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Bonwit Teller / Dillard's / Blacklion / The Department Store, Richland Mall: 1990 / 2003 / 3 September 2005 etc   37 comments

Posted at 12:01 am in historic,stores

Along with White's and Parisian, Bonwit Teller was to be one of the anchors of the new Richland Fashion Mall which was to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the original open-air Richland Mall.

It is somewhat typical of that snakebit project that all three chains are now gone. Bonwit Teller was a very upscale store, which, according to Wikipedia was founded in the 1880s. When the RFM store opened, the chain was new to South Carolina, so I went there once to check it out. I quickly determined that it was not a "guy place" at all, and I suspect that even for middle class women, there would have been a hint of Are you sure you are Bonwit Teller material? attitude.

At any rate, the whole chain (17 stores strong at the time) went bankrupt in 1989. Apparently since then, two attempts to revive the brand have come to naught.

After Bonwit Teller went under, the space was taken over by an operation called Blacklion, which apparently still exists in some form. They put up a number of billboards around town (I recall one in particular by Za's on Devine) touting a "Revolutionary new concept in shopping!" (that's not an exact quote, but the spirit is the same). Again, I visited the store once, and as far as I could tell, their revolutionary new concept was an upscale flea-market. The place seemed to be a collection of botiquey little indivdually owned kiosks selling upscale crafts. Interestingly as this 2006 press release details, one of them, Mountain Manor Gifts, did in fact move from Blacklion to the Barnyard Flea Market out on US-1. There was also an Italian lunch sandwich operation in Blacklion whose name escapes me right now, but they moved out of Blacklion to a vacant counter-equiped storefront on the second floor on the other side of Belk's and carried on for another couple years.

After Blacklion closed, there was some talk of turning the space into apartments for an urban village like the condo space at Sandhill. You can see in one of these pictures, the treatments at the end of the Blacklion building that were mocked up for that idea, but like many of the plans for Richland Mall nothing came of that either.

UPDATE 23 June 2010: Added Dillard's and The Department Store to the post title based on the comments.

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Written by ted on June 23rd, 2010

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