Retail Apocalypse? Let’s Go to the Mall!

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I am NOT a mall person. I hadn’t been to a mall in years until the other day when it seemed like the right thing to do. And it was!
One of my favorite fake songs is “Let’s Go to the Mall” sung by Robin Sparkles, 90’s Canadian teen entertainer, in How I Met Your Mother. It’s catchy. It’s upbeat. And it recalls the glory days of my youth in the 80’s (“The 80’s didn’t hit Canada until the 90’s,” according to Robin). I wasn’t a mall person then, either, but the song represents the spirit and fashion of a time when the U.S. economy was growing.
Now, they say we’re in a Retail Apocalypse. Stores are going bankrupt and closing. Malls and strip centers are half empty. People can find everything they need or want online and at cheaper prices. Is it the end of an era?
And I hear there’s no such thing as Black Friday or Cyber Monday anymore. All the amazing deals and shopping opportunities have sort of spread out over the whole month of November, so now I see Black November specials being advertised. I think that’s a good thing. I’ve never been a fan of Black Friday, anyway, opting to spend the day hiking if I am not working.
Well, the other day, my husband and I took a day trip to do some “fun” shopping. We didn’t need anything, we had just gotten paid, and all the holiday specials were getting into swing. After hitting a couple of big thrift stores and scoring big on a Doctor Who miniskirt and a Dalek keychain (Phoenix Comicon, here I come!), we got hungry, only to discover ourselves on the end of town with no decent restaurants.
After weighing the option of driving to the other end of town, even though we weren’t done shopping on THIS end, my husband suggested what I was already reluctantly thinking. Should we go to the mall and see what’s in the food court? <heavy sigh> I guess…
So, for the sake of time, that’s what we did. And it opened up a whole new world of wonders! Well, not quite, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Flagstaff Mall is small, so it doesn’t have a very large food court… six dining options, I counted. After walking around, I couldn’t decide where to eat – they all looked good to me! The Mexican food restaurant gave out samples, and I was sold on a green chile quesadilla on a handmade tortilla. My husband opted for a gyro from the family-owned, New York-inspired restaurant. The owner took his order personally. I asked about the baklava on display, and he said they are homemade by his mother using a family recipe. So, we split an order of baklava – how could we turn that down?!
After eating an excellent lunch, we were too stuffed to leave and decided to walk around the mall to walk off some of those calories. I wasn’t surprised to see a few empty stores, but more stores were occupied than I expected. There were the usual chain stores, but then, we started seeing some interesting specialty stores.
The first of those specialty stores was an antique shop – in a mall! We wandered in and expected a bland selection at outrageous prices. I was floored. I love going to antique shops and usually find a lot of junk. Not here. What I found was a selection of museum-quality pieces from southwest Native American art to European oil paintings to African tribal art and everything in between. And the prices? Shockingly reasonable. There were a good many items that I would know the market value, and they were all priced at or below what you would find in other stores. The shop owner knows his stuff, too. I listened in as he answered another customer’s questions about some of the paintings, and he was honest, accurate, and forthcoming. It was like getting a private docent tour at an art museum. For free!
Another shop we had to check out was a local artists’ cooperative. All kinds of arts and crafts from dozens of local artists was available in a range of prices. And they even served cookies! Too bad I was too full to take advantage.
The biggest surprise was discovering my friend’s new business, XCape, which includes escape rooms,* party room, and glow-in-the-dark mini golf. I knew she was starting a new business, but I didn’t realize it was in the mall. We had a great visit with her, and though the escape rooms weren’t finished yet, the golf was open, and lots of people were having fun taking in 9 holes. We got an exclusive peek at the escape rooms which should be open as you read this. We will definitely return soon to play!
So, if there is a Retail Apocalypse going on, maybe it’s a good thing, giving the smaller businesses opportunities they couldn’t afford in the past. Flagstaff Mall has piqued my curiosity. I may not resist so much to go into other malls.
*An escape room is the latest rage – you get locked into a fully furnished room and must solve a series of puzzles to find the key to escape.

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