Sunday, March 1, 2009

Old School Ode #2 - The Mall...

In warmer months I walk around Westgate Park. Last winter, I decided to join the throng of retirees at the mall - usually Tuttle, sometimes Polaris - and that worked out pretty well. This year, no longer able to justify driving twenty minutes to walk for thirty, I decided Westland Mall (1.9 miles from my house) was a better choice.

Back in the day, Westland was a booming metropolis of teenage loitertude. But, over the past two decades, the major retailers either never came (no Gap, no Victoria Secret, no Chick Fil-A...) or have disappeared one by one (goodbye Limited and Limited Express, toot-a-loo Merry Go Round), leaving the place to an eclectic assortment of independent clothing and knick knack stores.

I hadn't stepped foot inside of Westland Mall for the better part of ten years. My reluctance was made up of a curious blend of sadness and generalized fear of the unknown. After a few weeks of deliberation, deciding the place was probably not crawling with roving drug dealers, I laced up my Nikes, powered up the iPod, and headed to the mall.

For the first few weeks I passed the time trying to remember all of the stores. Foxmoor there, Orange Julius over there, Chess King, Waldenbooks and The Art Works... Then I started a game where I tried to match the store with anyone I knew who worked there. I, myself, worked at Dimitrios, a sort of Greek Resturant/Pizza place hybrid (job #2.) I watched workers set up Santaland and marveled at the presence of an actual fat Santa with a real beard. I thought that was a good sign.

Now, I mostly pay attention to the people. I also wonder how it remains so clean and open for business. Out of the seventy retail spaces available, twenty-four are currently occupied. Only five are national chain stores (Sears, The Finish Line, Champs, J.B. Robinson Jewelers and The Great Steak Escape.) The BMV office (in the space that was once Wendy's Bridal) probably helps pay a good deal of the rent. Among the other tenants are a "New York" Tailor, the Westand Arcade, the Sherriff's Office Volunteer Center, and two Mexican restaurants.

This past Thursday, I was having coffee with some writer friends. When I mentioned that I'd been walking around Westland Mall, one of the men said, "Did you buy some crack?" I gave him the same look I used to give at college when people asked if I saw many guns when I went to West High School. Later that night I read in the paper that one of the Mexican restaurants had been invaded and 18 people arrested for selling heroin.

To be fair, the door from the resaurant into the mall was always pulled closed; in reterospect I'd often wondered if it was actually open for business or not.

Still. It has made me reluctant to return.


  1. Well? Did you or did you not buy crack?

  2. From what I've heard, crack and heroin are two entirely different drugs, which only goes to prove my point about the how misrepresented the westside is...

  3. You're not going to let one teeny tiny heroin ring ruin your mall, are you?

    Man, but I miss Orange Julius

  4. My mom perfected her homemade Orange Julius recipe....we used to make it when I got home from Youthland and watch Remington Steele together.