Scene nearby: Saying goodbye to Northgate Mall

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Wednesday, I visited Northgate Mall for the last time.

The 70-year-old mall, the very first to be called a “mall” in the country, has fallen on hard times. The internet has taken over as the marketplace of consumers. I’ve been coming here for 50 years; not so much recently. (Yes, I guess I was part of the problem.)

But Wednesday was a chance to walk around and reminisce.  Looking at the empty stores, I remember what they used to be:

In the 1970s, there were these businesses:

The Squire Shop
Buddy Squirrel Candies
Ralph’s Toys
DJ’s Sound City
Lamont’s
Pay-N-Save

In the 1980s:

The Limited
Mariposa
Jay Jacobs (where I bought several Miami-Vice double-breasted jackets)

The 1990s:

Wizards of the Coast
Bombay Company
The Disney Store

On this day, I counted only 14 stores open, out of 65 total stores (not counting restaurants). That’s a sad 20% of businesses left.

Yet, the background music playing was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  Shut up, Bobby McFerrin. Let me wallow in my mall-ady.

My main goal was to visit JC Penney, where I worked in 1985 as a seasonal employee in the Men’s Department.  I must have been making something like $3.50 an hour, selling neckties, button-down oxford shirts, and Gold Toe dress socks. But Wednesday, the store was already closed and the doors locked. The best I could do was sneak in a back door to enter the old hair salon.

I sat down by the Nordstrom’s coffee stand and listened to an older lady talking to some men.

She said, “I came in to pay my respects. For me, the mall was my only form of entertainment.”

What will the future hold for the property? The mall will rise from its ashes as an NHL training center, and an office/residential complex. That should take two or so years to complete.

Whatever it will be called, it won’t matter. I’ll still call it Northgate Mall.

— Story and photos by David Carlos

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