The largest city in the state of Kentucky was put on the map by horse racing and baseball bats, but few are familiar with its retail scene. As anchor to one of the larger trade areas in the region, metro Louisville consists of eight counties in northern Kentucky and four in south central Indiana, and is bisected by the meandering Ohio River. Over 1.3 million people call the Louisville area known as Kentuckiana home.
When not sipping mint juleps, Kentuckianans are shopping in a handful of areas around the region. One of the largest of these areas is east of downtown along US 60, known to locals as Shelbyville Road. Home to two of metro Louisville’s enclosed malls, this area is undoubtedtly the most important center of retail in the entire region. Extending to the east along US 60 and Hurstbourne Parkway, this retail area is home to numerous strip centers, big box stores, and all the ugly chain retail stores everyone loves to hate. One of these malls, located on the east side of I-264 along US 60, is called Mall St. Matthews.
Mall St. Matthews began its rollercoaster life in 1962 as simply “The Mall”, and opened featuring anchor stores A&P, Kaufman-Straus, Rose’s, and JCPenney. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the mall remained popular, yet required updates in response to competition from other Louisville-area centers. This involved first changing the name from The Mall to Mall St. Matthews, and later updating with a food court and many expansions. The Kaufman-Straus store closed and was replaced by Stewart Dry Goods and later L.S. Ayres, and later Louisville-based Bacons which moved from a freestanding store down the street. This occurred in the late 1980s, and sparked a resurgence of interest in the mall over other Louisville-area malls. Retailers once again clamored to be in Mall St. Matthews, and again Rouse, the mall’s owner, expanded the mall in 1995 with a new wing and the addition of Dillards, and later in 1997 with the addition of Lord and Taylor. The late 90s saw the peak of popularity for Mall St. Matthews, at least in terms of anchor diversity.
In 1998, Bacon’s was merged into Dillards, and Dillards used the extra store to split its offerings at the mall into two giant anchor stores. Such practice has been popular at many malls nationwide as anchor stores consolidate, with the split offering men’s, children’s, and home departments in one store and the entire other store devoted to women’s in many cases. In 2000, Nordstrom expressed interest in moving to the mall but the deal was dead in less than a year when no agreement could be reached with Rouse. Then, in 2004, Lord and Taylor left the mall amid corporate parent woes and the consolidation of many of their locations within core markets. Until 2007 part of that store was occupied by regional junior anchor Dawahares, but that closed also.
Currently Mall St. Matthews has one anchor closed, and it has been speculated that Dillards will sell its store to Rouse for mall redevelopment (Lifestye portion anyone?) and will relocate to the former Lord and Taylor store. The rest of the mall is currently very popular, and with its sister-mall across the street Oxmoor Center provides much of the upscale and mid-tier offerings in the Louisville area.
As far as design, due to competition both Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center are frequently renovated and very modern looking. The mall is set up like an S with anchor stores at the cruxes, yet currently only has 2 anchors: Dillard’s (2 locations) and JCPenney. The mall is unique in that it has large courts at the cruxes of the S, with giant fountains and tall ceilings, reminiscent of years past.
Take a look at the pictures featured here. All were taken in the Summer of 2006, except for the older ones taken by reader ftn65 in 1993 and 1999. He also writes about the mall:
“Here are some photos of Mall St. Matthews in Louisville from ’93 forward. I’ve taken all my pictures of this mall since its second major renovation. The first renovation occurred in the late ‘70s, replacing the “concrete and lush vegetation” look of the ‘60s with a whole lot of brick and a couple of large fountains. In the early ‘90s that gave way to what it is today, at least aesthetically. That change also brought the addition of the front entry wing (next to The Limited) and the Dillard’s wing, which extends from JCPenney. The Lord and Taylor extension beside JCPenney came a few years later. When Bacon’s became Dillard’s, Bacon’s was turned into the Dillard’s men’s/home store. Now the Dillard’s men’s/home store will be moving to the vacant Lord and Taylor, which is apparently more convenient to the other Dillard’s. I’m sure it’s also an easier space to maintain, since a large portion of the former Bacon’s location dates back to the mall’s opening in 1962, when that anchor was Kaufman’s of Kentucky.”