As Christmas season comes upon us, all of us will at least ponder going to a mall at some point. Some of us may make a second home of it as the wish lists pile up.
The Indoor Mall was a response to the rapid suburbanization of America as new highways moved populations out of the cities and into the surrounding countryside. People need a lot of things, and you can only fit so many different stores on Main Street in a small suburban town.
The indoor mall arose from this consumer need, and was what mall planning-type people came up with after watching us Consume for a few centuries. It may not make sense to put a Hot Topic store in a small town that is primarily full of old people. However, it makes perfect sense if you could centrally locate one every few towns or so, where people would run across it as they visited more well-known stores. You could write the same sentence about a thousand other businesses, and it soon became common for a Shopping Mecca to be built to serve a region.
Indoor malls were what many of us had growing up. Some of our first jobs were in malls, some of our first dates were in malls, and it was where you met your friends at that point of your life where Mom still had to drop you off. You were usually dressed in some array of clothing from your local mall, which was also the source of most of your Christmas presents.
With the possible exception of a snowy, small-town Main Street, it is the dominant primordial American shopping location/image for the Christmas season… perhaps not outranking Santa as a part of the Christmas Tradition, but definitely ranking above the elves and the carolers.
We’re going to miss them when they are finally gone. This is the era of the outdoor mall, and the indoor mall is a fading anachronism. They are costly to heat and can’t host big box stores like WalMart. The new thing is a Wareham Crossing-style outdoor mall.
We still have the indoor ones, however. SE Massachusetts has almost a dozen, and probably surged up to about 15 when you think of now-dead indoor malls like the Harborlight Mall and the Cape Cod Outlet Mall.
Nostalgia is lovely, and we make a buck off of it when we can, but it is also the Christmas shopping season. You don’t have time for nostalgia. Your nostalgia is limited to “I want to shop in an indoor mall,” and what we are here to help you with today is the corresponding “Where are the remaining indoor malls, and which ones are better than the other ones?” question.
We use a rubric that is impossible to explain to the Uninitiated in less than 10000000 complicated words, but just know that our team is juggling exponents like Square Footage, Anchor Stores, Date Of Construction, Quality Of Food Court, Presence Or Lack Of A Water Fountain, Regional Demographics, Upscale or Downsized, Arcades, Traffic, Surrounding Retail Community, How Hard It Screams 1978 At You and the always-important How Likely You Are To Be Killed There. You know, stuff like that…
Hometown bias will not touch this article. My favorite mall as a little kid was the Hanover Mall. Half of what I wore growing up came out of there, as did most of my toys and several of my pets. See where Hanover ranks in this article.
We are limiting it to malls in our coverage area, which is basically Barnstable County, Bristol County, Plymouth County and a wee bit of Norfolk/Suffolk County. Shoppers World missed the cut, as did the Arsenal Mall and the Worcester Galleria.
We will start at the bottom and work our way to the top, worst to first. Let’s get this chicken in the oven, shall we?
732,000 sq feet
6 anchor stores, 2 vacant
Macy’s, Old Navy, Sears, Walmart
What to like: Sentimentality. This was the southern South Shore’s only mall for a while, and it pains me as a Duxbury kid to put Hanover last. This is where I saw Scarface. My first job was at Friendly’s in this mall. The last local York Steak House (we plan to travel to the very last YSH, which is in an Ohio strip mall, for a future article) was at this mall. This ranking is also hard because Hanover is better than the Swansea and Dartmouth Malls. However, the wrecking ball is rumored to be coming for this mall, and Swansea/Dartmouth outrank her by sheer staying power.
What not to like: No food court. Also, to be quite honest, I have never forgiven the Hanover Mall for getting rid of the water fountain.
670,000 sq feet
3 anchor tenants
Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears
What to like: It is a nice place to kill an hour or two when Mommy takes the kid to Chuck E. Cheese.
What not to like: We used the picture with the girls in it because the picture that we took of the mall itself looks enough like the Dawn Of The Dead mall that we feared that George Romero might sue us. This mall has more empty spaces than a virgin crossword puzzle, and it seems like they are trying to save money by keeping the lights low.
509,000 sq feet
1 anchor tenant
What to like: They probably have the best Mall Logo.
What not to like: I was going to use “has a Portuguese joint in the food court” in the What To Like part, but it went under as we were writing this article. This mall-aise took out the Chinese joint as well.
600,000 sq feet
6 Anchor tenants
Sears, Best Buy and Old Navy
What to like: The food court has a Popeye’s Chicken… the only one in Plymouth County, to my knowledge.
What not to like: This was the only mall that we visited where I was physically afraid of the parking lot at night.
CAPE COD MALL
821,000 sq feet
115 stores (capacity)
6 anchor tenants
Sears, Best Buy, Macy’s (2), Barnes and Noble, Marshall’s
What to like: Built on the ground occupied by the former Storyland, it was also the home of Cape Cod’s first escalator… for those of you keeping track at home.
What not to like: With the exception of the Mall Of America (which has her own airport), there is no other mall anywhere where you are more likely to be hit by a plane crash. It surges past MOA if you add in the qualifier “hit by a plane crash with a Kennedy at the controls.”
900,000 sq feet
5 anchors (3 vacant)
What to like: This mall holds the Hanover Mall’s scalp. Her 1980s debut- with a food court, nonetheless- spelled the end of Hanover’s local retail dominance. For many South Shore residents, the Independence Mall food court was their first encounter with a Taco Bell.
What not to like: Her momentum was short-lived, and it recently had to be re-branded from Independence Mall (named for the Independence, a Kingston-made ship that the British captured after a brutal fight) to the want-to-slap-you-when-you-say-it Kingston Collection.
SILVER CITY GALLERIA
1,030,000 sq feet
7 anchor tenants
Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods
What to like: Two stories, always cool. They also have an Orange Julius, which I don’t like to eat at but I do like to see.
What not to like: This was the only mall in our region with a “2016 Stabbing Spree” section in her Wikipedia article. When I asked Teresa to meet me here to take pictures once, she said “Why are you going there? Do you want to get stabbed?”
1,022,000 sq feet
4 anchor tenants
Macy’s (2), JC Penny, Sears
What to like: (looks at Taunton)… “Your mall has two stories, you say? Mine has three.”
What not to like: Don’t buy anything on the third floor that you won’t be comfortable with moving down a pair of escalators and then hauling 200 yards to the exit near wherever you parked. A thinking man will quickly understand why outdoor malls are the rage now if he studies Emerald Square a while.
SOUTH SHORE PLAZA
2,165,000 sq feet
7 anchor tenants
Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Sears, Primark, Target, and DSW
What to like: New England’s oldest mall, largest mall, and the 15th largest mall in the US of friggin’ A. It is also the busiest mall in our coverage region, by a longshot. If that’s not enough for you, scenes for Paul Blart: Mall Cop were filmed here.
What not to like: If you go there during rush hour, be prepared to drive about 100 yards in 25 minutes.