L- Southgate Mall's initial set up featuring Roger's and Woolco. R- Years later, Woolco was replaced by Wal-Mart.
Southgate Mall was built as a Woolco vehicle. It was a rather small, even for its time, 250,000 square foot single level building with the main corridor running east-west. Woolco anchored the east end while Florence based department store Roger's anchored the middle at center court. Although the mall's footprint seems to allow for a future anchor to be added to the west end, it's unclear if they ever intended to do this.
TL- The Southgate Mall sign at the corner of Highway 43 and Avalon Avenue. This was my only indication that a mall was even there. TR- The very old-fashioned portico at the mall's main entrance. BL- The mall's center court ready for the Christmas crowds. BR- The old Woolco then Wal-Mart sits empty.
I first stumbled onto the mall rather serendipitously. I had no idea it was even there. Then I saw the sign at the town's busiest intersection declaring Southgate Mall. A mall. The podunk little town had a full fledged mall. This was 1994 and Wal-Mart was still operating from the old Woolco space while the rest of the mall was still very much alive. The exterior concrete blocks were painted in thick garish stripes of teal and off-white, very dated and nauseating even during the grunge days of the mid nineties. There was a weird aquatic theme to the interior which remained even on my last visit years later.
It was small, but adequate for the town. Rogers was a real draw in the middle, and Footlocker, Bookland, Blockbuster Music and a slew of other chains had locations as well. Then Wal-Mart, in their kill all competitors fashion, built a Supercenter right behind the mall and vacated their old building. It sat empty for years until Aronov, the mall's manager, decided to subdivide the space. A total exterior renovation commenced.
Shots of Southgate taken during the mid 2000s.
When I last visited in late 2004, the garish stripes were a thing of the past, buried underneath a coating or two of standard beige paint. Once they were gone, I realized that I kind of miss the old stripes. They gave the place personality. Albeit an ugly and insane personality, but a personality nonetheless. Stores like Hibbet, Radio Shack and Cato had moved into the building, but with only exterior entrances, giving the outside of the complex a strip mall look. On the inside, there was a jewelery place, a Chinese buffet, a Merle Norman that seemed to operate by appointment only, and Roger's. To my surprise, the local department store was still bright and open for business.
L- The old Woolco/Wal-Mart gets subdivided. R- The unfortunate present day footprint of Southgate Mall.
More businesses moved into the front of the old Wal-Mart, including a Tractor Supply Store. A Walgreens Health Initiative facilty took up much of the building's square footage not abutting the parking lot while the rest of the mall was struggling but still holding on. And I was still rooting for Rogers, one of the very last small town based department stores surviving into the new millenium, outlasting institutions like Parisian and Castner Knott.
Interior shots of Southgate. Some things never change. How unfortunate.
Unfortunately, Rogers would succumb to the present day economic realities and would meet its inevitable fate. Dallas based Dunlap's took control of the store, then announced its closing. Rather unceremoniously, another great regional department store met its end. Hopefully Southgate Mall, as tacky as it may be, will not meet the same fate.
Here's to Rogers.
7 January 2015