Greenbriar Mall Mallmanac ca. 2003. View the full PDF version here.
Greenbriar Mall was another of those road-trip malls that would catch my attention as we flew by on the interstate. Trips south on Atlanta's beltway, 285, would bring us in close proximity to the unassuming boxy building that seemed to stretch out for miles along the horizon. All I could see was the JCPenney, a few skylights and elements of mid-century modern architecture that I had developed an appreciation for. They all combined to make Greenbriar look much larger than it actually was. In fact, I was pretty disappointed when I found out just how relatively small it was.
A 2003 view of Greenbriar Mall, when Rich's was still around.
Greenbriar, although opened in 1965 when malls were still a new concept, was aleady the third enclosed shopping mall to be built in greater Atlanta. This was a primary indicator that the metroplex would one day be extensively overmalled, which it quickly became. Greenbriar Center, as it was called at the time, premiered with a JCPenney and a Rich's bookending the cavernous common area. But perhaps the mall is best known as the home of the very first mall location of Chik-Fil-A, a name ubiquitous to even the most run down of southern shopping malls.
L- Greenbriar Mall at its 1965 opening. R- Greenbriar as of this writing.
Although I first saw the mall from my back seat vantage point in the mid-eighties, I never actually visited it until 2003. It had one of my favorite elements of these first generation malls- a lower level basement dedicated to non-traditional mall vendors and service providers. It was dark and a bit spooky down the long and wide staircase, but it may just have been that I was visiting so early in the morning. The rest of the mall featured wide corridors, high ceilings and an overall scale that one simply does not find in modern centers.
Greenbriar Mall has fallen and risen over the years, adapting to and capitalizing on the changing demographics of the surrounding neighborhood. It still seemed pretty healthy on my one visit a decade ago, and hopefully Greenbriar will keep bucking the trend of these early generation malls within diverse trade areas simply being left to rot.