The decline of the giant shopping mall is in full swing. There are 1,100 shopping malls in the US, and they are not doing so well. Crossroads Mall, which is now without a single anchor store, will soon confront the challenge of other aging malls: How to make money when stores and people don’t want to be in your mall.
I don’t go to Crossroads Mall, or any mall unless absolutely necessary. Malls were originally designed to offer suburbanites the downtown shopping experience of the 1940s without the inconvenience of going downtown and dealing with non-suburban people. People now want to go downtown again, or build little downtowns, and kids don’t want to go to the mall ” it’s easier for teenagers to cruise the Internet than the mall.
What follows is my modest proposal to save Crossroads Mall, or any other mall in the metro willing to take the plunge:
Make it a Mall Museum. The Mallseum.
We must preserve this icon of the late 20th century, immortalized in films such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Mallrats” and “Scenes from a Mall.” Crossroads can join other tourist attractions in the metro, another museum dedicated to our culture and heritage. We can give our children and grandchildren the total “mall experience” for all of posterity.
What to put in the Oklahoma Memorial Mallseum?
Well, to start, over in the old Foley’s (also the old Macy’s), will be a whole set of faux storefronts dedicated to legendary, long-gone Oklahoma retailers housed in the Oklahoma Plaza Retailer Hall of Fame. There’ll be room for full-scale replicas of C.R. Anthony’s, Harold’s, and a Garfield’s Restaurant, just to name a few. The Credit Jewelry Cowboy, gone but not forgotten, will offer riding tours for the kids.
Players dressed as mall archetypes will walk around explaining late 20th century culture and direct kids to the shoplifting kiosks.
The movie theater will be moved into the old Montgomery Ward’s and will only screen teen films from or about the 1970s and ’80s, with the occasional blaxploitation film or Mel Brooks movie. The popcorn was originally popped in 1973.
Over where the JCPenney used be, our intrepid Mallseum will present the “Cruising Museum,” where teens and parents alike can rent clothing, iPods and scripts to engage in role-play pickup routines from decades past, a la “Dazed and Confused” or “Sixteen Candles.” All persons successfully completing the pickup simulation will receive a free Members Only jacket, foil-wrapped condom and an autographed portrait of Wayne Newton with Nancy Reagan from the 1981 July Fourth concert on the Washington, D.C. mall.
Finally, where Dillard’s recently vacated, well, that’s where we’re going to put the Billy Sims Interactive Heisman Experience.
The Boomer-Q costs extra.
Gaddie is professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma.