Friday, January 17, 2014

The Last Bargain Hunt-Westdale Mall


They have started taking a wrecking ball to what used to be Montgomery Wards out in Westdale Mall, what used to be the place to be when it opened in 1979 to the titled Mall Of Death since everybody just about packed up and left this place once other malls opened up in the area, namely the Coral Ridge Mall.  But since FYE left there I hardly go there anymore.

In much more innocent time (or so we thought) Westdale was the go to place to hang out and join the crowd and of course checking out the girls there while hanging at the record store.  When first opened they had The Record Store, which moved down from Lindale, at that time still an open air mall.  The other was Musicland, which was a big deal, the first true big box record store to come here.  And we didn't have to trek to Iowa City to go there.  Musicland was overpriced, so was Record Store but Musicland had a huge selection of 45s and somebody ordered about 20 copies of Dave Edmunds' Girls Talk, which I failed to pick up.  The Record Store never really had that great of a selection of music and they closed up shop a year or so later, replaced by Camelot Music.  They were much better than Musicland, and they had a cut out selection to where you can buy albums at 1.99 or 2.99  They were the first place to offer cut out CDs, mostly Atlantic stuff or associated Warner Music Group stuff at around 7.88 or 5.88 and the cheap 2.88 introduction price. Tons of off the wall stuff I found there was Wire Chairs Missing which completed my Wire collection. A lot of minor bands that had contracts on Atlantic/Warners, well their album would be released and then off into the cutouts about a half year later.  I don't think The Raindogs Border Drive In Theater was even that when I bought it for 3 bucks new.  Nevertheless Camelot Music was a hangout, moreso than Musicland later renamed to Sam Goody, to which they were grossly overpriced, 20 bucks for new cds that weren't on sale and those that were was 16 dollars.

While Westdale Mall at that time was a hang out, it was shrouded in mystery and bad vibes and it goes back to December of 1979 when a local girl Michelle Martinko was murdered in the parking lot and to this day nobody has been arrested and it has been rumored that her spirit walks among the walls of that place.  And many places who have been in Westdale never seem to stay there very long.  The Steak house across from Chick Fil A which ironically has been the longest tenured eatery place there, (been there from the beginning I believe), McDonalds and Hardee's both had indoor restaurants, Bishops Buffet, and a Chinese food place I used to eat till they closed up there 10 years ago and Suncoast.  Jim Henson tried three times to open up a Rock and Bach store in that area, and three times he closed up shop and eventually settled into buying the Maid Rite and had better luck serving food.  Rock n Bach as a stand alone store managed to be a part of the CR record scene for about 20 years, starting at Ellis Blvd and basically moving down the road to the other side of town, which I spent many a Saturday night there when it was next door the meet market known as DeSodas. 

The demise and closure of Camelot Music in the late 90s (not sure on the date but it may came around the time of the opening of Coral Ridge Mall) was the beginning of the end of my time of being at Westdale. Sam Goody managed to stay afloat till around 2005 but once they closed their doors no other record store replaced it.  For a time being just about half of Westdale Mall had empty stores and no takers.  The rent was outrageous and people went to other places.  And developers are trying their best to do a remake of Westdale and make it up to date.  But it's a whole different time and era and the days of the mallrats and hanging there are over.  Not that I did much of that rather than making a bee line to Camelot to see the latest they had in the cutout section. 

Who knows,maybe the new Westdale will make a comeback but I doubt it.   It was a different time back then.  And now.

When I walked through the hollowed halls of Westdale Mall, I am humbled and discouraged of seeing a mall that is 60 percent empty and basically used as a walking trail since it's too cold and snowy to hit the Nature Center.  It's sad to see a place where I spent 30 years going to Camelot and pointing out the places that used to be there, Waldenbooks which was a big deal before Barnes and Noble and the late Borders, Suncoast where you could buy overpriced DVDs and VHS movies that they didn't show on TV, the old Aladdin's Cave where video games were the thing rather than staying at home and playing them on computer (Cheaper in this day and age but there's no interaction very much on the net). What surprised me was that the Chinese place is still open (as well as Cik Fill-A) and Bed Bath And Beyond had the whole row of downtown stores by themselves but looked like a ghost town, probably the only BBAB store not busy.  A Sports Memorabilia, selling overpriced autographed sports pictures is still around but closed that Sunday I was there. But for myself, going to Westdale is like being inside of a dead carcass, nothing inside and what remains is rotting away.  But at least you can get some exercise walking around and guess where the stores used to be at.

A sign of the times. 

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