Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Old Mall

There's an old recurring skit from old time SNL. It featured a mall that was slowly dying because of the presence of the "new" mall down the road. The old mall now only featured stores such as "D & R Men's Hair Stylists," an upscale barber shop for men only, and "Puppy World," where, by then, the "puppies" all ate Cycle 4. Of course the "Scotch Boutique," where all that was sold was Scotch tape, was doing ok selling all the tape for the going out of business signs... *

Most of us have an "old mall" or shopping center in our area, suffering a similar fate. Growing up, it was the La Mirada Mall, which had the nicest theaters, but was soon relegated to $1 movies because of low traffic. The mall was also home to "Ice T-Shirts" (which didn't have anything to do with iced tea), and stores like "Willow and Lace," where your grandma would shop if she had a fire and had to replace all her doilies on the arms of her chairs. The mall didn't last long past this stage, as the electric bill to keep the corridor lights on for only 10% of the stores was likely too much for the landlord to pay.

Right next to my house is Mercado Del Lago. A nice shopping complex sitting right on the lake. Two lakefront restaurant sites with beautiful patios overlooking the water and room for 10-15 shops.

Since I've lived in Rancho, this center has been the one place that everyone wants to be good, but it's not. It's right there on the lake. Center of town. It should be good. It should be.

There's a Starbucks, of course. One of the restaurants with the lake patios has been there for 15 years and seems to do fine, but they close early on Sunday and Monday nights, because it's sooooo slow. It's a casual place with decent burgers, salad, and burrito type foods, decent prices, and a good beer variety. Virtually everything else in the center sucks. When I moved to Rancho, the other restaurant setting was a 50s diner, where we used to get $2 pitchers of beer, great burgers, and a sunset over the lake. When it closed, it was replaced by the first of six different, yet all unremarkable Italian places with bad service.

There are now two nail places and two salons. A travel agent and a tooth whitening place. A stark frozen yogurt shop with zero character (which replaced a gloomy, yet better, cheaper and busier frozen yogurt shop). A cigar shop, a dry cleaner, and a mail box/notary/ebay store. These are the highlights. These are the anchors.

It's depressing. I wish the city and/or the leasing company would do something to revive this place. Instead, they lease out space to new proprietors who open businesses like "Döner Sandwiches" (Yikes! Is it pronounced "donor" or "Donner?" Does it even matter? Either way, I'm not eating there! Doomed...) or the "Skintique Spa" (If that's not code for a spa that gives massages with happy endings, I don't know what is.).

A recent kicker is that the tenants were convinced that there was so little traffic because of the high goose population (stupid loud Canada geese!). So, they hired a company to lure the geese away (to the other side of the tiny little lake?). Now, the traffic is lower on this end of the lake, since the people go to the other side to let the kids feed the geese. Good move.

All is not lost, however. The geese got tired of being crowded out by the ducks and coots down at that end, so they came back. Now, Ralphs once again has a market for day old bread loaves (50 cents a bag!) and the kids are back in the swing of overfeeding the birds with nutritionally empty calories.

* I didn't remember these details about the SNL skits, just the gist. Wikipedia jogged my memory.


  1. Yep, our entire area was the toast of Houston 30 years ago. Now it's very poor and sometimes crime-ridden. How to revitalize places like that? I have no clue.

    You've got the lake going for you, though. Sure sounds like it should be great, like you said.

  2. Massages with happy endings? You say that like it's a bad thing.


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