Madison Square Mall; Huntsville, Alabama

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A city known for its pioneering efforts in the arena of space travel, Huntsville, Alabama is the boomchild of the space race.  With a popuation of just 16,000 residents in 1950, Huntsville had 72,000 people by 1960 and an impressive 140,000 by 1970.  Today, Rocket City has 170,000 residents, with over 500,000 in the metropolitan area.

Huntsville’s retail scene consists of two super-regional enclosed malls, Parkway Place and Madison SquareAnother, much smaller mall existed downtown until 2007, and another regional mall exists in Decatur, about 30 minutes away. 

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

Madison Square Mall is not only the Huntsville region’s largest mall, but one of the largest malls in Alabama at over 900,000 square feet.  The mall opened in 1984 anchored by JCPenney, Sears, Birmingham-based Parisian, Nashville-based Castner Knott, and Birmingham-based Pizitz.  In the early days, Madison Square also had junior anchors Blach’s and Yielding. 

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, ALThrough the years, several anchor changes and a couple renovations have taken place at the two-level mall, leaving only Sears and JCPenney as original anchor stores open to this day.  Blach’s closed in 1987 and was replaced by Limited and Victoria’s Secret.  Pizitz was acquired by Jackson, MS-based McRae’s and operated under that banner until it was swallowed up by Belk in 2006.  Castner Knott, a Mercantile store, got eaten by Dillard’s along with all the other Mercantile stores in 1998.  Parisian was one of the last to change when the entire chain got converted to the Belk nameplate in 2007.  As a result, the already-existing Belk moved to the larger former Parisian location, and the Belk which was McRae’s is currently vacant.  Lastly, Yielding closed in 1993 and spent the next ten years as Castner Knott/Dillard’s Men’s store, and most recently is a Steve and Barry’s location. 

Major mall renovations took place in 1994 and again in 2006.  However, Madison Square Mall is considerably dated compared to its smaller across-town rival, Parkway Place, which was constructed in 2002 on the site of the former Parkway City Mall.  Today, Madison Square is decidedly playing second fiddle to Parkway Place in terms of both store offerings and vacancy rates.  Nonetheless, Madison Square holds its own and is still a very viable destination. 

The pictures featured with this post were taken by me in March 2008.  As usual, feel free to leave your comments, expriences, reactions, and statements. 

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL

 

50 Responses to “Madison Square Mall; Huntsville, Alabama”

  1. Am I seeing the labelscar correctly? Is Radio Shack actually one of the FIRST to leave a mall for a change?

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  2. heh the best picture is the Facts store ;)

    i enjoyed reading your article. keep em comin.

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  3. No, CoryTJ, that’s a Peanut Shack storefront. Very rare nowadays.

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  4. I live in Huntsville, AL and have been going to Madison Square Mall since spring 1988. I’ve seen it go from a first-class mall over the past few years to a mall that I fear is irreversible decline. In late 2006, a rule was instituted at the mall that disallowed people under 18 from being alone in the mall. Even younger people who worked there were harassed if they went to the food court to get something to eat while working. Younger shoppers have been put off by it as well. I have a 27 year old friend who was asked to show his ID to prove his age. Malls have generally been known as areas that attracted young shoppers. Even if some of those young shoppers are problematic, they grow up to be older shoppers who think of the mall as a great climate-controlled place to shop. 17-year-olds grow up to be 20-something-year-olds eventually (quite quickly, actually, in the general scheme of things).

    What appears to have happened is now we have a bunch of younger shoppers who think of the mall as a very “lame” place to be and take pride in the fact that they never go there anymore.

    Madison Square lost an anchor last year thanks to Belk buying Parisian, moving into their store, and closing the old Pizitz/McRaes space that they’d just recently moved into a couple of years earlier. The anchor space had been there empty for a while with no signs of anything (such as a Macy’s or other chain) moving in or “coming soon”.

    The old junior anchor “Yielding” space, which was later the Castner Knott men’s store, then later the Dillard’s men’s store, was taken over by Steve and Barry’s a few years ago after Dillard’s downsized and moved their entire store back into the original Castner Knott store. I’ve read in several places that Steve and Barry’s is in trouble and that could cause another large vacancy.

    We just lost The Disney Store a month or two ago, and that entire lower wing (the western lower wing) is becoming mostly vacant.

    The mall has many stores that are second-tier ones that have simply moved into a former “big-name” store and put their sign up and placed their merchandise into the old store with little or no change. Often, you can see the old sign or scars from the old sign from the original business behind the new sign. The edges of the Kirkland’s sign can be seen sticking out of the edges of the sign for the urban clothing store that replaced it. L I Z Z I E S, in big tacky letters, is over the old Wolf Camera sign, complete with the scars for where the old sign was attached. It’s a fun mall to play the “What store did that used to be?” game. How many times has the old Gadzooks store been reused as other things, with the original walls and holes for the TVs intact? I’ve lost count!

    I’d say that 2005 was the last “really good year” for that mall. In 2006, when the remodeling started, a big mistake was made. The escalators were shut down and closed off on the western end, making it impossible for people to walk in a loop around the mall without going through the (then) Belk store. Especially hurt were the stores on the lower western wing, except for Hot Topic. Young people will find a way to that store regardless, but the others suffered. Speaking of the escalators, before the new ones were put in, there were often one or two of them not working from 2004 on. Even after the new ones were installed, there were often one or two that wouldn’t work. Finally in 2008, the escalators seem to be reliable again after 4 or 5 years of problems. Thousands of Chrismas shoppers seeing that and having to walk up broken escalators for 4 years likely gave the impression that the mall owners no longer cared about the facility.

    At the mall, I remember the crowds from the late 80s and early 90s in the months leading up to Christmas, and remember how hard it was to find a seat in the food court at lunch time because it was such a major lunch destination for so many in Research Park nearby. For those who wanted better than fast food, there was Morrison’s Cafeteria, Ruby Tuesday, and American Cafe. Well, Morrison’s became Piccadilly and soon closed around 2003. Ruby Tuesday suddenly closed around 2005 or 2006 (which saddened me because there were so many good memories from meeting friends there). American Cafe closed in early January 2007. A waiter there told me that the teenager ban tripled the business the first weekend it was implemented, but then it died off really hard. That left the mall with no sit-down full-service restaurant until Buffalo Wild Wings moved into the old Ruby Tuesday space much later that year. The mall ceased to be a lunch destination and the food court is in a sad state nowadays. During the past few years, it lost all of its major “name brand” places like Arby’s, Taco Bell, and McDonalds. There’s never a problem finding a seat because the offerings are poor and the place is mostly empty. Buffalo Wild Wings seems to be doing pretty well, but it’s not drawing the large numbers of people to the mall at lunch like the old food court and restaurants did.

    Madison Square Mall is not dead at this point, but I believe if a second large anchor leaves, it could start the same type of irreversible decline I’ve seen at so many other malls. From 1988 to 2006, I walked in that mall, on the average, once a day. Now, it’s down to twice a week or less.

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  5. Despite not being from the area, I think the cause of Madison Square’s decline is what I call “management sockpuppetry”. You see, Madison Square and Parkway Place are both owned by CBL. Obviously CBL has been paying attention to Parkway Place over Madison Square. Management sockpuppetry also brought Northwest Plaza down because Westfield neglected the mall while paying attention to its other malls in the St. Louis area.

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  6. What I think should be done is rip out the food court for some big box store…maybe Target and then gut the old Belk for a new food court and ice rink. That would be a start…

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  7. There’s no way that Target will move into that mall. A target store opened out west on US 72 from the mall back in 2000 or 2001 and that large shopping center caused many shoppers to go to that big spread out strip-center instead of Madison Square. Madison Square lost some stores because of that center, then lost some more when the Bridge Street outdoor center opened.

    I think Madison Square needs to

    1. Eliminate the teenager ban or change the “teenage ban age” from 18 to 16 and simply up the security a bit to get rid of the teenagers that do cause trouble. If they’d just done that to start with in late 2006, the troublemakers would have been gone and the place would still have a positive energy to it on the two busiest shopping nights of the year.

    2. Try to recruit some good name-brand stores to enter the mall. Why isn’t Macy’s or some other department store chain interested in moving into the empty anchor spot?

    3. When escalators stop, get them running again as soon as possible. Don’t let them sit there for hours not running. If they won’t keep running, get the repairmen there right away.

    4. Get some kind of full-service restaurants to fill the American Cafe and old Morrison’s spots as soon as possible, even if they’re local places. Madison Square needs to become a lunch and destination for people in Research Park again, as well as a dinner destination for more people. People who work in nearby Research Park have money and many will walk in the mall after eating and shop a little. Word of mouth would bring more people with money to the mall more often.

    5. Huntsville has a large scientific and engineering community. However, there is no real electronics store since Video Concepts went out. I used to buy audio and video equipment there. Maybe try to encourage Electronics Express from Nashville to put a store in? Radio Shack as the only “electronics place” just doesn’t cut it these days.

    6. Make it a rule that a business can’t have an annoying device that detects customer entry and makes an annoying loud noise. That makes customers want to run away and never come back.

    7. Don’t allow the survey goons from Facts to stand at the bottom of escalators to ask people if they want to do market surveys, especially at lunch. People find this annoying and it’s especially annoying if I want to walk in the mall, passing them several times, without being bothered. I’m sure JCPenney doesn’t appreciate them being so close to their lower level entry either. These people should have to stand in a place where people can walk around them and avoid them if they want.

    8. Keep the paper towel dispensers and soap dispensers in the restrooms operational and stocked. Department stores do a good job of keeping restrooms in good shape (except Sears, which doesn’t even have doors on all their stalls). I remember one paper tower machine being out for months in the restroom near the food court.

    9. Get the security staff to be positive, friendly, and helpful rather than hostile. One evening, a couple of friends and I were sitting in the chairs in front of the arcade and food court talking about computer stuff and one of the security people came up and pointed and said to my friend in a loud gruff voice, “Get your feet off the table!”, because he had his foot propped on a little table in front of the chairs. I’m 40 years old and the other two were 21 or older and the guy talked to my friend as if he were a kid.

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  8. When I said “two busiest shopping nights of the year”, I meant week, of course. The mall used to be so busy on Saturday nights that they’d block traffic from driving in front of the entrance closest to the food court to make it easier for customers to go to and from their cars. They quit doing that a couple of years ago.

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  9. “6. Make it a rule that a business can’t have an annoying device that detects customer entry and makes an annoying loud noise. That makes customers want to run away and never come back.”

    How tacky! I thought that was only for convenience stores.

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  10. Interesting, I am actually wondering how this mall is surviving, despite it’s lack of selection. Does anyone else think that the Belk entrance look similar to a sears entrance? They both have the “tiled” look.

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  11. @ Chris for #6, I would agree with you. I may sound stupid, but if I go into a store and hear that I shreek with disapproval, and get a headache very quickly. It’s very annoying.

    Also, I do agree that more sit-down restaurants would attract a lunch/diner crowd.
    Thus putting more money into the mall.

    More security, and less bitterness could actually improve the mall. However it is understandable if someone is swimming in fountains, or yelling at the top of their lungs, to be strict about it. I was in Big Lots the other day, and these kids wanted to park their bikes inside the store, which I thought was obviously not something you do. But apparently they didn’t have much common sense.

    @ Jonah I would agree that this mall does need another anchor to fill empty space. Perhaps a TJ Maxx, or Marshall’s could help, see as they are “bargain” stores that appeal to the economy.

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  12. How many Spencer Gifts still have that sign? I had not seen one like that in a long time, until I went to Cordova Mall in Pensacola, FL last year.

    Looking at a map of Huntsville, this mall is several miles away from Parkway Place, but close to the new lifestyle center Bridge Street Town Centre. But it still ashamed to see it in this shape, it is such a nice mall. Also, on the bird’s eye view on MSN maps, you can see the mall is surrounded by several big box stores and shopping centers, some of them look very new too. Maybe sometimes when all the big box stores get built around a mall that was built over 20 years ago, the mall gets left behind and is nothing but an afterthought of the area. Shoppers will go to all the big box stores first, and then go to the mall if they can’t find what they need at one of the shopping centers, or if they need something at one of the department stores. This mall kind of reminds of me The Esplanade Mall in Kenner, LA, it is about the same size as Madison Square and was built around the same time in 1985. They lost their Disney Store too, as well as many other stores this year like Watch Station, Sanrio, and others that have went out of business like demo, Bombay Co, and Freidman ‘s Jewelers, and the mall is starting to look empty. Although Macy’s is about to reopen there store there after being closed for almost 3 years because of hurricane Katrina. Maybe that will reignite some interest in the mall for some other retailers. I hope some store can fill the empty anchor at Madison Square. That would help a lot. And definitely do away with the teen band, and beef up the security. It is bad enough that mall has lost stores; you don’t want to lose any more customers. And get escalators working in a timely manner; never leave them off for a long time. Even the old Hammond Square in Hammond, LA had ALL escalators working in its last week of business.

    Madison Square still has several good stores. If it is able to keep most of these stores and get a new anchor, even if it is a TJ Maxx or Burlington Coat Factory, I think it could be around for a while.

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  13. The Swansea Mall in Swansea, MA still has that type of Spencer Gifts sign – which doesn’t surprise me since most of the stores have older storefronts.

    I have to disagree with some about lifting the ban on teenagers on Friday and Saturday nights. I work in a mall store and I know firsthand that most teens don’t buy anything when they come to the mall on those nights – the majority just fool around and cause problems – I can’t tell you how many customers at the store I work at complain about the “kids” in the mall and how they would never come back to the mall at that time. These are the people that are actually spending money.

    I hope this mall does turn around – it looks like the owners still have faith in the mall investing money in a renovation – I really like the retro columns and lights – its contemporary but not too over the top. But they could have done a better job on the mall entrances though – they already look really dated and they stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the exterior.

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  14. I just happened to be in Huntsville this summer. The mall looked like such a bland and boring 80’s mall that I had no interest in even visiting. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time…it looks dreary, plain and boring inside as well. I’m sure when it opened it was more impressive, but those “renovations” did what they always do…strip them of everything that makes them fun to shop at. What I did visit when I was there was Parkway Place Mall, which was quite attractive for a mall of its vintage (considering it was still plain, but a bit better than most). I was always more interested in Parkway Place because of its history, so I wanted to see it for myself. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of Parkway Place…it was a bit too busy and I just didn’t feel that excited about taking pics of one of the newer malls. While Parkway Place is uptown for Huntsville, it was about mid-market by Atlanta standards. Parkway Place, however, had gone a long way to keep the retail corridor along US 231 viable while the area around Madison Square is looking like it’s showing its age.

    Huntsville had a wild mall history…at one time in the early 70’s they had four malls in a row that all co-existed successfully but all of those are gone now except Parkway Place, which is basically the reinvention of the small and plain Parkway City Mall. The other malls were Dunnavant’s Mall (anchor: Dunnavant’s-still standing w/o Dunnavant’s), The Mall “Come See Our Beautiful Fountain” (d: 1995, original anchors: JCPenney and Loveman’s) and Heart of Huntsville Mall (d: 2007, original anchor Sears). Parkway City had Pizitz (McRae’s), Parisian and Montgomery Ward. Considering how many interesting little malls died because of Madison Square, it hardly saddens me to hear of its demise.

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  15. Speaking of renovations — the 2006 renovation made the mall look much better. Originally, the mall had wood floor tile and the skylights had a yellow tint that made everything darker, and the mall wasn’t originally as well-lit at night. It seemed that originally, the focus as one walked up a 70s or early 80s mall was on the lit storefronts rather than the mall corridor itself. As a kid, it was like going up a main street of a busy town at night, except walking instead of driving.

    In 1994, the mall was remodeled and brightened up, which gave it a brighter, more cheerful appearance. This was done in many malls in the early to mid 1990s. At Madison Square, they chose really cheap-looking white floor tile for the 1994 change. It looked OK for a few years, but as time went on, the mall began to have a cheap, “ghetto” feel to it.

    After the nearby Target shopping center opened, the mall began losing some businesses to it. That started the decline of the facility, in my opinion. The same thing happens in most cities. The mall gets built, then later come the surrounding shopping centers, at which point the mall loses tenants and instead of all of the shopping being at the mall, it’s spread out to all of the centers around it. Similarly, the restaurants that were in the mall that were the destinations get competition from ones built later around it.

    Bridge Street opening not far away in November 2007 really hurt the place, sucking away at least 5 tenants. That, combined with the trend of major department store chains buying each other, resulting in an empty anchor that no chain seems interested in, is not helping things. Steve and Barry’s is rumored to close soon, and the Starbucks near the food court is reported to be closing soon. I’d say if one more department store anchor goes out, the spiral of decline will be irreversible.

    I was in this mall on Sunday. Yes, an escalator was out the whole time. Typical Madison Square. They just don’t care.

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  16. Hi – great thread! I used to work in the McRae’s there from ’92-’97. I quit when I graduated college and moved to Nashville. This really saddens me to see, what was once a premiere mall – and the best one in Huntsville, to be in such bad shape! As far as that anchor being vacant, McRae’s never put money into the AL stores – they were always treated as stepchildren of the stores in MS. This changed somewhat when Proffitt’s bought McRae’s and later Parisian (the AL retail demigod). I can go on and on about how bad Proffitt’s chain of acquisitions was but that’s for a different blog… Proffitt’s invested money in McRae’s the men’s area but that was it.

    The anchor spot itself is small, approx 99,000 sq ft if I remember correctly, and the infrastructure is old. If anyone was to move into the existing spot, major renovations will have to take place. Also, don’t expect a Macy’s to move in anytime soon for two reasons (1) they will not touch a spot that small (2) they have a reciprocal agreement with Dillard’s not to compete in the same markets – there are limited exceptions to this as a result of acquisitions made by Dillard’s and (then) Federated stores.

    In any event, Macy’s is no longer a nice place to shop anyway. When they entered Nashville, after purchasing May Co. stores, they were met with little fan fare. It’s the same merchandise available from every other retailer.

    I am going to throw in my plug here about Belk’s purchase of Parisian – which was always my favorite place to shop. They got it at a fire sale price – Parisian was broke – they had been broke for YEARS. I personally feel they should have been purchased by the investors that bought Lord & Taylor and they should have operated the 2 divisions. They had similar merchandise, did not overlap geographically, and L&Ts experience of turning around a sinking ship may have saved the Parisian name. Yes it is still around in MI as part of Bon-Ton, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

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  17. I work in this mall and have for a few years. With all the major stores closing and relocating it has brought in several local stores as mentioned earlier. These stores tend to attract a demographic that is not the type that you see at malls with higher end stores. It’s a whole different crowd here now as opposed to when it first opened. There have been two different occasions when they have had to shut the entire mall down due to fights on a near riot level. I origianlly worked at parkway mall and was transferred to this mall along with several other employees. Two of the other employees were teenagers who’s parents forced them to quit their jobs because they didn’t feel it was safe for their child to come to work in this environment. If the larger stores (such as Macy’s) were to come in that would certainly help, but wouldn’t fix all the problems this mall has. There needs to be a way found to attract the higher end crowd or the people who are here to honestly shop. They could start by enforcing a dress code, and allowing the security guards to take steps to make this a safe friendly environment. When I hear a group walk by using lanquage I would never want my child to hear and see the security guard standing nearby doing nothing I think it’s easy to see why this mall is dying. This has truly become a mall for the lower demographic. I personally do not shop in this mall anymore. I along with so many others will drive the exta 10 min. down the road to go to parkway place, or bridgestreet. I have talked to the security guards here, and they have personly told me that the mall office has tied their hands when it comes to enforcing their duties. They no longer have the power to hold a shoplifter or even search a would be theif. They all seem rather frustrated about the whole situation, and now have a who cares attitude about it. The store owners i have talked to are despondent about their situation here, and if it were’t for the lease you would find yourself a few stores short ( i.e. amrerican eagle and buckle). Sales are down and unlikley to rebound. The mall is becoming so desperate for new stores to fill the gaps that they are now acquiring a sex shop in the east wing of the mall. To any who doubt how bad this mall has become i urge you to visit it on a saturday night. Sit down and watch as the parade of the dregs of society walk by ironically without a shopping bag in tow.

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  18. I was in the mall not long back and noticed that “Pleasures” was moving in, and was a bit surprised to see it moving in. It’s moving into a wing that has been relatively dead for a long time — the wing near JCPenney.

    3 of the 4 escalators in the mall area were out that day! They just don’t care!

    There have always been people who hung around in the mall who didn’t shop much. Since I’ve walked in that mall since spring of 1988 (but not so much recently), I can remember many groups of people who hung out there as teenagers, and many of them became employees of stores later on when they got a year or two older.

    I’m a misfit since I was a mall walker, but up until recent years, I spent a large amount of money there each year. The problem is that there isn’t as much to shop for there. It used to be the place to look for CDs and DVDs, for clothes that I couldn’t find anywhere else (remember all the specialty shops that sold guys’ clothing that all went out years ago), and even electronics (Video Concepts got a good chunk of money from me in the early to mid 1990s before they closed).

    I walked in the mall for exercise, to look around in the many stores that interested me, and to speak to people I knew who worked all around there. Losing so many stores took away many things that interested me. Too many of the stores sell the same kind of stuff. American Eagle, Buckle, and Pacific Sunwear all sell jeans and khakis and stuff. I have 117 pairs of jeans and 400 pairs of pants at least, and 300 shirts. I look for interesting, uncommon things. Back in the days of Jeans West and Oak Tree and Fine’s and Merry Go Round, stores sold clothing that was different than what could be found elsewhere. Around 1993, the dulling down of Men’s Fashion began and the elimination of interesting colors began, and all of those stores I mentioned were soon gone. We lost the electronics store, Video Concepts, in 1995. We used to have 3 stores selling CDs: Camelot Music, Record Bar, and Tape World. Now we have the one “fye”, which is a shadow of what it was when it opened in that large space where Big B was. All of the mall record stores bought each other until there was one left. Suncoast used to have the deepest DVD selection and was the best place to find a hard-to-find movie. Best Buy started beating them on selection and Suncoast was bought and closed and assimilated into the “fye” store, taking some space formerly dedicated to CDs.

    Loss of Ruby Tuesday and The American Cafe hurt really bad. Buffalo Wild Wings is nice to have, but I still miss the other sit-down restaurants. Heck, I miss Morrison’s Cafeteria too. Loss of these places stopped a lot of the lunch traffic from Research Park and other places, which I feel hurt the mall tremendously since many of those people coming for lunch would walk around and shop a little before going back to work.

    Seeing so many empty stores gives a negative impression on visitors and makes them less likely to return. The wing on the lower level beween the center court and the escalators going up on the Sears end is mostly empty and very sad.

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  19. Tonight, a kid came close to falling 18 to 20 feet on the up escalator near JCPenney. Around 4:25, the kid decided to walk up the railing on the right side of the “up” escalator while holding onto the rubber hand railing. The kid was tall enough that his arms could go over the rubber hand railing to hold on. There was nothing but a backward drop from where the kid walked up, and if his mother hadn’t raced up the escalator and grabbed him to pull him over the railing onto the steps part, the kid would have had no place to go and would likely have kept trying to hold onto the railing until it moved past where he could hold on, and would probably have let go and fallen backwards 18-20 feet down onto the first floor.

    I was on the second level near JCPenney and heard a bunch of commotion and saw it. Several adults who saw it were panicking over it. After a few minutes, I decided to go to the mall office to tell them about it and about how the kid was able to go up the outside edge of the escalator and that some kind of obstacle(s) should probably be placed there. Two ladies were in the office. The one sitting at the desk smiled and looked at me like I was crazy. I thought, “OK. You don’t care, but I felt it was my duty to report it.” (I didn’t say that of course).

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  20. Pfft…..Kids these days ;)

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  21. This mall has no appeal to me anymore, even after the much needed renovation. After two trips with escalators out and obnoxious people talking loudly and using profanity, I have little or no reason to ever go back. Even the mall-walkers there were rude and would cut in front of shoppers as shoppers tried to enter stores. Maybe they should install a walking track to help business.

    I reluctantly returned one time in the past two years to reserve a tux for my son because he was living out of state and was coming in to be in a wedding. The renovations looked good, but the clientele had not improved. As a parent, I would not take my daughter here to hang out when she was in high school. She went with a friend and her friends mother and hated it. She hasn’t been back since.

    You are right that HH Gregg, Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart has hurt the mall music/electronic shops, but internet music availability has created a dying market for the malls anyway.

    It would be nice to see that mall cleaned out. That part of town is deteriorating rapidly, though with all the stores going out around the mall. Bridgestreet merchants are having a tough time, so maybe some of the retailers will work their way back for cheaper rental space

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  22. Since I last left a comment, Steve and Barry’s has closed and Friedman’s Jewelry has closed. Also, that smoothie place at the bottom of the escalators on the Sears end (Oasis I think) has closed.

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  23. Great Pictures. The renovations improved the property, but it’s too little, too late. (2 years too late according to some lease agreements).

    I have so many great memories of Madison Square (The SuperMall… it’s early tag-line).
    • The fountains were fascinating to me. The one at the bottom of the Sears escalators was my favorite as I would wonder how they made the water spray out in spheres. The fountain that shot above the 2nd floor railings was great too, as was dropping coins in when riding down. Parisian’s fountain with its iron birds is also missed.

    • I always would ask my mom why the floor upstairs (parquet) was different than the floor downstairs (ceramic tile, brown) ? She never had a good answer.

    • I, too, remember waiting for a table in the food court for what seemed like forever. People would sit on the marble tile planters to eat their food on very busy days. That was when TIME-OUT and Hakky Shoe was where the vacant American Cafe now sits. We could chose from McDonald’s, Corn Dog 7, TJ Cinnamon’s, Chic-Fil-a, Sakkio, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Crackers, Manchu Wok, Sbarro, Frank & Stein, and very very early on, Orange Julius. Yum. There was also that weird Import store that occupied TIME-OUT’s last space.

    •On the topic of food, my dad would always take me to David’s Cookies on the mezzanine of Parisian… to let my mom and sister shop sans whining. That was when regional department stores had cool things like that in them.

    • Pizitz had a huge talking Christmas tree in the children’s department. Someone was inside it, and you would tell it what you wanted for Christmas. Odd.

    • If we went with my grandmother, we always ate at Morrison’s. And then she would take us to the Toy department of Pizitz. Later with many more grandchildren added, she would take us to the dollar store. We loved it.

    • We ate at The Rocket City Cafe, which is now Lone-Star, right after the mall opened. My grandfather decreed it was too loud and not anything like 1950’s dining (not the concept, I do not think), thus blacklisting it.

    • The Lerner Shop had that weird round room at the back of it. Gotta love Limited Corp’s store design team of the mid-80’s. It’s now home to Suzuki of Huntsville or Driving 2000. Sad.

    “The Big Mall” used to have such an energy. Now it needs life support.

    I worked at Madison Square from 1997 – 2001. The mall had undergone its 1st renovation at this time and I have to say from the get-go it was tacky. Gone were the wood floors, replaced with cheap ceramic tile in baby blue and pale pink. Sick. The soaring skylights were trimmed in neon. Gross. The mall, like so many during this time, removed all the fountains. Sad. I’m sure they were a liability and the cost to keep them outweighed the benefit, but I hated to seem them eliminated.

    Let’s be clear, Madison Square was never an upscale mall. But it was vibrant. However, It will never return. Across the street you have vacant spaces of Linen’s N Things, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, Lane Home Furnishings, Best Buy(Moving to Bridgestreet), and Circuit City(chapter 11). I expect these to be a healthy mix of antique malls and thrift stores in the next 3 years. There is also the vacant TJMaxx space in Madison Plaza. I agree with the earlier post about Macy’s… No way will they touch such a small anchor space. If they were to modify their agreement with Dillard’s and open a store in the city, it would most likely go to Bridgestreet or they would build a store on the backlot of Parkway Place(it was designed to have a 3rd anchor). And as for the next anchor to go from Madison Square…my money is on JCP. They now like to locate at Target Shopping centers to compete with Kohl’s. There is a lot of land around the University Target. A lot of empty retail space too.

    Cynicism aside, I love remembering the mall like it was. I’ve tried to get my hands on an opening day store directory to no avail. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

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  24. Add Waldenbooks to the list of stores giving up on Madison Square. They’ve started a closing sale and will be out soon (January 21, I think).

    I still remember the days of not being able to find a seat at the food court during lunch. This was in the late 80s and early 90s.

    The 1994 remodel did brighten the mall up a lot, but I agree that the floor tile used did look really cheap. It was cheap white title with a few colored tiles here and there in patterns. The food court was hurt by the redesign because it no longer encouraged people to walk around the outside edge of it past most of the places. Instead, people walked past the arcade, sbarro, and Manchu Wok only, bypassing all of the others. McDonalds ended up stuck in the back corner with no traffic and closed eventually.

    Another thing that put a stop to the remaining people walking around the food court was the annoying practice by some of the places of having a person standing in the middle of the walkway asking everyone if they wanted a sample and almost pushing pieces of chicken on toothpicks in people’s faces.

    Parkway Place Mall now has their food court places doing that and it’s so annoying that I no longer walk through theirs. I expect theirs will decline as well since the mall doesn’t have “annoyance control” in place.

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  25. K B Toys will be closing on January 29. They’ve been having a going out of business sale since Christmas. Waldenbooks is now dark (which closed January 24, not Jan. 21 as I stated in my last comment), with the stock left in the store when it closed still in there as of yesterday.

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  26. I have absolutely no desire to shop at this mall anymore. Most of the stores that I like to shop at have either moved out or they are at Bridge Street or Parkway Place. Madison Square is like a ghost town now. Most of the spaces are vacant or have been filled with stores that I never go in. I don’t like to go there anymore because of the crowd that this mall attracts. Most of the people who go there aren’t there to shop. Most are there to cause trouble or loiter. I used to work in Research Park, so I would shop there during my lunch hour before the mall started to get worse. Now that I stay at home, I just go to Parkway Place because it is closer to my house and has all of the stores where I will spend money. If I do want to shop on Madison Sqare Mall’s end of town, I’ll drive exta 5-10 minutes to Bridge Street. That end of town is really going down hill. With the stores surroung the mall going bankrupt or moving out to Bridge Street, I can’t imagine that it will improve but only get worse. I remember when that mall used to be the place to shop. We went there for all of our Christmas shopping and everything else up until the last 3 years. It’s just not a safe place anymore. It’s such a shame too, because it was once a nice facility. Now, most of the restrooms are dirty, the tables in the food court don’t look clean, everything looks out of date, and the stores in that mall aren’t places that most people I know would shop in. It’s a total joke. You really can tell that the owners aren’t paying attention to it or they simply quit caring a long time ago. I’d love to see that mall get a make-over and be revived, but somehow, I doubt that will ever happen.

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  27. Cate, what’s sad is the mall did undergo a big renovation in 2006, but it didn’t help. Although it did improve the appearance a bit (a big improvement over the cheap white floor tile), it didn’t stop the exodus of so many stores.

    I still go to that mall to walk, and find that there is less that interests me in terms of buying things. I used to spend an average of $20 a day in that mall, or more. When the mall lost Morrison’s, Ruby Tuesday, and American Cafe, it lost a lot of the Research Park lunch crowd. By the time Buffalo Wild Wings opened, people were out of the habit of going to the mall for lunch, and having only one full-service place isn’t going to keep lunch crowds coming.

    In comparison to a few years ago, I notice a lack of security people walking around (except of Friday and Saturday night to run off younger people, creating a negative atmosphere for anyone under 24 who might get asked to show their ID if they look young). Escalators stop constantly and often aren’t turned back on for long periods.

    I don’t think of the mall as “dangerous” and have always felt safe there, even to this day. I’m just saddened by all of the store closings and the deteriorations of the ones that are there.

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  28. The Game Stop location on the lower level is now closed. That used to be EB Games and Electronic Boutique a long time ago, and a Tanius Shoes in the early 90s). The escalators used to come down right in front of that store, but when the escalators moved a distance down the way near JCPenney, it probably cut the traffic to that store. Also, the two game stores in the mall ended up being owned by the same company, so they no longer felt the need to have 2. Software Etc. was upstairs and EB downstairs.

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  29. I don’t allow my kids in there any more. It’s what has become known as the “ghetto mall”. Too much black attitude, and too much ebonic profanity. It’s a doomed mall waiting to die. I predict it’ll be a flea market within 5 years. Parkway place, the other mall in town is clean and family friendly, I’ll go there from now on. Recommend you do the same. there have been fights, stabbings and general thug behavior on a regular basis, and it’s only getting worse.

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    Mack Lyons Reply:

    @Steve Gentry, it cracks me up to see people describe a problem as being “black”, whether it’s “black attitudes” or a “black atmosphere”. Race is the least of Madison Square’s problems.

    This comment had to be addressed, no matter how old it was.

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  30. I agree. I don’t like going to this mall anymore. For one thing, it’s out of my way and not worth the drive on that end of town. Parkway Place is much closer to me and is much cleaner and safer. Also, I will spend money in most of the stores it has to offer. Madison Square Mall is dirty and isn’t safe. Every time I have had to make a trip to that mall, I notice more vacant spots. I think it’s on life support and is dying a slow death. With all of the vacant stores in and around the mall, I’m sure it’s going to go under, if it already hasn’t. I remember when Parkway Place was Parkway City Mall years ago and it was a run-down mall. It was eventually torn down and was re-built into a very nice facility. Maybe not all hope is gone. Maybe the same could happen for Madison Square one day, but for some reason, I don’t see it happening. My problem isn’t just the fact that the mall is so run-down, it’s the crowds that are attracted there. I do not go to that mall by myself and neither do my female friends or family memebers. They need better security and management that cares about the running of the mall.

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  31. I went to the Madison Square Mall the other day to shop at Sears. Sorry to see it in such sad shape. I actually worked setting up one of the original stores as a teenager before the mall opened. The mall was miles ahead of the other retail outlets in Huntsville at that time. The Parisian store was an elegant department store, with a cookie shop on the mezzanine, and there were many stores never seen in the area before, such as B.Dalton (or was it Waldebooks?), Blachs and Caster-Knot. Not an extremely high-end mall, but very nice.
    The other day, however, the parking lot was almost empty. The movie theater behind the mall is now showing second-run movies. Across the road, Barnes and Noble, Circuit City, a car dealership and other outlets are now empty. So, it appears that the entire area is in decline. Sad to see the beginning of the end.

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  32. That mezzanine area of Parisian at Madison Square changed a good bit over time. Either no idea worked well for that oddly-placed area or they just wanted to keep changing it. It’s an easy area for shoppers to miss because they tend to walk around the main floor areas on the lower and upper levels. That area was halfway between, requiring walking up or down steps or using the elevator (something mall shoppers tend to not do because of the escalators).

    In the early 90s, there was a sandwich shop there and I made use of it sometimes and ate lunch there. It didn’t last long, though. Back then, the mall was a huge lunch destination and it was often difficult to find a seat in the food court after getting food. There were more “name brand” fast food places in there then, plus Ruby Tuesday and Morrison’s were big draws.

    The most recent thing to come and go in that Parisian mezzanine area was Club Libby Lu. Now, it’s just a plain old little girls’ clothing department. Different merchandise had been tried there over the years and it seems the most logical thing to put there is something that someone coming into the store is looking for specifically and will go to the trouble to go to it. For example, if they put part of the men’s clothing section there, I’d probably not notice it for months and seldom go down to it.

    Belk changed very little about the store other than converting some of the non-retail space into retain when they moved into that old Parisian and I think they should have replaced those harsh metal-halide light fixtures lighting the middle area with some other type with a much higher CRI (color rendering index). It would make the store look better and the merchandise in that section more attractive.

    A big mistake Belk at Madison Square made was closing their men’s restroom for women’s use during the busiest shopping season late last year. It appeared that they were remodeling their restrooms. When they were done, the restroom hadn’t been remodeled at all. Evidentally, they remodeled the women’s one but not the men’s, and they had no men’s room for months.

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  33. Buckle at Madison Square now has signs stating that they’ll close January 11, 2010. It’ll be interesting to see what else leaves after the holiday season.

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  34. The Hallmark Card shop, a very long-term tenant, has a sign stating that they’ll close near the end of February. I believe that store is an original tenant that had never moved since the mall opened. I’ve noticed that some of the second-tier stores closed after the holiday season. The whatever-it-was store in the old Tanius Shoes/Electronics Boutique slot that used to be at the bottom of the east escalators before they were moved is now empty. It appears that every store on the lower level in the short wing leading to JCPenney is empty except for one.

    If one of the anchor stores leaves, this will become another Hickory Hollow or Century Plaza.

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  35. Last night, I observed that the “5 7 9″ store, a long-time tenant on the lower level near Belk (the old Parisian) is in the process of closing. It appeared that the “Footaction” store that is in the old large Merry-Go-Round location (lower level between center court and the escalators to Sears) was being partially emptied out, although there were no “closing” signs. This past week, one of the escalators on the JCPenney end has been out every time I’ve been, so I reversed my walking pattern so I’d always use the one that was working. One night, one of the escalators was out on the food court end and the security office is right next to the escalators in the old library branch location. The security folks didn’t even bother turning it back on.

    I’m wondering how long it will be before one of the main anchor stores leaves. Normally, I don’t see this level of decline in inline stores until 2 out of 5 of the main anchors have gone from a mall this size. I’m not even sure that getting a new department store to fill the void left in the old Pizitz space would reverse the decline here now, but I hope I’m wrong.

    The mall isn’t in as bad a shape as Hickory Hollow, but it’s starting to be a lot like East Towne Mall in Knoxville with so many vacancies. It would take a while for it to go completely down like Century Plaza or Mall of Memphis, but 3 years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see nearly everything but Sears closed there.

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  36. I hope that doesn’t happen. My family began visiting this mall shortly after it opened. Being from a small town over an hour away, we traveled to Huntsville monthly for several years in the mid-80s for orthodontist appointments. On almost every trip we would hit the mall before returning home.

    When I moved to Huntsville to attend UAH in ’93, I visited this mall frequently and saw a lot of movies at the Madison Square 12. I remember when the American Cafe opened and how busy it was initially.

    Working in Research Park, I still visit the mall 2 or 3 times a week for lunch. I still buy things at GNC, American Eagle, & Sears. Like everyone else, I’ve noted the store closings that have accelerated over the past 3 years. Hopefully its fortunes will change. I have a lot of good memories associated with this mall and hope it can weather these times.

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  37. I mentioned that the “Footaction” store was being emptied in my last comment on Jan. 29. The good news is it was moved temporarily to a smaller spot upstairs temporarily for a remodel of their downstairs store (formerly the large Merry-Go-Round store). Today (a Saturday) the mall was busy, but the number of empty stores is really hurting the atmosphere. Both escalators on the food court end leading up to the Sears entrance were out the whole time I was there today, making it impossible to walk a loop around the whole mall with working escalators. I doubt that any mall in the country has worse escalators than this one. They’ve had this problem at least since 2004 and replacing them with new ones did not fix the problem.

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  38. I remember Corn Dog 7 had the greatest corn dogs(with real batter) and the best seasoned fries in the 80’s. Like all malls, Madison Square had a good 15 to 20 year run until the next new mall opened. Also, the INTERNET made it a lot easier and cheaper to shop at home for books, cds and dvds.

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  39. I don’t allow my kids in there any more. It’s what has become known as the “ghetto mall”. Too much black attitude, and too much ebonic profanity. It’s a doomed mall waiting to die. I predict it’ll be a flea market within 5 years. Parkway place, the other mall in town is clean and family friendly, I’ll go there from now on. Recommend you do the same. there have been fights, stabbings and general thug behavior on a regular basis, and it’s only getting worse.

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  40. Madison Square mall has not gotten any better. Security and police officers still stand around and talk with each other or are flirting with employees in WET SEAL or VICTORIA SECRET. Saw two watching a game on a Saturday night outside of Buffalo Wildwings and not patrolling the mall. MASTERCUTS reported a man asleep outside their store in one of the seats. He had a gun in his lap. Security asked him to leave the mall, but he was back a few minutes later with another guy. Security is horrible.

    I am about to stop shopping in this mall. Everytime I go, I am looking at guys wearing their pants down around their knees and talking vulgar. Where are the guidelines for this place?

    Now, we hear that new office spaces are taking spots in the old McRae’s building, Steve and Barry’s old spot, and Picadilly’s old location. WHO WOULD WANT TO PUT OFFICES IN THIS GHETTO? Hopefully the military. At least they can carry guns.

    Today, I was talking with one of the store manager at Madison Square and she stated the mall office does not care. This is the day of the first snow of 2011. She stated at 8 a.m. this morning the mall was still opening. A little later the mall stated that small stores could open at noon and then around 10 a.m. that the entire mall was closed. She stated the mall manager does not care about the safety of the employees and always drags his feet on making decisions. She stated many employees live out in the county and have to drive in to the city. It’s a shame this man can not make quicker and better decisions. But, then again, look at the mall. The proof is in the pudding.

    There are a few shops I like better at Madison Square than I do at Parkway, but it is getting to difficult to continue shopping in a place that has no standards. Customer service is important to me, but my safety, and that of my family, is more important than anything Madison Square has to offer.

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  41. All I wants to know is where is the best places to shop in huntsville. I’ve never been there before and im gonna be visiting soon. Someone pls assist.

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    Rachael Reply:

    @Curious, The best places in Huntsville to shop would be, Bridgestreet or Parkway Place Mall. Bridgestreet has by far the best places to eat!

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  42. Dillard’s has officially “given up” on Madison Square and is in the process of converting their store to a clearance center. I was in the mall on July 25 and the Dillard’s looked like it was having a going out of business sale. A large part of the front of the lower level was empty and all racks have clearance signs on them. The cosmetic appearance of the store is going downhill fast. Signs saying “All Sales Final. No Returns. NoAdjustments.” are around. A lot of people will like the clearance center to hunt for good clothing items at lower prices, but it’s likely that it will result in one level of Dillard’s closing.

    The mall had already gone downhill, but I think this is the turning point that is going to send it spiraling downward even more rapidly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Belk close the Madison Square store within the next year or JCPenney to build a shiny new store elsewhere and close that location.

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  43. That mall looks absolutely gigantic…

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    Brent Reply:

    It is a fairly large mall especially for our size town. It still is the largest of the malls that we have in Huntsville.

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  44. @MSG Online, Belks is now announced that they are leaving Madison Square to build a new store at the close by Bridge Street Town Centre lifestyle center. This now leaves the Dilards clearence store which occupies only the top level of their space, JC Penney’s and Sears which I might add is the only one that is in the area. The end of the mall where JC Penney’s is located is starting to look like a ghost town. Most of the rest of the mall is okay, but there is now nothing really to choose from in the food court since Chick-Fil-A has ended their lease. So if you like asian food then maybe you will find something to eat there :-)

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  45. Pac-Sun closed last week.

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  46. I’m just curious to how this mall is doing now?
    I heard Electronic Express is moving in sometime soon. They usually have killer deals

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  47. Madison Square was a big deal when it opened 1n 1984 and maintained itself pretty well through the 1990’s. I moved from Huntsville in 1997 and haven’t visited since 2000, but I worked a few places in Madison Square during my time there. I hate to see that it has fallen on such hard times.

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