Vintage Faire Mall; Modesto, California

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

It’s really cold in Northern California today. My friends back in New England are all struggling with a historic ice storm and no heat or power. How do I respond? I post a set of photos I took on a 110 degree day. Can’t you just feel the heat in these shots? The air conditioner in my car could not keep up at all during this trip in June; just be glad you weren’t my wingman for this one.

Modesto, California is a city of just over 200,000 people in California’s Central Valley, located about an hour south of Sacramento and about 90 minutes east of the San Francisco Bay Area. Known as a hub for large-scale commercial farming (and cheap, marginally-undrinkable wine; Ernest Gallo is here) as well as the home of Scott and Laci Peterson, Modesto has grown in recent years due to its low cost of living and relative proximity to employment hubs in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. The lower land values come with a wealth of social problems, however, including the highest per capita car theft rate in the nation (2005, 2006, and 2008), some of the worst air quality in the country, excessively long commute times, and high crime. American Cities Ranked and Rated by Bert Serling and Peter Sander named Modesto the worst city to live in America, based on their criteria.

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

I don’t mean to dump on this dusty exurban metropolis, however. I only visited once, in that searing June heat, and took these pictures through a veil of haze. For the most part, though, the place didn’t seem so bad: Modesto is fairly sizable, but it’s a largely modern city built primarily around sprawling newer developments. The central downtown area wasn’t much different than many east coast cities. Not much activity, but not terrible either, with a mixture of nightlife and business services.

The Vintage Faire Mall is the largest enclosed shopping center between Sacramento and Fresno in California’s central valley, and the only enclosed mall serving the city of Modesto. Located at Standiford Avenue and Highway 99 in the Northwestern corner of the city, the mall has two levels of shopping and five anchor stores spread across a little over a million square feet of space. Like many still-thriving malls it just recently received a cliche “lifestyle” village expansion that contains the same stuff you see in every lifestyle village.

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

The Vintage Faire Mall is anchored by Sears, JC Penney, Gottschalks, and two Macy’s stores. According to the BigMallRat, Weinstocks was originally where Gottschalks is now and Gottschalks had a store where Macy’s Men’s & Home is now. There’s not honestly anything terribly exciting about this Macerich-owned center (a sentiment shared by all these Yelpers), apart from a somewhat dated patina and the continued presence of some fountains… which is always a treat nowadays.

For the most part Vintage Faire was a fairly average, large suburban mall, though it seemed more successful than I was expecting–perhaps because it’s the only mall serving such a sizeable city, and that many of the other cities in the area (such as Turlock or Manteca) don’t have enclosed malls of their own. Also the malls serving the city of Stockton, Modesto’s slightly larger twin to the north, are both quite underwhelming–Vintage Faire has both of them beat by a large margin. Since we’ve been a bit short on material in the Central Valley in the past, I don’t know much about the history of this place or retail in the valley at all… maybe one of you locals can chime in and give us some insight.

Another key note about this mall: There is an especially heinous red light camera at the intersection of Standiford Avenue and Sisk Road, directly in front of the mall. The camera is poorly signed and operated by RedFlex Traffic Systems under an illegal contract with the city of Modesto. Be very cautious when traveling in this area as there are several things intended to “trap” motorists into paying the egregious $489 fine, including a very short 3 second yellow signal on the left hand turn to Sisk (the lowest allowable by Califiornia law, and very short given the 45 mph speed limit on Standiford) and nearly non-existent signage. Studies have shown that these cameras actually increase accident rates (in particular rear-end collisions) and generate fairly little money for the municipalities that maintain them, since most of the money goes to shadowy corporations like RedFlex, who is owned by the Carlyle Group (who were, if you believe Michael Moore, partially responsible for the US’ involvement in the Iraq war!).

As a result, we highly recommend avoiding the Vintage Faire Mall altogether and shopping in another city to encourage the city of Modesto to abandon its illegal red light camera program. If you do receive one of these tickets, we highly encourage you to fight it either by mail or in person, and we have an agreement with document preparation service TicketKick wherein we can receive a bonus to help maintain this site for each referral (just please state that you were referred by “Jason Damas” when signing up). You can also try writing a Trial By Declaration yourself, by using the handy list of common ticket defects found on highwayrobbery.net. These red light cameras, like the Standiford and Sisk red light camera, are illegal according to California Vehicle Code and may well be unconstitutional. The only way to stop their proliferation is to fight every citation.

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California

20 Responses to “Vintage Faire Mall; Modesto, California”

  1. My BF says that the mall used to be themed inside and decorated like a vineyard. There was once brown wine caskets handing from the ceiling with what looked like the bottom of wine glasses in the center in beautiful blues and purples with lights inside. It was the victim of a 90s white wash and the fountain was added in the white wash. In the second picture it used to be an entrance to a deli but that is gone now.

    Idk with all the bad talk aside I like the area Escalon Oakdale and Knights Ferry are wonderful places to visit air quality aside but then again air sucks in Phoenix too (where i am) ^^ Thanks for pics

    [Reply]

  2. I wonder why they decided to go with carpet upstairs and tile downstairs…that seems a bit unusual. The Gottschalks exterior is really nice.

    [Reply]

  3. In the central valley Vintage Faire is really by far the best mall The mall is nice and updated however the anchor stores are stuck in 1982 with the exception of Sears The Gottschalks (Weinstocks) still has its restaurant open on the 3rd floor a rare find these days but the whole store is still almost original. Macys is still sporting parkay floors and orange carpet with gold trimmed lighting … Its a true flashback

    [Reply]

  4. That second shot of the Macy’s Men’s and home was definitely the original Gottschalks. All the Gottschalks I have ever been to look like that on the outside. Kinda strange to see a Macy’s in a old Gottschalks building.

    [Reply]

  5. I’m not entirely familiar with the mall, but I live in Sacramento and usually stop in there on my way to Fresno since it’s the only large mall inbetween. Last time I was there was July, about 110 outside, and it was quite refreshing inside.

    Everytime I pass it though it’s packed.

    [Reply]

  6. Yum. Another Cali mall. An average, everyman mall with a few architectural treats. Thanks for the update.

    [Reply]

  7. Jen’s boyfriend is right. There were mock wine barrels hanging from the second floor with lighting on the underside. The lights looked like they were covered with plastic cups from Shakey’s Pizza. There was also a clock tower in the Sears wing that had a grape motif stained glass face.

    Center court had a playpit with wooden cows. It was right outside Miller’s Outpost. As a snotnosed teen in 1983 my friends and I would play on those cows. So clever *rolls eyes*. Center court was also used for band concerts. I played in a junior high jazz band in 1981/82 and would save my money to hit the funky junk store to get Hello Kitty stuff.

    They broke ground in 1975 if I recall correctly. My dad used to ride his off-road motorcycle in the fields. I think Sears first opened in 1977; it was quite the big deal! I had my face plastered against the glass door separating us from the under-construction mall.

    I worked at this mall in 1986/87 at the Original Cookie Company. We were located downstairs, JC Penney wing, next to Jarman and near Gottschaulks (sp). There was a Swiss Colony store that sold beef jerky by the pound! I even interviewed there but didn’t get hired.

    Last time I was there visiting was 2007. International Imports, the local head shop, was still in operation on the upper level, Sears end. The tacked-on food court is rather pathetic. That was a mini-wing that housed a Burger King, deli, and the arcade. But See’s Candy is still there!

    [Reply]

  8. OH! And the Weinstock’s (Gottschaulks) is three stories versus the mall’s two. The two shield pictures are where the cow playpit used to be. The fountains aren’t original to the mall; there was a larger one elsewhere but I can’t remember where. And Roger’s Jewelers is an original tenant in its original location, outside Weinstock’s at center court.

    Thanks for the memories!!!

    [Reply]

  9. @Jonah: Yeah I’m trying to space out the California malls a little. The state is so big and there are so many malls that I’m trying to not just have a big run in a row, if I can. Although all the new things I’ve been to for months have been in one part of this state or another.

    [Reply]

  10. Yeah, Cali malls are cool, but I do long for the old, New England malls occasionally. And Texas. And Florida. And the South. And the Great North. But we can’t have everything…but I want to contribute a MEMORIAL CITY MALL posting some time.

    [Reply]

  11. @ Caldor,

    Do you plan posts on South Coast Plaza, Fashon Island or Irvine Spectrom Center?

    I hope so, Thanks.

    [Reply]

  12. See, about 110° heat…that’s one thing malls offer that lifestyle centers don’t. Air conditioning for the win.

    [Reply]

  13. I’m waiting to see a piece on the Arden Fair in Sacramento so I can learn a little history. I’ve lived here for about 3 years now and don’t know much about the mall down the street from my house!

    [Reply]

  14. That’s awesome it has a head shop

    [Reply]

  15. Purely by coincidence, I ran across an aerial shot of the site about a week ago on flickr:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/matt-bearup/2035436819/

    [Reply]

  16. Heres a question…once the lifestlye faze gets old, are they going to put roofs over all of the lifestyles that they can and make them indoor malls to keep the cycle going? Just wondering…

    [Reply]

  17. One note of correction to KittenPoker regarding the first anchor store openings, Weinstock’s and Gottschalks were the first Vintage Faire anchors to open on February 12, 1977. The rest of the mall opened about a month later, and Macy’s didn’t join the mall until 1981. The source of the openings are from the archived Modesto Bee on newspaperarchive.com.

    [Reply]

  18. Randy, thanks for the correction. I was 9 when Vintage Faire first opened so my mind’s a bit fuzzy :).

    [Reply]

  19. Update 03/31/09:

    Gottschalks has gone bankrupt! They will start to liquidate 4/5/09! Also Rodgers, an orginal to the mall, has been removed. I have had many good day’s at this mall. It is sad to walk through it and see so many emty slots where original stores once stood.

    [Reply]

  20. I remember the original winery design of the mall too with lighted glasses hanging from the ceiling etc but also Vintage Faire Mall brings back memories when it first opened in 1977 when I was about 14

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply


five + 3 =