Over the years we’ve spent a great deal of time investigating why malls die. We’ve found a great number of reasons, and one of the most popular of these has been competition. We hate to sound general, but it’s happened all over the place, and probably close to you too. The newer, shinier mall (replace ‘mall’ with ‘Lifestyle Center’ or ‘Big Box Power Center’ or whatever, same difference) becomes instantly popular and leaves the smaller, older center by the wayside. However, this process usually takes a while, typically at least several years if not longer before total dominance is shifted from one retail center/area to another, and the losing mall finally gives up and meets Mr. Bulldozer. However, that’s not necessarily the case here. What we’re about to investigate is rather unique, in that the dominance of one center shifted to another instantaneously; as one shiny new mall opened, the older, smaller mall was immediately abandoned, seemingly overnight.
First, a bit about the area. With just about 60,000 residents and over 150,000 in the metropolitan area, Jonesboro, Arkansas is the regional anchor city for the northeast part of the state. Jonesboro is, however, culturally and economically linked to the larger metropolis of Memphis, Tennessee, about 70 miles to the south. That said, Jonesboro does enjoy a degree of autonomy, being the seat of local government as well as for having Arkansas State University, and being a regional center for agriculture and trade.
Most of the typical Big Box strip malls, chain restaurants, and businesses in general in Jonesboro are located in the southeast part of town along Highland Dr, S. Caraway Rd., and Stadium Blvd. Indian Mall, named after the University mascot, is located in this area, and opened here in the late 1960s featuring Blass, TG&Y, Sears, and a supermarket. Blass became Dillards, TG&Y closed in the 1980s and Dillards used its mall-fronting space for an expansion, and the supermarket closed and was converted to a food court. Also, in 1976, JCPenney attached itself to the small 300,000 square-foot center, adding a stub wing onto the north end. Indian Mall’s decor was relatively unchanged throughout its four-decade lifespan, which is neat for us mall historians, but don’t look for it being around too much longer.
By the mid-1990s, Jonesboro’s population had doubled since the 1960s debut of Indian Mall and, as the commercial center of all of Northeast Arkansas, could definitely support a larger and more modern mall. The small Indian Mall chugged along into the 1990s, when its owner, Warmack & Company, proposed building a new mall just to the east of Indian Mall along Highland Dr. at Stadium Blvd. Under the plans, Indian Mall was to have been changed into a Big Box or mixed-use retail center. The new mall even got a name, Southern Hills Mall, and land was set aside for the development. Unfortunately, though, due to a myriad of reasons it never materialized, and a competing mall developer stepped in to take the reigns and build Jonesboro a new center.
David Hocker & Associates was the competing developer’s name, and offered up plans which did materialize in 2006 in the form of The Mall at Turtle Creek. The new 750,000 square-foot center opened, and took with it most of Indian Mall’s stores. JCPenney and Dillards had brand new digs there, and almost overnight many of Indian Mall’s remaining in-line stores seemingly packed up and moved down the street. Almost immediately, Indian Mall was left completely vacant, except for Sears and Dillard’s Clearance Center. So, after nearly four decades in operation, the Indian Mall was felled in one swoop. And, because its owner’s development wasn’t selected to become the new mall, Indian Mall sits there like a deer in headlights. As of Summer 2007 the mall is technically open, but only functions as a corridor for mall walking and to get between the two remaining anchors. Nothing else remains at Indian Mall and it’s only a matter of time before the property is redeveloped, and the mall’s website recently went down forever.
The photos here were taken in June 2007. Feel free to add your own thoughts or anecdotes and be sure to check out the Mall at Turtle Creek posting as well. We felt they stood better together chronologically yet as separate posts.