Well, this weekend I went back to another one of my childhood malls, Mid Rivers in St. Charles.
This was one of the brightest spots about moving to St. Charles. I would earn my allowance, save it for a month, and then get dropped off at the mall.
The day of 15 year old Dan at the mall would go something like this:
- Grab a slice of cheese pizza from Sbarros. Sometimes I'd get orange chicken at whatever Chinese place was there at the time.
- Wander through Hot Topic looking for a Nirvana, Goldfinger, RX Bandits, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Finch, or New Found Glory shirts. Didn't usually buy, just looked.
- Wander through PacSun when they were still focused on skate shirts. Find some good stuff and make note because I would never spend my precious allowance on clothing. I'd then bring my mom back and play dumb like I hadn't looked at clothes and hope she would buy me a shirt or two.
- I would then go get a frozen coffee drink. As a non-coffee drinker at the time, this would give me the best caffeine highs of my life. This is when the mall visit got interesting.
- Now before GameStop took over, there were three video game stores in Mid Rivers Mall: FunCoLand, Babbages, and GameStop.
- FunCoLand was always first. It had the nicest guys, but was also the smallest. It was best for finding older games for older systems.
- Then I would go to GameStop to check the bargain bin they kept on the counter. Games that they no longer had cases for sold for $1.
- Then, still riding the high of my caffeine rush, I'd go to Babbages. Babbages is still the largest video game store I've ever been in. I'd chat up the guy at the counter, who often would point me toward some weird, smaller Japanese video game, and I'd walk out of the store with the strangest games like Mr. Mosquito and Incredible Crisis.
- Then I would return home to listen to Limp Bizkit and play my new games until 3 am when I would finally crash.
What 31 year old Dan found was a cocktail of nostalgia and slight sadness.
The signs were already there. It's exactly how I remember Jamestown starting to close down. Three shops adjacent to each other and then in the middle of them is what looks like a shop, but you soon realize it's a window display for another business.
There were still tons of people there, but something doesn't feel right. It's like people are at a wake. No one really talking. No one jumping on the trampoline kiosk. No one in line for the movie theater. Half the food court was shut down.
The most depressing part of my visit was walking through the Tilt Arcade. No one was actually working in Tilt, not even at the prize counter. In the back corner was 20 or so unplugged or broken arcade cabinets parked like some sort of 80's grave yard. The games they did have were either from 1992 or boring one button ticket earning games like Deal or No Deal. (Which they had two)
Even the stock at huge stores like V-Stock were lacking. Shelves were only 2/3 full. And what was there were things no one wanted.
St. Louis was once the mall capital of the United States. But now, we only have a few malls that show strong numbers.
It's a combination of the two newer malls in Chesterfield spreading the already fledgling mall crowd too thin and Amazon.
It's a bummer. As someone that loves having a low-key weekend wandering the mall, I realize the life of these places is quickly running out. My only hope is that Amazon creates a virtual mall for my future VR headset and I can walk the Amazon mall from the comfort of my own home.