    I worked in a few of the shops during the early 90's (Fast Wok, a shoe repair store who's name escapes me, and Cutlery World) and watched the mall decline even further.

    I think the problem with Columbia Mal is that it never matured. It never grew out of the baby-deb boutique style setting it started in, when places like Jeans West (remember them?) were there.

    Sad to see the those mid-passage kiosks now...In the 80's there would have been FAR too much pedestrian traffic to have them.

    Bobbe Edmonds

    4 Sep 10 at 9:04 pm

  18. Something I just remembered - Anyone recall that awesome Airbrush shop right across from the Burger King in there? It did gangbusters for a while, and you could see that guy's work all over Columbia. I had 5 or 6 shirts done by him myself, he was an amazing artist.

    Bobbe Edmonds

    9 Sep 10 at 10:25 pm

  19. lol @ airbrushed t-shirts. perhaps you were the bad clientele? jk. but srsly, airbrushed t-shirts?

    bin and barrel candy store! i think it was the old pet shop people have mentioned in other posts. that and someone mentioned aladdin's castle, too. awesome.

    it's all about the surrounding demo, it has been for 20 years now. i mean come on, it's at the corner of 2 notch, decker and parklane... sounds like a great place to spend some free time, right?

    steveb

    8 Oct 10 at 12:56 pm

  20. "I think Lowery’s Organs pulled out because they had a bad problem with shoplifting."
    badger
    31 Jul 10 at 11:01 am

    Did no one get this when it was posted back in July, or did no one choose to comment on it? That's funny right there, badger! Laugh Out Loud!

    JBL

    27 Feb 11 at 10:48 pm

  21. He'll be here all week.. be sure to tip your waiter!

    ted

    27 Feb 11 at 11:22 pm

  22. Sadly I wouldn't be surprised to hear that shoplifting ran Lowery's out. I don't know if this is true of an organ store, but grocery stores operate on a very slim profit margin. When you have large shoplifting problems, your profits take a gargantuan hit. While unfortunate, it's sometimes best to cut your losses. The former Food Lion at 2300 Taylor Street had significant shoplifting problems and it's my understanding that they had to replace their entire shopping cart inventory 3x over the course of 16 months (100 shopping carts at $300 each=$30K×3=$90K). Considering the fact that two police stations supposedly have set up shop in said mall and the other crime problems Columbia Place Mall has had in the past, it wouldn't surprise me.

    Andrew

    27 Feb 11 at 11:48 pm

  23. Well, it's always deadly to explain a joke, but Lowrey's sold console organs. Probably several hundred pounds and two man carry..

    Not something you were going to slip into your jacket.

    ted

    28 Feb 11 at 12:18 am

  24. Come on, now, Andrew. Don't you agree? If you don't think it's funny even after Ted explained it, maybe you need to step back for a moment, take a deep breath. :) Where's Badger, he needs to take credit!

    JBL

    1 Mar 11 at 12:55 am

  25. Actually, I can't take credit. . . I actually cribbed that from a messageboard posting that I read some years ago, in which someone was asking about what had happed to all the organ stores in malls--and that was one person's response.

    badger

    1 Mar 11 at 9:27 am

  26. Well, OK. I just hope that person meant it to be as funny as you did, and weren't serious.
    So now I will let this thread slip back into obscurity until Ted finds out Columbia Mall will be razed to build a new high school or something in what will be by then the redevelopement of "inner city" Columbia in 2061 AD.

    JBL

    1 Mar 11 at 5:07 pm

  27. I was in Columbia Place the other day, it's dead. There is nothing in the mall barely anymore. It's all local stores, no American Eagle or Old Navy anymore. The area is full of crime. The Sticky Fingers closed long ago and the Charleston Crab House closed a few months back. It's sad to me because I can remember when Columbia mall was the place to be! You could always meet your friends there and concerts and celebrity meet-and-greets were held there. This was like 5 or 6 years ago. I slowly watched it decline even further from how it was. It's a shame such a lovely building in a convenient place is going so downhill. Someone really should do something about it.

    Meg

    2 Jul 11 at 1:44 am

  28. Here's the Charleston Crab House closing..

    The Sticky Fingers building is back as Caprioska..

    As for the mall itself, yep it hasn't improved any since these pictures were taken about a year ago. In fact I noticed last time I was there that Sears is "hollowing out" with large sections of what used to be the kitchen and electronics area vacant.

    ted

    2 Jul 11 at 1:53 am

  29. Reminds me so much of Regency Mall in Augusta in the early '90s -- once a great mall (I remember when Regency was brand new), but in a part of town that fell apart. I only went to Columbia Mall a couple times when I lived in Columbia in the late '90s, and it encouraged me to go to Dutch Square, Richland Fashion Mall or Columbiana Center instead.

    Alaska Jill

    2 Jul 11 at 9:56 pm

  30. Regency was on its last legs when I was working in Augusta. At one time they were talking about putting government offices in it, but it seemed like mold had got hold and I don't think that happened.

    Columbia Mall isn't as bad as Regency yet. It's sure not good though..

    ted

    2 Jul 11 at 11:23 pm

  31. Columbia mall started its swift descent as far back as the mid-eighties. I remember kids 'sweeping the mall' meaning that a group got together and would form an inpenetrable wall and walk down the mall. It was a real mess.

    tonkatoy

    5 Jul 11 at 6:47 am

  32. @Ted: Regency's officially vacant now that the marshals' substation has moved out. There was at least one church that wanted to acquire and renovate the mall as a worship/community center, but it didn't happen. The most recent story I can find on its status:

    http://tinyurl.com/3vx4grx

    No mold, but leakage and significant vandalism, and that $52 million asking price has turned off a *lot* of potential suitors. It makes me want to cry, because in its day it was a gorgeous place and our family spent many a Sunday afternoon there. It deserves better. I hope Columbia Mall escapes the same fate.

    Alaska Jill

    5 Jul 11 at 10:10 am

  33. OK, it's all very tentative, but The State reports that if the current mall owners let it go into foreclosure, which appears to be the direction they are heading in, a new buyer, Moonbeam Capital Investments is throwing their hat into the ring.

    Moonbeam Capital Investments, based in Las Vegas, bought a loan Tuesday collateralized by the the 35-year-old mall, on Two Notch Road near Decker Boulevard, with an eye toward revitalizing the distressed structure, possibly with a new movie theater or other entertainment options.

    “We are experts at reviving distressed properties and turning them into shopping-and-entertainment destinations,” Moonbeam chief executive Steven Maksin said. “We hope to see the same positive changes at the Columbia Place Mall.”

    Of course the current theater there has failed three times now, and the adjacent Movies Behind The Mall has failed twice, so I'm not so sure "theater" is a great option.

    Amusingly, The State's graphic mislabels, in large letters, Parklane as Decker.

    ted

    11 Jul 14 at 10:20 pm

  34. One of the biggest hurdles I think they'll face is the bad community perception of the place. It's been discussed here on numerous occasions how Columbia Place Mall isn't as good as it used to be.

    It looks as if CBL (who we can thank for the Columbia Place name) is letting it foreclose. I once read (before this blog came along) on a forum someone who was able to sense a track record of them not letting properties slip on their watch but the economic turbulence in the intervening years has done a number on them.

    It doesn't matter what this new group does, one of their biggest opponents is the idea that it isn't as strong as it used to be. Last time I walked through that mall during the week of Christmas and New Years of 2011 (as 2011 was changing to 2012) I felt like I was on a different wavelength than everyone else in said mall.

    Sears, Macy's and Burlington Coat Factory are the 3 anchors still holding on. Sears is a retailer that is rumored to be troubled (and perhaps on the way out) that recently closed their Columbiana location so I wouldn't place too many long-term bets on Sears staying put.

    I have a recollection my grandmother mentioning a time (back in the 80s/90s) when either the Columbia Police Department and/or Richland County Sheriff's Department (can't remember which) advising against women going to what was then Columbia Mall alone.

    Andrew

    11 Jul 14 at 11:18 pm

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