Sunday, March 9, 2008

The ____ Side of Sears

I’ll let you come up with your own adjective to describe this gasp-worthy (ok, that’s mine) group of four Class A Sears stores, which opened between August and October, 1964 and are pictured here shortly after opening. Showing a wide spectrum of architecture and (almost) every Sears logo combination, the individual charm of each of these stores speaks for itself.

The first store pictured is the now torn down Columbus, Ohio Northland Mall store. Columbus had an Eastland, Westland and Southland Mall as well, which still exist in various states. On my earlier post about the Oakbrook, Illinois store, Steven Swain pointed out the similarity in concept to that store albeit with a more substantial steel structure supporting the awning. The store, shown here in a 2003 photo, was razed along with the rest of the mall in 2004.

The second store is the Hicksville, Long Island, New York store, which held the distinction for a great many years as Sears’ top-grossing store. This store was built adjacent to Mid-Island Plaza (now called Broadway Mall) and is still going strong. Check out the sweet two-tone Rambler wagon in the foreground of the parking lot. Here is a page of not-too-shabby photos of a Cadillac collectors’ show that show the store as it currently appears for a backdrop.

The third store is still humming away in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a shopping center that was originally launched by Homart, the development division of Sears. Original plans called for a 124,000 square foot store, but Austin T. Cushman, Sears' chairman at the time, professed confidence in Albuquerque's future and personally ordered the store's size hiked up to over 170,000 square feet. Provisionally known as “Homart Shopping Center”, it opened as the Coronado Shopping Center, and is now more fittingly referred to as Coronado Mall, reflecting the large enclosed portion that was added some years later.

The last store, from Decatur, Georgia’s Columbia Mall, which was later renamed Avondale Mall. The store closed in 1984 and finally met the wrecking ball last year. Note the presence of a “key-osk” (my apologies.) out front, a not uncommon feature of Sears and other chains (note the fourth photo here) during that time. I mean seriously, why would someone want to go inside a store to have a duplicate key made- the idea itself is just tacky, don’t you think? Those booths were definitely the way to go. Here is a nice photo page from a great site with extensive photos of the store (and its destruction) and history of the mall over the years, and there is also a video (please see disclaimer below) showing the store’s final moments.
The attached video link portrays the destruction of a classic retail property. More sensitive retail fans will want to exercise caution in deciding whether or not to view said video. Ok, you’ve been warned.


  1. Even though these stores opened in 1964 after his death, they were more than likely designed during the Kennedy administration (1961-63). When JFK took office in 1961, the country threw off the staid predictability of the Eisenhower-era and embraced the glamour of the new first family, especially the stylish Jacqueline Kennedy. Women of that era paid close attention to fashion and even those who couldn’t afford Oleg Cassini or Saks Fifth Avenue wanted to emulate Mrs Kennedy's style.

    So, in order to match the glamorous new fashions, store designers created modern, stylish stores in which to showcase them. Even 'moderate' stores had dramatic entries, grand archways, and expressive signature logos, inviting men, but especially women, to 'get in here and see what's new and chic'.

    Just my 2 cents

  2. Well said, Paul. The Kennedy era, (short as it unfortunately was) was definitely one of style and optimism that extended even to commercial architecture. It represented a clear break with the styles of the previous decade. Thanks!

  3. Golden! That's my adjective.

  4. Columbus never had a Southland. They did have a Great Southern, Great Eastern, and Great Western (but no Great Northern).

  5. I've seen a number of references to a Southland Mall on High St. in Columbus, including on in this article:

    and also here:

    It sure doesn't look like a "real" mall by any stretch, especially at only 118,000 square feet. Ironically, there is also a Southland Mall in Marion, OH north of Columbus. Thanks!

  6. My how times have changed. Who could have guessed that within 20-30 years that demographic change would have affected many of these stores and customer expectations would have lowered to wanting the discount store price in a big box while complaining about lack of competition and lack of service, employee apathy, and wandering what happened to old fashion service. Retail bowed to Wall Street wanting bigger and bigger returns and cost cutting and consumers were willing to trade down to an extent, but eventually didn't get the choice, nor did they(we) expect better.

    Inner ring suburbs began declining by the 70's, and as usual retail followed the customer to where they lived, in many ways the post-war suburb became the disposable city, to be replaced by a new and supposedly better place.

  7. I worked at the Decatur/Columbia Mall store #1215 up until it closed in 1984; it was my very first job. My brother also worked there as his first job a few years earlier. Avondale High School is adjacent to this property, and it was but a short walk from school to work. Of course, prior to that, it was every kid's dream place to look at bikes, and play with that newfangled "Pong" game they always had set up.

    The picture shows the Sears store, and in the background, you can see the Davison's store (Southern division of Macy's); but the mall between the two has yet to be built. While the store appears to be 3 stories, there were only 2 merchandise floors during its entire existence. The upper facade was tall enough to conceal a 3rd floor for sales, but there was only a moderate size storage area on the 3rd floor.

    This entire mall was razed in 2007 (after being closed since 2001), and the new Wal-Mart Supercenter that took its place opened on 3/7/08.

    Thank you for posting this picture - it certainly brings back many good childhood and young adult memories.

  8. These Sears stores are awesome. I love the variety and wish they'd do something even half as fun as these today.