A Love Letter to My 1980s Mall

What has happened to the center of my 1980s teenage universe?

As I stroll through the food court of the once trendy mall that is attached to my office building on my lunch hour I ask this question of myself.

Stores are closing, restaurants are leaving and kiosks are closed.

It pains me to say it out loud, but I think malls are dying -- and not the quick and easy way, or in their sleep. But slow, painful, gasping for their last breath kind of deaths.

If I were to add up all of the hours I spent hanging out at the mall (I had two, my beloved Tampa Bay Mall and University Mall) it would equal months, more likely years of my teenage youth.

Many a teenage diary entry documented purchases, food court encounters, and a boyfriend named Jason with rock star status who invited me to his Christmas "office party" (I'M SO NERVOUS!) held at the ever-classy Oak Tree:




Here are eight things I miss about my big, fat 1980s mall:

1. The Record Store.
Oh Camelot Records/Sam Goody, how I long for thee... this is where I'd spend hours flipping through Madonna albums, painstakingly deciding whether to spend my money on Let's Dance or Rio or examining every inch of the front and back of The Rolling Stones Tattoo You.

2. The Stores.
Contempo Casuals for trendy plaid skirt, Merry Go Round for paisley vests, Express for those jeans that fold over at the top, Rave for cheap, cheap, cheap stirrup pants and of course The Limited -- for Forenza sweaters in every color of the rainbow.

3. The Guy Stores.
Oak Tree. Chess King. You guys were stylin' in your bolo ties and Z. Cavaricci pants.

4. The Food Court.
Sbarro. Chick-Fil-A. Orange Julius in a big 'ol styrofoam cup that you chewed the edges of when you were finished. Nachos. And good God, frozen yogurt. Lots and lots of of frozen yogurt.

5. The Movie Theatre.
No giant multiplexes at my mall, I think there were two screens - Cinema I or Cinema II. Beetlejuice or Beaches?

6. The Posters.
Click, clack, click -- the sound of browsing through posters at Spencer's Gifts. Many a Duran Duran/Bon Jovi/cute kitten wearing a sweatband and legwarmers poster was purchased here.

7. The Social Factor.
Pretty much the reason for going to the mall; hanging out with friends/checking out boys. There was so much to learn clocking those miles walking around the mall. It was where we went to hang out, chill out, and make out.

8. The Freedom.
It's one of my first memories of being allowed to do something totally on my own -- before I could drive, taking the bus to the mall to meet my friends. It's a strong memory of a pre-teen wearing a ridiculously wonderful bowler hat, looking out the window in the way back of Tampa's finest public transportation.

When I went back for my 20 year high school reunion my B/F/F Susanne picked me up at the airport. We hadn't seen each other in forever but it was as if no time had passed as we laughed like teenagers, annoying everyone surrounding us at baggage claim.

As we drove down Dale Mabry Highway we both got a little quiet as we went by the spot by Tampa Stadium where our mall once stood. It may sound silly but I I hate the thought of that mall not being there anymore.

So much more than old school department stores or trendy shopping. It was like home. The mall was the family room, the kitchen and the backseat of my youth.


Lori's website, Drawn to the '80s, is where her 5-year-old draws the greatest music hits of the 1980's. Her blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she writes about important things like beauty products, the '80s and her Mick Jagger obsession.