13 bygone mall stores we want to shop at again

You could buy everything from sausages to sweaters to software at memorable mall shops like Hickory Farms and Service Merchandise.

The mall is an endangered species. Once a mecca of American commerce, a gathering place for teenagers, and a nice place for an indoor stroll, the mall no longer holds the same place in our daily lives as it did in the 1970s and 1980s. In the heyday of the indoor mall, one could by a ham and go ice skating. Store fronts were elaborated decorated to look like barns and castles. The mall was our Amazon.com.

While malls certainly still dot our landscape, some of the magic is missing with these stores no longer existing. Put on your walking shoes and lets go shopping in the past.

Top image: Flickr

1. Camelot Music


In our local mall, the Camelot had a stone facade that looked like the entrance to King Arthur's castle. Inside, the music shop had a great selection spanning every genre, not to mention a towering wall of cassettes. Starting in 1956, Camelot was in the end sucked up by and converted to f.y.e. in 1998.

Image: Flickr

2. Casual Corner


Reaching 525 stores at its peak, this women's wear shop died in 2005. We especially dig the older, more elaborate storefront with wood paneling and 90-degree logo.

Image: Flickr

3. Chess King


This young men's shop dates back to the 1960s. Its founder figured boys liked chess and racing, and came up with Chess King. In the 1980s, this became the depot for those fashion plates hoping to emulate Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink. It died off in 1995.

Image: Lost Laurel

4. The Children's Place


The coolest thing about The Children's Place was the hole at the entrance, a little tunnel that kids could crawl though to enter the store. We remember it being lined with indoor-outdoor carpeting. There was also stuff to climb all over inside. There are still Children's Place stores, but none like this that we know of.

Image: Pinterest

5. Contempo Casuals


What Chess King was for boys, Contempo was for girls. Also started in the 1960s, CC boomed in the 1980s, when it became the place of choice for big, colorful clothing to match big, colorful hair. Paul Rudd made reference to it in Clueless, too. In 2001, the remaining stores were converted into Wet Seals, which had purchased the brand some years earlier. 

Image: Pinterest

6. County Seat


From 1973 to 1999, the County Seat was the hip place to pick up a pair of jeans. While denim was the primary good, one could also pick up some chunky sweaters with a southwestern theme to complete the suburban cowboy look.

Image: Freeing John Sinclair

7. Gadzooks


With a goofy name like Gadzooks, one might expect the outlet to ply novelty items and toys like Spencer's Gifts. In fact, it started as a T-shirt shop. Each store featured a chopped up section of a Volkswagen Beetle for decor. Gadzooks went kerplunk in 2005, when it was purchased by Forever 21 and phased out.

Image: Chicago's Extinct Businesses

8. Hickory Farms


Now this brings back memories. Mostly smells. The big red barns sold encased meats and fat chunks of cheese. It was particularly of note for the broke kid wandering the mall, as they often had free samples of summer sausage and whatnot. The brand still exists, but you certainly no longer stroll past farm structures in the mall.

Image: Hickory Farms

9. Kinney Shoes


The footwear giant had just passed the century mark when it kicked the bucket in 1998. As much as we would have liked to run around in Nikes, Air Jordans and the like, we settled for a pair of Stadia from Kinney. In hindsight, we're pretty happy about that. Mostly because they were Velcro and we hated having to tie our shoes.

Image: Kinney Shoes - The Way We Were

10. Merry-Go-Round


Yikes, that's how we looked in the early '90s? Another must-stop shop for young fashionistas (or fashion victims), MGR never made it past 1996, like some of these looks. It shifted with the times, going from bell bottoms in the '70s to parachute pants in the '80s to oversized jeans in the '90s.

Image: Jane Bouchard

11. Miller's Outpost


The California-based jeans shop was the king of all things acid wash and Jordache. It morphed into Anchor Blue and went belly up in 2011.

Image: Pinterest

12. Service Merchandise


Service Merchandise was a catalog you could walk inside. For those of us who grew up dreamily flipping through Wish Books, it was a heaven filled with video games, calculator watches, cordless phones and diamonds. The catalog showroom lived from 1934 to 2004. Who else remembers going into shops were you couldn't just take things off the shelf?

Image: Fairfax Underground

13. Software, Etc.


A temple for computer geeks and gamers, Software Etc. went the way of the floppy disc when it merged with Babbage's and eventually GameStop. 

Image: Flickr

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TonyWalstra 6 months ago
I worked at TheBottomHalf in high school in the 70’s in Cincinnati and went in to become a manager there and opened new stores in SC and Fl and district manager out of Chattanooga and ran 11 stores. I left when I was only 23. Man, I would love to know what all those people I worked with are doing now! It was a great time in my life. Our competitors were Chess King, The Gap, Merry Go Round, County Seat and more!
TonyWalstra TonyWalstra 6 months ago
gdporterfield 7 months ago
What about Woolworth's( the ones with a lunch counter), the Walgreen's with lunch counters and Kenny Shoes?
underlybill 23 months ago
Bought a number of clothes at Chess King and County Seat--Kazoo pants "Kazoos are Lean Age Pants" was their logo. Always fun to walk through Service Merchandise especially for small appliances. Radio Shack--I had about 6 battery of the month club cards and got 6 free ones each month. World Bazaar was interesting with unique things and very reasonable for in mall. But yes, the mall was the place to shop in person and touch/feel/try on. Amazon can't do that.
TonyWalstra underlybill 6 months ago
I worked at Chess King and TheBottomHalf!
WilliamPerkins 23 months ago
Hickory Faarms and Kenny Shoes are the only ones I recall.
gdporterfield 23 months ago
Has anybody ever heard of Litwin's?
ELEANOR 23 months ago
I have fond memories of Kinney's shoes, Woolworths, and Service Merchandise. I think that my husband got my engagement ring at Service Merchandise. At Woolworth's, there were coin operated candy machines at the front of the store that gave off the most wonderful aroma. And most of my shoes came from Kinney's.
JagNood 30 months ago
My personal favs were Camelot, Radio Shack, and WoolWorths... not to mention whatever the name of the camera shop happened to be with in house film delopment. I really miss those days...
PGClassics JagNood 23 months ago
I sooo miss Radio Shack. They always had whatever it was you needed that you couldn't find anywhere else! Today the closest thing to it seems to be Micro Center.
Blaze346 30 months ago
I worked at Camelot Music and Turtles Records! Most of my retail career was with MGRE, Merry-Go-Round Enterprise s. They bought out Chess King which caused there demise. Great times and fun.
Blaze346 30 months ago
Don’t forget Wild Pair, DJ’s.
RobinOrlowski 30 months ago
I loved contempo casusals. I was so sad when they closed. Wet seal sounds like a b-movie name.
leenieg 39 months ago
I loved Service Merchandise! It was definitely a one-stop place to get most, if not all of your Christmas shopping done! We even bought our wedding rings there almost 28 years ago!
RobinOrlowski leenieg 30 months ago
it was 'transition' shopping. They understood that showroom shopping was being phased out but hadn't figured out that the internet was coming yet. Shame too because they could have made big bucks off of it.
GuitarAnthony 43 months ago
I guess technically one could call Service Merchandise a 'mall store' tho usually it was in its own building. The only one I ever saw in a mall setting was in East Meadow, NY with a Gap and several other stores in the fabled Great Eastern/Woolco department store location which last checked now housed a Wal-Mart.
BarneysDogBlue 43 months ago
I loved service merchandise! Last one in Toledo closed years ago, I remember a lot of Christmas shopping there
caleb53 44 months ago
At Christmas time, I loved getting a box from Hickory Farms. YUM-YUM!!
Nope 45 months ago
Hi! Remember Lerner and Jay Jacobs? How about Mariposa? Great piece. Brings back memories! Thank you!
cowboy87 53 months ago
I remember having a Service Merchandise it was where my Grandfather bought me my very first Lionel Steam Freight Train and my love for Model Railroad today.
eric1972sea 55 months ago
Jafco which became Best before going out of business in the late 90’s early 00’s was similar to Service Merchandise.
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