Rhode Island Mall; Warwick, Rhode Island

Rhode Island Mall pylon along East Avenue (RI-113)
This is a tragic one.

When I was a kid, Rhode Island Mall was the mall. I always derisively labeled the neighboring Warwick Mall–the successful one today–as the “clothes mall.” Rhode Island Mall was the fun mall. It had the Aladdin’s Castle arcade, it had video game stores, toy stores, and everything else a kid would want. Now it has next to nothing: it’s one of the most notorious dead malls in New England.

What’s especially sad is that it didn’t have to be this way. The Rhode Island Mall had a long, long run as a big and successful center, and it died mostly due to a set of circumstances it couldn’t control and a few questionable management decisions.

Built in 1968 as the “Midland Mall,” this was the first suburban enclosed shopping mall in Rhode Island, and the first two level shopping mall in New England. Built on what was then remote swamplands, it was located next to I-95 and later I-295, and would be the catalyst for a massive amount of retail development that would turn this stretch of route 2 into “Rhode Island’s Main Street.” Providence experienced the greatest proportionate outmigration of any major American city in the post-war era, and Warwick, a suburb about 10 minutes south of the city, absorbed many of these residents, balooning to 85,000 people. To this day, Warwick is the second most populous city in Rhode Island, and many other suburbs in the area (such as neighboring Cranston, with a population of 75,000) are uncharacteristically large.

The Rhode Island Mall is a simple, two level dumbell style mall. It was built with a Sears store anchoring the mall’s west end. As far back as I can remember, the mall’s eastern anchor was a location of Hartford’s G. Fox chain, but it may not have been original to the mall. Despite a seemingly uninspiring layout, the mall is one of the widest and most open malls of its style that I’ve visited, lending the central common areas a certain grandiosity.

In 1972, the larger Warwick Mall opened just to the north of the then-still-Midland Mall. If you look at this satellite photo, you can see how the smaller Rhode Island Mall (at the bottom of the frame) is within a stone’s throw of the Warwick Mall. Warwick was more fashion-oriented from the start, and included Rhode Island’s first outlets of Boston mainstay department stores Filene’s and Jordan Marsh, so this presented a considerable challenge. However, because neither mall was terribly large and there was room for both to house stores without much overlap, they co-existed very peacefully for a long time. The presence of both malls made Warwick into one of the most major retail destinations in New England, and many of the shopping centers that line route 2 for miles in each direction sprung up during the era when both malls were thriving.

In 1984, The Midland Mall underwent an extensive renovation and rebranding, and this was when the Rhode Island Mall name was born. This was still relatively early for a mall to renovate since most of them were still in their infancy, and as such the mall received a substantial shot in the arm as a result. Mall owners added the glass elevator that’s present today, as well as a large food court on the second level outside G. Fox called the Greenhouse Cafes, which was the very first mall food court in the entire Providence metropolitan area. By the late 1980s, the Rhode Island Mall was so popular that management attempted to make room for more tenants by constructing temporary, cubicle-style spaces in the center of the mall’s wide first floor corridor.
Despite the opening of the 3-level, gargantuan Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, Massachusetts in 1989 (the first of the larger, more modern enclosed malls in metro Providence), the Rhode Island Mall didn’t suffer–the bigger mall was just a bit too far away, and the two malls combined were still larger than it. Even when Warwick Mall finally renovated in 1991, adding an even larger food court than the Rhode Island Mall, it didn’t seem to have an impact.

The beginning of the end came around 1994, when the G. Fox chain, which was owned by The May Companies, acquired Filene’s. Because Filene’s was the stronger regional nameplate, the G. Fox stores were converted to Filene’s. For a time, this G. Fox store (which was relatively small) was converted to Filene’s, but as there was already a larger Filene’s at the Warwick Mall next door this was extremely redundant and it was closed within a year or two of the rebranding.

That began the long and very slow death of the Rhode Island Mall. Despite that Sears was the lone anchor remaining, most of the stores remained in the mall despite dwindling business, holding on to the hope that the G. Fox store would be filled, but nothing came. By 1997, the vacancies began piling up, and by 1998 there were rumors that the mall would be torn down and converted to another use despite a still-healthy occupancy rate.

In 1999 or 2000, it was announced that the G. Fox store and approximately 1/3 of the mall (including the Greenhouse Cafes food court area, which was now completely vacant) would be demolished to make room for two new anchors. A Wal-Mart would open on the first level, and the tenant for the second level was unannounced. Wal-Mart constructed a store in 2000, but it did not open into the mall, leaving a temporary construction wall to greet patrons inside of the mall. Many speculated that construction could not be completed until a second anchor built a store atop the new Wal-Mart. In 2002, Kohl’s announced that they would be the Rhode Island Mall’s third anchor, and many expected this strong trio of mid-market anchors to bring the mall back to prosperity.

Unfortunately, when Kohl’s was completed, it too did not open into the mall and it became obvious that both had every intention of turning their backs on the mall–permanently. Convinced that the mall would never be anything more than a dead mall again without more anchors, nearly all of the remaining tenants cleared out, leaving the mall extremely barren and empty. Miraculously, the Rhode Island Mall remains open but today there are only about ten stores (out of a high in the late 1980s of close to a hundred) still operating inside of the mall.

I firmly believe that if Kohl’s and Wal-Mart had opened into the mall then the Rhode Island Mall would still be successful today. The neighboring Warwick Mall, despite its size (about a million square feet) has room for only about 70 stores and Rhode Island could still house an additional 50 or so. There is plenty of market demand in the area for such purposes, and the roster of Sears, Wal-Mart, and Kohl’s is relatively strong for a value-oriented mall.

I’ve heard that Royal Ahold (the parent company of Stop and Shop Supermarkets) has leased much of the interior of the mall with the intention of blocking Wal-Mart from being able to expand their store into a supercenter should the mall itself close. I’m not sure if this is true, but if so, I would hope that Ahold would find it in their interest to try and sub-lease that space to tenants, even if they’re charity cases like local retailers or public interest groups.

The following is a 1970 photo of the Midland Mall that I found on Keith Milford’s excellent (in fact, it’s a must-see) Malls of America blog. I’ve also tried to repeat the same shot today, though the mezzanine level of the staircase visible at left was removed in the 1984 renovation:

Midland Mall (Rhode Island Mall) in 1970 This shot mirrors the historic photo of the Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI

There are more pictures below, all taken June 11, 2006. A decade after the beginning of its agonizing, slow decline, the Rhode Island Mall is in sadder shape than ever. There are a few things to note. One photo shows the strange way in which Kohl’s is stacked above Wal-Mart, as visible from I-295. Also be sure to pay attention to the shots of the “temporary” construction wall that blocks the mall from Wal-Mart and Kohl’s. That wall has been in place since at least 2000.
East Avenue facing side of Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI East Avenue facing side of Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI North side of Sears at Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI

North facing side of Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI North facing Wal-Mart and Kohl's stores at Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall interior in Warwick, RI

Rhode Island Mall interior in Warwick, RI Interior of the dead mall Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall directory in Warwick, RI Dead Mall: Rhode Island Mall interior in Warwick, RI

Dead Cherry & Webb inside Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Glass elevator and fountain inside of Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall interior in Warwick, RI Note the way that the mall was rather haphazardly demolished at its eastern end to make room for Kohl's and Wal-Mart

Another shot of the way the mall was haphazardly carved up to make room for Kohl's and Wal-Mart Rhode Island Mall interior in Warwick, RI

Prangeway: I visited Rhode Island Mall on August 25, 2001 and took the pictures below.  Note the Tape World store still in operation, the Thom McAn labelscar, and the fact that the Kohls and Wal-Mart “anchors” were under construction with a glimmer of hope that they may open up to the mall.  Unfortunately they didn’t, and as a result most of the stores open in the photographs below have closed since then and the mall is currently on life support.

Rhode Island Mall Sears in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall exterior in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI

Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI

Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall directory in Warwick, RI

Rhode Island Mall Tape World in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI

Rhode Island Mall exterior in Warwick, RI Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI

Author: Caldor

Jason Damas is a search engine marketing analyst and consultant, and a freelance journalist. Jason graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a minor in Music Industry. He has regularly contributed to The Boston Globe, PopMatters.com, Amplifier Magazine, All Music Guide, and 168 Magazine. In addition, he was a manager for a record store for over two years. Currently, he focuses on helping companies optimize their web sites to maximize search engine visibility, and is responsible for website conversion analysis, which aims to improve conversion rates by making e-commerce websites more user-friendly. He lives in suburban Boston.

88 thoughts on “Rhode Island Mall; Warwick, Rhode Island”

  1. This post is the missing link to that photo from MOA. The Sears looks relatively healthy still, save for the broken sign outside, but the rest of the mall is obviusly dying. Great insight.

    G. Fox was actually part of May Company a lot longer than Filene’s was: since 1965 compared to since 1987. The decision to close down G. Fox came when the two divisions were combined and renamed around the time the Midland Mall store closed.

  2. Thanks Steven! I’ve edited my entry to reflect that insight.

    The mall is definitely a sad place now. Surprisingly, it struggled pretty valiantly for years with only one anchor, but once the new anchors went up and shunned the interior, it finally went into genuine decline. It may now have the highest vacancy rate of any mall in New England that isn’t at least partially shuttered. This is one that I really have some personal attachment to, and it really didn’t have to happen this way.

  3. That’s very interesting speculation regarding Ahold leasing the remainder of the mall to prevent Wal-Mart from expanding. I’ve never heard of that particular scenario, but am quite familiar with instances of closed supermarkets kept dark with the rent still being paid to prevent the competition from moving in, particularly in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

  4. I’m an architecture student doing my thesis project on the adaptive reuse of malls, particularly reprogramming them without completely destroying their fabric. I’m going to be using this mall so any help on some more information about its history would be great. Wasn’t there a lisiting of all the stores the mall housed at one point? I remember seeing that but now I can’t find it…. well any help would be great, thanks.

  5. I was at the mall of the Christmas 2006 season and Record Town/Saturday Matinee is closed. I believe the mall featured many independent stores since most chain stores have a sole Warwick location in Warwick Mall. Wal-Mart and Kohl’s both claimed, according to articles in the Providence Journal, that they are destination stores and reasoned access to the mall from their store was unnecessary. Not exactly sure why the mall couldn’t have built a connector from the mall entrance to the store somehow so neither would need two seprate entances, though such a connector would be awkward and a direct connection would be better.

  6. The Midland Mall opened in 1967 anchored by Sears and Shepherd’s department store. Shepherd’s was located in Downtown Providence. The group that owned Shepher’s also owned Gladdings( Providence) and Denholm and Mckay of Worcester. Denholm’s was the other anchor(besides Sears) that originally anchored the Auburn MA mall. The Shepherd group closed in 1973. The Mildand Mall store became G. Fox in 1977. The Auburn Mall store became a branch of Forbes and Wallace of Springfiled. Forbes later closd their Auburn mall store and sold it to the Outlet department store of Providence. Outlet operated the store until the entire chain closed in 1982

  7. I (once in a while) browse the mall. I can say, from my 17 years of being on the face of the earth, the building has seen better days. The 90’s would probably be the last best decade as the stores were still open. Kohls and Wal-mart should have opened up on the inside, and boost commerce. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that nobody had come in with an axe an tried to hack away at the wall. If all else fails, I would like to see I-295 Underground, the land merged with the warwick mall, and a shopping plaza simlear to Garden City made, create a new day for the two malls.

    BTW, do you think, with the closure of the Filenes @ Warwick mall, and the opening up of Providence Place, that Warwick Mall, within the next 5-10 years, might start to look like RI Mall?

  8. I used to live in RI and it was a habit of my family and I to go to Warwick and do our fair share of mall hopping. We used to stop first at Rhode Island Mall, then hop to Warwick Mall and then made our way up Bald Hill Rd. to Lechmere. I left RI in ’96 and had the chance to return in ’03 and was very surprised in the decline of the shopping malls in the area, including RI mall, the old Lincoln Mall and even Emerald Square Mall to some extent, although when I visited in ’05 the latter was doing better. I think that the dependency that RI and its surrounding areas had to local retailers (like Ames, Caldor, Lechmere, Apex , Ann & Hope) was too much to overcome at the end.

    I believe this is still the only Sears in RI. There used to be one on North Main St. (where the old Cyclodrome used to be) but that store closed its doors about 15 years ago redirecting its efforts to the RI Mall location.

  9. There is a small Sears in Woonsocket RI (on Diamond Hill Road) – it anchors a strip mall.

  10. God I remember that old Lechmere, where target stands now, as well as a couple other venues, like Chuck e Cheeses (which incidently is on the Rhode Island Mall property now). There Might be hope for RI Mall. Currently, an other building is being built on the north face, nearby the sears automotive annex building

  11. I have seen a few old pictures of the RI/Midland Mall. If anyone has more or knows where more can be viewed please let me know. Especially old pictures of the Tom McCan store. diehardfun@aol.com

  12. the lease must be little to nothing because i cant imagine first place sports making more than a hundred bucks a day. this mall is DEAD. so depressing.

  13. In RI in the mid-late ’80s, RI Mall was King. The only reason to go to Warwick Mall was maybe Filene’s if they were having a good sale. Jordan Marsh was too dated and overpriced.

    RI Mall had lots of great shops, a food court, and it was two-level. Its so sad to see how bad it has become.

    Warwick needs a shot in the arm, because even though P-Place is a different consumer demographic, aside from Macy’s, WM’s got an unmistakeable flop sweat vibe about it these days. Scary, considering the healthy consumer dollar is ever present in the landscape of the Ocean State and southern MA.

  14. I grew up in Warwick, and Midland Mall was the first place my best friend and I were permitted to go on a shopping trip without supervision. It would have been around 1970 when we were 11 and 12, and I believe it was before the Warwick Mall opened.

    Sears originally had a terrible cafeteria which they advertised heavily on the radio. The opposite anchor was one of the old Providence stores, I believe Peerless, The Outlet Company was in Garden City and I don’t recall them being in either of the Warwick malls.

    I do remember that one of the big treats was the people mover on the G.Fox (Peerless?) end. It was an escalator with a continuous rubber mat rather than steps and if you stood to the sides, you got a “foot massage” from the rollers.

    The upstairs at that end had a bunch of treats for boys. The side alley entrance had an Orange Julius (food courts hadn’t appeared, yet). The main aisle on that side had a hip Panasonic showroom (it even had a hip name, something like “Impressions” by Panasonic) – all black and mirrors showing off the hottest transistorized gadgets. For a very short time there was a Gay 90s themed restaurant there (may have been owned by Lovett’s Beef, does anyone remember?) that served knockoff NY System dogs. I could be wrong, but I think that was converted to the first mall CVS. Opposite that was the Radio Shack.

    Farther to the center on the Panasonic side was Spencer Gifts, where we bought original Smile buttons, Peanuts posters, and later Sophia Loren posters. There was also a large, plain, brightly-lit bookstore there that may not have been part of a chain.

    There was a small movie theater in the Midland Mall. If I recall it was in the corner roughly below Radio Shack. My Sister took me there to see “Harold and Maude” for probably my14th or 15th birthday. By that time, Midland Mall was getting pretty sad and we shopped at Warwick Mall. For a brief time, the opening of the first Baskin Robbins in the state pulled in some strollers. There was also a shop, I believe called “Prep & Squire” which sold polyester GQ clothes so fashionable at the time which was popular with the Gay crowd in the mid-70s, but by that time many people thought of the two places as “Warwick Mall” and “Sears.”

  15. Oooohh… In that 5th pic on the 2nd row, I see “Gantos” – I always saw a Gantos clothing store at Metro North, of course, it was always empty when I saw it. I never saw it open, but they always had that sign up after it was gone.

  16. Correction – as you correctly point out, Peerless was a mid-mall anchor in the Warwick Mall.

    My best guess is that the original anchor in the G.Fox location at Midland Mall was Shephard’s. Anyone remember?

  17. I remember visiting the Midland Mall/RI Mall for many years when I was a kid from eastern CT. Before the Crystal Mall opened in Waterford, CT, the only real mall you could go to from our house was in Warwick. We got my first cat, a Persian, from the Docktor Pet Center down the hall from Sears in 1984 (I had him for nearly 15 years). We’d always go to Sears to do back-to-school clothes shopping every fall and my folks would always browse around at the music store (instruments) and got several electric organs there over the years. The last time I was there was in 1993 just as the mall was on its way down. So sad to see the death of an old friend…

  18. The Outlet Company had a store in the Warwick Mall. Its closure led to Caldors, which in turn became Old Navy.

  19. Wow, nice site! It’s cool to be able to look up the history of some of my favorite hangouts when I was a youngin’. I actually remember buying my first baseman’s mitt when I was 10 – loved that thing! It’s a sad nowadays to see the Mall in the condition it’s in…my only reason to stop by there is the comic book store to pick up a few packs of baseball cards and take a stroll down memory lane.

    Warwick Mall has seemingly found it’s own little niche despite the competition from nearby Providence Place. Good to stop by there and see that it’s still doing well. Another little place I remember my mom taking me to when I was a kid.

    Anyway, great site!

  20. I prefer when the mall was the Midland Mall in contrast to RI Mall. The remod in 1984 with the glass elevator was awesome, but I still recall the stepless escalator.

    GFox changing it’s name to Filene’s, big mistake. Walmart, bigger mistake. Kohl’s with an opening into the mall would have been better.

    Sears has an ace in the hole with its Craftsman, Diehard, and Kenmore brands. Those are the premier tool, appliance and battery brands. I am no fan of their men’s clothing, but if I need tools, a battery, or appliances, I am going there, no doubt.

    I say kick Walmart out of there, and bring in another strong clothing retailer to complement Kohl’s. Either that, or Sears can move to the old Jordan’s building at Warwick Mall and make the Midland a restaurant row of sorts ranging the gamut from Asian, Italian, French, etc. middle of the road, priced restaurants similar to Streets of South Point, in Durham, NC or Triangle Town Center, Raleigh.

  21. I remember Midland Mall in the 70’s – what an awesome place! Every year the back to school shopping days were at Sears. This was always the best mall for us kids. The Midland Cafeteria was where we would go to eat. I remember the bright orange chairs and seats and the winding tray counter that you followed when you went in. At the exit was a large treasure chest full of lollipops – you could take as many as you wanted! It was awesome! We would always go to Docktor’s Pet Center to see the animals and Aladdin’s Castle to play games. That mall seemed so huge as a kid! I remember a store that had popcorn and peanuts in big barrels – like a country store type motif – and the cigar/pipe place on the corner…there was a tie shop on the first floor that had to be the tiniest store I ever saw in a mall – and it remained open almost till the end!! I can remember going up the stepless escalator – there was always a rubbery smell when you rode on them – and the sound of the Orange Julius blenders whirring…..we would go to Midland Records to buy the most current 45’s……..Midland Mall will always have a special place in my heart!!!

  22. Me and my friends refer to this mall as the Zombie Mall. As of two weeks ago, the poor mall is going to get even worse. They’ve got doors to the parking lot that are broken and haven’t been fixed in a while (up near Sears). The quarter operated kiddie rides are mostly broken.. one worked, two ate quarters and the others just spat them back out.

    I’ve heard opposing rumors about the DMV Express. There’s a DMV in the mall and another in neighboring West Warwick. Rumor is one will close and merge with the other.

    The big kick in the pants for the Mall is that the Dollar Tree store is going to be moving. They had a sign posted that they’re going to be moving to Cranston. They’re going to the Bob’s plaza on rt 5 about a mile and a half or so away from the Mall.

    It’s a shame ’cause the inside of the Mall, with all the murals and big open space, is so much nicer than the Warwick mall or a lot of the other malls in the region like the Providence Place mall or the Crystal Mall down in Waterford CT

  23. Does anyone remember the Warwick Cinema on Post Rd?
    I remember that there was a nightclub between it and the Valureland market. Does anyone remember the name or names of this club???

  24. On March 28, 2008 my family and I decided to visit the Rhode Island Mall, this is the first time we have visited the mall in at least 6 years, I use to work in Warwick from 1988-2000 and I use to visit this mall weekly. Well we were greeted on Friday 3/28/08 with one of the most depressing sights I have EVER seen, how this place can remain open is beyond me. The mall has to be at least 90% empty, the stores that remain is pathetic. I saw a sports store, a collectible toy store (by the way, we visited The Toy Vault and we were not even noticed nor asked if we were looking for anything special, you would figure a actual alive customer in this ghost town would be a valuable commodity but the Toy Vault employee could have cared less), and EB World store and maybe 2 more stores open with absolutely no customers. This so-called mall is so bad my 4 year old son wanted to leave because this place was ‘scary’. Needless to say my family and I will NEVER waste time again visiting this graveyard. So pathetic, I called to complain to the Rhode Island Mall main office and no one answered, I wonder why?

  25. Know what’s really sad? This was the first true mall in Rhode Island AND it was designed by Gruen. The G. Fox was actually once a “Shepherd Company” department store. If only Kohl’s and Wal-Mart would “tear down [their] walls!”

  26. That was a reference to the Berlin Wall, y’know. They should still open into the mall interior, then get stores to come in again.

  27. Everyone seems to be lamenting the fact that Rhode Island/Midland Mall is dying and that it’s “Such a shame”. However, I don’t see any one of you trying to do something about it! It’s always someone else’s problem isn’t it? Why not find a way to contact management, see about leasing space? If Stop & Shop and Ahold companies are leasing the empty stores.. how about subleasing from them, Writing to them? Or writing the mayor and city planner? What about having it declared a historic site? I can tell you from experience that the remaining store owners are hoping against hope and praying for a miracle that something will change. Rhode Island mall has given so much to the community over the years. Can’t we preserve this place of deep and fond memories? Yes, Rhode Island mall is ‘dying’, but it isn’t dead yet!! It’s amazing what can happen when caring people of the community get together and do something!! Are you those people, or is this just something to write about to pass the time during a slow night at home?
    React…think… and ACT

  28. Wow I can’t beleive that there are people out there that care about the mall still?! I worked there from 1994-2007 when they closed the store I worked at. It honestly was one of the saddest moments that I can remember. We were doing well due to the rent break they were giving us. Then one afternoon a truck pulled up and dropped off 1,000 empty boxes and the rest was history. I still drive by the mall and think about al the good times I had working there. I have met and still remain friends with customers and employees. The whole mall was like a community and we all tried to help each other out. As far as what happened to the mall the rumors were running wild while I was there but the Stop n Shop idea is true…I heard they were going to start to lease out the spots but it never happened. I know work at Prov Place and it is nothing like the old mall. I had to get something at Sears the other day and it was the first time I went into the mall in 6 months and I stood in front of my store and couldn’t believe it was gone. If anyone has answers or questions please write.

  29. i found this blog on yahoo, does the rhode island mall have a website?

  30. Question regarding the Midland Mall, not the Warwick Mall please. What were the names of the stores that occupied the store location where GFox & Filines used to be. I think originally, there was Shepards… please reply with a chronological time of what stores were there. A friend of mine and I have been tossing this around too long trying to remember. Thanks so much 🙂

  31. When my sister and I were small it was a real treat to go to the Midland Mall.I remember the country type store that sold popcorn and smelled so good. At one time there was a store that sold only houseplants and the lighting in there was really cool and that was my mom’s favorite store.The stores were of course always changing it seemed but I remember Weathervane, Cherry and Webb, Wicks n sticks,Chess King, My Store for Levis,and Spencers,just to name a few. Even with all the newer,larger malls I’ll still always miss the Midland Mall.

  32. It is truly sad to see what became of the Rhode Island mall, and the fact that in the end, the Warwick mall ended up overshadowing it. In my humble opinion, having grown up in Warwick my whole life, this mall was far better than the Warwick mall and still would be by a long shot. It was just the place to be. I have fond memories of going to Kay-Bee Toys as a kid. I remember back in the early 90’s when that store was literally filled to the ceiling with toys for all ages — and so many shelves and big bins of toys that it was hard to walk through it next to someone. As a kid, walking into that particular Kay-Bee toys was literally like a trip to heaven, even more so than the nearby Toys R Us, which has also changed greatly for the worse. Another great place in the RI Mall, mentioned in the article, was the area on the lower level where you could leave your kids to play while you shopped. Not only did I think that was a brilliant idea, but as a kid, that place was a blast also. Among other things I remember was the food court, the mulitple shoe stores, the arcade, and the FYE-like entertainment store (I forget the name off-hand, though the signs still exist on where the store used to be).

    Walking in there today brings me a mixed feeling of nostalgia. At the same time it’s great to walk through there reminiscing of what it used to be, it’s also naturally somewhat depressing at the same time. I still carry a somewhat optimstic outlook on the mall and what still exists in there to this very day. It’s great to see that the water fountain and elevator are both still there, and I do favor the EB Games there a lot more than I do the one at the Warwick mall. Not only does it have a better look and atmosphere, but it is also cleaner, and less busy, which makes for a more peaceful experience shopping for games. I also like the people that work there more. The Toy Collection shop is always fun to visit and is a RI Mall exclusive that doesn’t have a counterpart at any other mall that I know of. Silver Dragon is a great sword collector’s shop as well, and believe it or not, a snack shop and one of the athletic clothing stores both still exist as well. The mall also houses a mini military museum-type place (again, I forget what it’s called off-hand). The mall itself is just a testament to how great things were in the 80’s and 90’s as compared to how bleak and oversimplified, and too focused on professionalism and less of being colorful and gimmicky today is. Every time my friend and I step foot into what remains to be the Rhode Island mall, we always end up immediately talking about memories of the mall from “way back in the day”. Although it was nice when business was still booming there, it is strangely kind of nice to have an entire mall to yourself these days.

    I’ll admit, there are certain things I always favored the Warwick mall over. The arcade was one of them. That arcade was always somewhat depressing to play at as a kid. It just didn’t have a very fun atmosphere inside like Tilt at the Warwick mall did. Also, FYE (and what it was called before that) at the Warwick mall definitely had much of an edge over the entertainment store at the RI Mall. I also favored the Warwick mall’s food court over the RI Mall’s because of the big screen TVs that always play news, the carosel, and the bush animals. I also loved going to Caldor at the Warwick mall as a kid as well, so there was always just as much a reason to go to the Warwick mall as there was the RI mall, and still is today, albeit to a much lesser degree. Still, the edge for me definitely went to the RI mall due to its overall look and atmosphere, especially around the holiday season. I still remember taking days of school around the holiday season to do Christmas shopping with my mom or grandmother at the RI mall. 🙂

    Today, I personally believe some more unique things could and should be done with the remaining space of the RI mall. Anyone who has played the Silent Hill video game series knows that two of the games have creepy-looking abandoned malls as one of the levels. I think because of how empty the mall is and the ominous feeling you sometimes get walking in there on a quiet afternoon, looking at those paintings of the old parades and Rocky Point amusement park from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, it would be a great place to film part of the upcoming Silent Hill 2 movie, which is still in production. Another idea, though less likely, would have been to turn the mall into some small arena or opera house.

    I’ve heard the same thing from a few different people about the whole Stop and Shop ordeal, including from my cousin who works at the Warwick mall. With how Stop and Shop recently opened up another store nearby in addition to the much bigger one that was completed 6 or so years ago on Warwick Ave, it wouldn’t surprise me. Although I would wonder now how credible the rumor is given the fact that they now own a store so close to both malls. I’d imagine if it is true, they wouldn’t be opening up another Stop and Shop at any time in the future there now, so I would hope for the same thing — that they’d rent out the area to other businesses to keep Wal-Mart from taking over the entire mall (which would make me despise Wal-Mart even more, personally) to become a Super Wal-Mart.

    I guess until the bigger picture is painted and we have a clearer idea as to what the future fate of the Warwick mall is, we’ll just have to continue speculating what will eventually become of it. Luckily enough, we still have those memories to latch onto and cherish for a few more years every time we visit the RI mall. I think we should all appreciate it and make the most of it until that day comes where it is no longer there. Sadly, it won’t last forever, but memories of old times past certainly will live on.

  33. I Used to go there a lot in the 70’s and the 80’s and in the 90’s I only went to Sears then I moved away from R.I.in 1997 and haven’t been back since even when I visit. I remember a lot but my memories are not romantic in any way.

    I have come to despise all malls and what they stand for. They ruin so much of the character of anywhere they are and become places scarring the landscape. I think America is past the era of malls. I hope people wake up and realize that these places homogenize America because if you think about if you were to be blindfolded and put in a mall anywhere in the United States you wouldn’t have a clue to where you are, they all look the same inside.

    Every town in the United States should be different and I think malls ruin the individual characteristics of every place that they are. Shopping habits have also changed and this type of mall has fell victim to that new paradigm.

    I think this mall should be torn down eventually and either redeveloped or left to let mother nature take over again.

  34. I went there today and there was 6 stores left. the only busy place was the DMV And the only place worth it was the collectors store, but that was lackluster.

  35. This is indeed a tragic one.

    I grew up in South County, so I didn’t get as much time at the “the mall” as I would have liked. My parents thought it was too far to drive me ALL THE WAY up to Warwick. Still, it was one of my favorite places in the world for many years.

    Even though there were 2 malls right next door to each other in Warwick, my friends and I never even had to discuss it. “The mall” was the Rhode Island Mall. That was the one that counted. That was the place to hang out and be seen. The Warwick Mall was where your mom would take you to buy school clothes. Snore.

    Our heyday was in the late 80s. The place was always, always busy. In fact, at one point I remember the mall had two Newport Creamery locations. One was the big restaurant on the second floor, and the other was an “Awful Awful booth” just down the hall, in the food court. I had a crush on one of the guys who worked at that booth. I think his name was Jason. He gave me free Awful Awfuls – the quickest way to a girl’s heart.

    It just…astounds me that the mall is essentially gone now. It’s like Rocky Point. You know that businesses die, but it’s so hard to reconcile the vibrant place you remember with today’s cold reality. It was so busy. People liked it. What the hell happened?

    But I saw it coming, too. I was hired at the Wicks n Sticks at the Warwick Mall for the holiday season of 1997. But every now and then, I’d be asked to jaunt over to their RI Mall location to help out (they were both owned by the same family). While we could barely keep the shelves stocked in the Warwick Mall store, the RI Mall location was bereft of customers, even just before Christmas. We had nothing to do all day. I’d go to the food court to get lunch – the same food court from my youth that was thronged with people all year round – and practically see tumbleweeds. At that point there were only a couple of restaurants still open, and they were never busy. The Awful Awful stand was long gone.

    But it was still oddly fun to work in that dying mall. You’d think it would be terrible, with so little work to do all day, but I liked my co-workers and we managed to fill the time. In fact, I really liked everyone I met who worked at the Rhode Island Mall that season. It just had so much more *character* than the Warwick Mall. Maybe we just all knew that the ship was going down; who can be pretentious in that situation?

    I believe Wicks n Sticks is still at the Warwick Mall. The owners were so relieved to have jumped on that location while they had the chance in the late 90s, even though the rent was sky-high compared to what they were used to from the Rhode Island Mall…as you point out in the Warwick Mall article, it’s a crowded mall and vacancies are rare. But their business started at the Rhode Island Mall, and that location allowed them to build the capital they needed to get into the Warwick Mall. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but working for those people in the late 90s, I was witnessing the relationship between the two malls in miniature.

    The Kohl’s and Wal-Mart have made such a mess of things, with their odd configurations and no mall entries, that I can’t see how this mall could ever recover. But it was a Gruen. It’s a piece of history, and not just the personal histories of us stupid kids who drank Awful Awfuls and browsed Tape World/Saturday Matinee for hours on end. I’m sad to see it die, but even more sad to see how…weird and hobbled and ugly it has become.

  36. Update: since my last comment on Dec 18, 2006, I’ve periodically checked in on the building. Here are the stats (as of Monday)

    not including the DMV, only five store remain open (GNC, That Sports memorability place, Lenscrafters, The Toy Vault, and Sears)

    Bellows leather closed fall 08 due to a family incident (friends with them)
    Dollar tree, closed between late 07 and early 08
    Silver Dragon, Closed early 2009
    EB Games/Game Stop, closed Feb 09 (redundancy with Warwick mall)

    It looks more bare than it ever has, with the main hall full of grated steel, no music emanating from the Bose speakers, enough empty space to hear hollow footstep echo on the other side of the mall

    When will the other storefronts close shop for one last time ???

    For the stores that call the RI Mall Home for so many years;
    The Foodcourt (greenhouse cafe)
    Oceania themed scent shop
    RI Camping center
    Lee’s collectibles and Lee’s slotcar race track
    Lee’s nails
    Kay jewelers
    Wicks n’ sticks
    AA watch repair
    Prints Plus
    Spencer gifts
    KB toy hobby
    Addlains Castle (please forgive my spelling)
    Wonderful world of science
    Newport Creamery
    Warwick Tee’s and Collectibles
    Tape World, Saturday Matinee
    H&R Block kiosk
    Dollar tree
    EB Games/ Game Stop
    Bellows leather
    The Silver dragon
    The kids tree house
    Mr B’s coffee house and its predecessor
    aunt annie’s pretzels kiosk
    all the others, names lost, but not forgotten

    -The cornerstones
    G. Fox

  37. Wasn’t Cherry and Web at this mall at some point too?

  38. I hate WalMart and truly feel that they are an evil corporation. Their decision to open at a mall and seal the mall access off is just another example of how they operate. They lock out the competition one way or another, and then drive them out of business. In the case of the Rhode Island Mall, it just appears that they did the locking out literally rather than figuratively. WalMart sucks and I do not shop there, nor will I until I am forced to do so (probably by WalMart running all competitors out of business).

  39. I agree, M.C., I think there are other good retailers out there. If ShopKo would’ve taken over the space below Kohl’s, I think they would have a mall entrance, like at most of the malls in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Washington and Minnesota (let’s hope and pray that ShopKo expands to the east in the future, as they seem to be one of the only respectable regional retailers left) unlike the good-for-nothing Walmart. Walmart is a public relations nightmare. ShopKo is a chain mostly found in the Midwest, Mountain, Plains, and Pacific Northwest states.

  40. Furthermore, Justin, I’d hazard a guess that if ShopKo had opened in the WalMart space and had kept mall access, then Kohl’s would have followed suit. With WalMart denying mall access, Kohl’s has more justification to do the same. What I don’t understand is that this is not the only mall with so called “anchors” that do this, so why do the malls allow it? These anchors are not playing their supposed role —drawing traffic to the mall— by doing this. Maybe it’s desperation to just get a tennant, but if it turns into another nail in the coffin for the mall, then what’s the net gain? The way I see it, there is no gain. It just prolongs the death of the center.

  41. I also personally think that Walmart is even more of a cheapskate these days when it comes to mall locations. I find it just disappointing that Walmart does this these days. At least Target, Kmart and ShopKo knew what they were doing when they opened locations in shopping malls. Walmart does not like to follow suit these days. They are and always have been smoke and mirrors with their practices. Where’s the beef?

  42. Wasn’t Cherry and Web at this mall at some point too?

    Yes, absolutely. My aunt had a charge card there and used to drag me as often as humanly possible. At one point during the 90s, something happened with the configuration of that Cherry’s…I can’t quite remember, but I think it may have split into two stores – one upstairs, one downstairs – with the lower one being a “discount” Cherry’s. Or maybe they closed the regular Cherry’s entirely and just had it be “discount” stuff. I wish I’d paid closer attention!

    What I don’t understand is that this is not the only mall with so called “anchors” that do this, so why do the malls allow it?

    My guess is liability. If you own a mall that is mostly or entirely vacant except for anchors, you actually don’t even want people walking around inside. They could be causing all kinds of shenanigans, destroying property, whatever. You’ve got to pay someone to act as security, which feels like a losing proposition if the mall is dead/dying anyway. And if someone gets hurt, either through antics or by accident, then you’re wiped out entirely. Wal*Mart is going to police its own customers, but it’s not going to police your mall space.

    Not that I agree with this approach, mind you. I think it’s very short-sighted. To save the salary of a security guard or two, you’re not going to do the one thing that might actually save the mall? What a shame. But at the same time, those anchors probably love being sealed-off; it reduces their costs (construction, maintenance, and security). And they are only going to want to pay these extra costs if they see a clear benefit to doing so – opening up to a dead mall doesn’t seem like a benefit. Again, I think it’s short-sighted, but that’s the way it goes.

    Between the fear of lawsuits (or whatever) and pressure from the anchor stores, I can’t say I blame the malls for allowing this, even if I wish it was different. Wal*Mart comes along and wants space in your otherwise dead mall but insists on no mall access – are you REALLY going to say no? It’s the proverbial bird in the hand – better to have an anchor that you KNOW isn’t going to go out of business, even if it means cutting off the mall proper, than hold out for someone who might never come along and ending up with no stores at all.

  43. So, I have been reading a lot about the history of this mall because we are making a historical magazine for school and needed local articles. I am 16, and was born in 1992, and this is what I recall from my encounters with the Rhode Island Mall. I used to go here to play on that ridiculous indoor playground, filled with plastic slides. I remember the walls at the entrance of the playground were mirrors with flowers and butterflies that had mirrors on their head areas so you could see your face in them. I was young then, back in the 90s, and didn’t even know which mall was which. All I would ever ask was “are we going to the playground mall, or the carousel mall?” I always liked the playground mall better, and didn’t understand why my mom never wanted to go to that mall. When I look back now, I realize it’s because there were hardly any stores. I remember how heartbroken I was when they tore down 1/3 of the mall to put in Walmart. Claire’s was my favorite store and the sales at the RI mall location were far superior to those in the Warwick Mall. And it was in the section that was tore down, and replaced with a big white tarp. Honestly, I never remember there being a food court in this mall, maybe it was done away with before my time. I only remember Auntie Anne’s pretzels, and a few sparsely placed tables in the glass elevator/fountain area. I remember how much I loved the glass elevator, which made it feel like you would sink into the water when re-arriving on the first floor. It had that distinct pretzel smell (very similar to the smell of the Warwick Mall now), and just had a cool feel to it. Observing it now, I do see how small, and obviously how empty it is. I felt really sad when the Dollar Tree relocated in 2007, because it took away my excuse to observe the historical mall, see the painted murals, and think of how funny it would be to bring a bunch of teens to the mall to hang out and shock the employees. I wonder how they still manage to pay custodians, and if Santa still goes there. The last time I was in Sears, I was right near where it opened into the mall and all I heard was “Hello, My name is Leonardo” coming from one of those photo-drawing booths. It was fairly creepy.

  44. This was always the mall we went to in the eighties, for the pet store and the little restaurant on the first floor, Key West, which had fake palm trees and such and really good cheesecake. I think it also had a big painting of a red parrot on the front doors.

    The pet store was my favorite because they let you pick out a puppy and play with it for a while in the little greeting room; the puppies seemed pretty happy and well taken care of, and the employees really seemed to care about all the animals. I was sad to see it go. I got some of my first pets – Siamese fighting fish – at that store.

    There was a Claire’s right outside of the Greenhouse food court, and I got my ears pierced there when I was ten. My mother bought me a Pepsi at the Chinese place next door afterwards, and I remember that place having very odd tasting vegetable lo mein, and an omnipresent neon red glow from its old-school sign. Also in the food court were a Newport Creamery express, a Taco King, a Sbarros, and I believe another anchor restaurant at its entrance.

    This mall fought a valiant fight, and to me truly died when the EB finally left.

  45. I almost forgot: the Prints Plus poster store. How many times did I come home from this place with yet another pinup to lacquer my teenaged bedroom walls with. Memories.

  46. No! They are now down to 5 stores plus the registry. no staff in the stores knows why it is like this.

  47. I visited Rhode Island Mall on October 24th, 2009. The three big anchors (Sears, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s)are still open, but I counted only three small retail stores, an eyeglass shop, and the Rhode Island DMV office still operating in the center section. On the day that I visited, the DMV office by far had the greatest number of “customers”. There wasn’t even a single place left inside where you could buy a soda or a cup of coffee. It was quite sad to see how far this mall has deteriorated, with nothing but one empty shuttered storefront after another, and labelscars as far as the eye can see. It makes me wonder why the owners even bother with keeping the center section open at all, the electricity bill for the lighting, escalators and the elevator alone must be greater than the monthly rents that they’re taking in on five units, not to mention the costs of heating and air conditioning this massive empty space. I remember this mall from when I was a kid back in the early 1970’s, and the most chilling part of my recent visit was the absolute dead quiet of the place.

  48. @Adam,

    Yes, I seem to recall a Cherry and Webb at this mall. If I remember right, it was a very popular department store during the 70’s.

  49. I remember this mall as a small child- I grew up on North Street, right across from the old drive in and old gas station that used to be across the street. We used to love going to the mall and I could always find my way back by looking for the big “M” on the giant white watertower.

    Malls used to be the greatest thing since sliced bread back then and you could get dropped off by your parents for hours..or days and not ever worry about gangs or being abducted by some nutjob.

    Back then – kids could be kids- I’m so glad I grew up in the decade that I did- kids now have no clue what it’s like to really be a kid- they sit in front of their computer all day and night and never experience life- I feel sorry for the kids nowadays- it’s really too bad.

  50. has this mall beeen damaged due to flooding? I last went here a year ago (I am from NH) And it had 5 stores left.

  51. I would like to know whether the RI Mall was affected by the flooding too. The Warwick Mall is trashed – it would be kinda funny if all the stores from WM moved into RI Mall.

  52. I just called the Sears and the Walmart, both close to the lowest level of the RI Mall, and both said the building had some minor parking lot flooding but no damage to the building. Perhaps the RI Mall will live again!

  53. Looking at the pics, it looks as if it was a pretty attractive mall at one time, and still is, despite the lack of stores. Perhaps it can be retenanted and renamed into the Warwick Galleria or something to that effect, it would be a shame to see it demolished for more big box chains.

  54. Hello, My mom grew up in a house that is now next to crown plaza hotel.She told me when she lived there asa child it was ALL farmland where the r.i mall is now was a big swamp with giant turtles that small kids rode.She watched interstate 95 being put in then workers came and filled in the swamp and moved the turtle then built the mall there.This was before Ccri,Warwick was considered living in the country by the Providence city folk.I think we should petition that r.i mall be considered for a historical landmark and bump S&Shop owners out. I used to go to Newport creamery with my dad,I saw a high wire act,There was a petting zoo.I sang in a courus on the steps that walmart wall now blocks.$ generations of my family saw the Easter bunny and Santa there.But to let the mall just rot for a business tactic when it has touched so many r.i lives is really a slap in the face to ALL native R.Iers!!!!!

  55. Also, I remember going to Apex with my mom and then over to the”Good mall'”Aka r.i mall thats where all the cool people went funny how the malls switched.But maybe if everyone in the state signed a petition to make the mall a historic site then Stop and shop would have to sell or at least rent!C.Cr.i almost bought it to expand the college.But if they turned to a 4 year college they wouldnt get the funding they receive now:( Plus there are all those great r.i murals that NEED to be saved from destruction!!!!!

  56. Has anyone been there since the DMV closed? Is there anything left in this space at all now, besides the anchors?

  57. Also, some really excellent public pictures tagged on Flickr:


    One of the pictures shows the Sears gate down, even though it’s the middle of the day and the store is open. That is the one anchor that does open into the mall, but apparently they don’t even bother to lift the gate anymore…

  58. After being away from RI for over 5 years it’s so depressing to see that this is what the Rhode Island Mall has become. When I was little I remember running out of Sears and strait next door to the toy store. The Food Court was where I had my first, and last, corndog. So many memories where made there and to see it in such shambles is so depressing.

    There must be something they can do. Wal-Mart and Kohl’s should both be ashamed of themselves for doing what they’ve done. There is no reason whatsoever that they can’t open up into the mall. RI Mall could hold stores that can’t open up at the Warwick Mall. Considering how close they are you’d think they’d be able to connect together somehow.

    Just hopeful ramblings I suppose but I want to see RI flourish.

  59. I was just at the RI Mall last night to do my annual “walk through” of it and it is in really bad shape. Although, there is a new HR Block where the DMV used to be (the DMV Express there moved out last August, 2010), so maybe that’s a little bit of hope. But, the Sears now is closed up from people walking through into the mall. They had metal gates enclosing it when I was there last night. I’m wondering why they did this. Additionally, the Dollar Store is vacant now and the Toy Vault moved to the Warwick Mall.

    Sad state for this mall, does anyone know the latest news for its future??

  60. A small correction: When the mall first opened, Shepard’s Department Store (with their Shepard’s Tea Room located in back on the second floor) was the other anchor store. Shepard’s closed in 1974, and the space remained vacant until G FOX moved in around 1977. (It was rumored that JC Penney would take it’s place, but they ended up going to Warwick Mall).

    Keep in mind, Sears owns their own building so no matter what happens to the rest of the structure, Sears will always be there.

  61. Just a note… The G.Fox store was originally a Shepards department store. It had signs outrigged on the posts running down the main corridor of all the RI communities.

  62. The latest info says this mall’s interior will be closing for good on Saturday April 30, 2011. 1rst place sports(the last tenant, a guess) already started the move. Strange that this website says that Sears owns the building when their own store is walled off, completely. I am guessing that the Royal Arnold’s 20 year lease let this building decay so much, it would be too costly to fix. I have been told that the State fire marshal has ordered it closed, just a rumor. Strange, the structure looks the same as it did years ago. Where is the fire trap? It will join the Arcade in Providence as another empty mall in RI.

  63. I was told by a Sears employee on the last day that they do not own this mall. I was told that Royal Arnold is still leasing the mall, even through it is now closed. Nobody would tell me what will happen to the building. The best guess was it would be left as is, totally empty and locked. The fountains and escalators were not running, but the elevator was.

  64. I appear to stop by and check up on this mall every six months or so. Pretty moot at this point, considering it’s now closed, but I keep hoping that someone will come along and link some photos of this place from the mid-80s through early 90s.

    In the meantime, I did find an interesting article from a Brown student, written at the end of last year: http://students.brown.edu/College_Hill_Independent/?p=3492. I’m shocked and very sad to read that the original Wal*Mart plans did have doors opening into the mall, they were just never built. Those doors would have cost Wal*Mart next to nothing and could well have saved the mall, but they just never happened and nobody knows why. Ouch.

    I’m also really sad to read that tenants from the Warwick Mall looked into renting RI Mall space after the floods in 2010, only to be told no. I’d heard for years that the parent company of Stop & Shop was just hanging on to this space to keep Wal*Mart from expanding and never intended to invest in it, but I’d never entirely believed it. It sounded like…a very typical Rhode Island tall tale, frankly. The big guy coming in and keeping out all the local color, the shades of conspiracy, the any-reason-to-complain. But apparently it was all true, all along.

  65. My mother is one of the Walmart employees who worked in the store prior to its opening. The mall entrance into Walmart was actually built (I happened to see it while it was still blocked off with a giant blue tarp), and they had registers and everything there. They were then told that they couldn’t have the entry and had to close it back up.

  66. This really is tragic to learn about. I was seven when it opened in ’68, and growing up in Providence, but I remember my family being very excited to go check it out. I moved away from RI over twenty years ago, but never expected to learn that this mall was “dead”. Even though I hardly ever went there myself, it’s fixed in my memories of growing up in RI, and it’s heartbreaking to see these pictures.

    What irony, though, that this mall and Warwick Mall were responsible, more than anything, for the decline of downtown Prov. through the 80’s, and the closing of stores like the Outlet and Shepherd’s. From what I’ve read, Providence is now thriving once again with its own in-town mall. (Too bad nobody thought of that thirty years ago, when downtown seemed all but dead.) All the same, I hope this little mall can make its own comeback, too! At least I hope it doesn’t become a WalMart superstore. The saddest part of reading this was learning about their part in killing the mall. I’ve never shopped there, and now I know I never will.

  67. @Crystal, Wow. That’s….really very sad. Thanks for the info.

  68. Hi was wandering if anyone cld tell me if the pet store is in the mall and if they still have puppies, thank u

  69. @Kim, My wife is driving me crazy. She want to know the name of the country type store you describe at Midland Mall Do you remember the name. Take care JP

  70. @Chris, this mall is completely closed. there are no stores left.

  71. @John Millette, I can’t remember the name of the country store…it may have just been that, “The Country Store”! I remember it, too; it was there when the mall opened. You could get stick candy and other things.

  72. @Joe, when the mall originally opened there was a CVS on the top level. Next door was a shop that original sold 60s type “mod” bric-a-brac, like glass flowers, vases, and other “psychedelic” stuff. It later became what was my favorite store at Midland Mall: the Impulse store. They sold all Panasonic products. I got two wonderful cassette recorders there (I still have both of them, they still work) and my very first VCR, which cost $800, but was on sale that weekend for $750.

    There was a bookstore on the top level for quite a while, but it wasn’t as good as the Waldenbooks at Warwick Mall. Those were my two favorite places at Warwick Mall: Waldenbooks, and the Fannie Farmer candy store. They had the best orange creams. (Oh, and the Roast House, but it wasn’t as good as the one at Lincoln Mall.)

  73. @Donna, Cherry & Webb was very popular with women shoppers. They had excellent clothing.

  74. I remember when RI Mall opened as Midland Mall. Sears was the “front” anchor with Shepards at the other end. Shepards was one of my favorite stores downtown since they carried Marguerite Henry’s books in their book department. The original mall also had a CVS, a funky store next door to CVS where they sold “glass” flowers (plastic) and other “psychedelic” 60s stuff, a country store where they sold popcorn, stick candy, and quaint country stuff, and a bookstore. There was also a Cherry and Webb and several shoe stores like Thom McAn, dress shops, etc.

    When I learned to drive several years later and every Friday night I would drive my mom to the mall and we would walk around. We would park near Sears and start there. For a few years Sears had a few books and a candy counter like the one at Woolworths where you could buy loose hard candies and chocolates. Then we would go to the Doktor Pet Shop to look at the puppies and the budgies. I always hated how they treated their birds! They always scared them.

    We’d walk around the mall both levels and go in various stores. The “psychedelic” store was replaced sometime before 1974 by an Impulse store. They sold all Panasonic products. In 1974 I had to go into the hospital for surgery (it was my senior year in HS and I missed the entire last semester except for the final two weeks) and as a get-well gift my parents bought me a beautiful portable cassette recorder. I still have it and it still works. I recorded all manner of TV programs on cassettes back in those days before VCRs! In 1978 I bought a second one (which I also still have and still works). In October 1980 I made my biggest purchase at the Impulse store, a brand new VCR! It was regularly priced at $800, but I got it on sale that week at $750. (Yes, VCRs really cost that much back then. And the blank tapes were $25 each! The Sony Betamax units cost even more, $950-$1,000.)

  75. @CR, Remember the Warwick Cinema, not the nightclub. Saw SOUND OF MUSIC at the WC when it first opened in 1966.

  76. @Joe, Don’t forget the Chess King store. I was the District Manager for Chess King and this was the biggest sales volume store I had in a district of very big volume stores. The problem with this mall was always department store # 2 (Shepards/G. Fox/Filenes). The space was too small to support a department store (Shepards’ choice) and too little parking/land to build anything else. It is very sad but shoppers have moved away from malls everywhere.

  77. @sally, replying to myself here…

    But I just clicked on the link to Flickr, and there is a great new-to-me set of pictures from this mall posted by Flickr user jvelmar. Definitely worth a look. Says they were taken in March 2012.

    I don’t know how they got in there to take these photos, but I’m glad they did. The lights are apparently still on (or were, in March 2012) but the escalators are off and the plants are dying.

    The stores are empty of merchandise, but there’s still some *stuff* in the RI Mall. Christmas decorations. High chairs from the food court. Carousel horses. (Did the RI Mall even have a carousel?) Store fixtures. Seating.

    What do you do with the remains of a mall nobody goes to anymore, but is not being demolished or renovated? Not worth the time to drag it out to a landfill, I guess. Just leave it there.

    Some of the pictures are creepy, and all of them are sad.

  78. @M.C., There is also a Wal*Mart anchoring the Swansea Mall. Wal*Mart does not belong near malls, I’ll agree.

  79. there re opening the mall again and putting stores

  80. Rhode Island Mall sold; new owners plan renovation, new jobs
    November 15, 2012 8:04 am By News staff

    WARWICK, R.I. — The Rhode Island Mall has been sold for $38 million and the new owners pledge a renovation that will bring about 225 construction jobs to Warwick and about 150 permanent and part-time jobs to the mall.

    Winstanley Enterprises, LLC of Concord, Mass., and Surrey Equities, LLC of New York bought the 450,000-square-foot mall from GLL Real Estate Partners of Orlando, Fla.

    The mall portion of the property, 225,000 square feet, has been closed since April 2011, but the stand-alone retail space on the site houses Sears, Wal-Mart and Kohls.

    The new owners plan to renovate the mall’s interior and exterior to create larger tenant spaces that cater to anchor tenants, according to spokesman Matthew Watkins, president of Watkins Strategies of Quincy, Mass.

  81. I’m back in Rhode Island these days and drive by this mall every now and then. So far, I can’t see any movement on renovating the space.

    However, I did stumble across this interesting tidbit: http://www.630wpro.com/common/page.php?feed=2&pt=NEWS%3A+Owners+of+RI+Mall+sell+off+Wal-Mart%2C+Kohl%27s+for+%2433M&id=29663&is_corp=0

    Apparently the new owners have sold off the Kohl’s and the Walmart – they say it is to allow them to focus on the dead inside space instead. I really hope this is a legit reason, not the first step of these new buyers backing slowly away.

  82. This was the place to go in the ’90s. Was there a cinema around in the 90s-early 2000s? I’m not referring to Warwick Mall’s Showcase Cinema that’s near Target today, but the tiny one that might have been a short walk from the main area of the mall between Sears and Kohl’s.

    Saturday Matineé. That’s the name of the store that was once in the far corner of the second floor before it closed down (one of the first to do so), Carimar (After Thoughts) on the first floor at the corner next to the fountain and elevator. Those were two of my favourite stores. EB World on the first floor next to Sears, Kay-Bee Toys on the top floor next to Sears, and the Christmas tree events with the local elementary schools were other stores and events, along with Papa Gino’s on the middle side aisle of the top floor near one of the main entrances. My mum worked there when I was seven, and her boss was so awesome that he gave my entire class free food when we went there on a pre-Christmas field trip in 1995. 😀

    Good times! I hope the future of this mall proves to be a promising one…I do miss walking around inside and window-browsing, but what I miss the most is sitting at the fountain on the first floor and flicking coins in it only to try fishing them out after and being carried away for being an Indian-giver… >_>

Leave a Reply