Azalea Mall; Richmond, Virginia

Azalea Mall in Richmond, VA, 1991

Hey kids,

Some of you may have noticed (and if you haven’t, I must question the value of our friendship) that I’ve been a bit absent lately. I noticed that my house was looking a bit too much like a 1970s-vintage dead mall, with its wood-paneled conversation pits and bubbly light fixtures. I decided it was time to renovate it. Unfortunately “renovating your house” and “updating your blog about malls” don’t go terribly hand-in-hand; in fact, having internet access or a computer not covered in an inch of drywall dust aren’t part of the bargain either.

To atone for this, I’m going to fill in a bit with a submission sent by reader Michael Lisicky. Michael has sent us quite a few things before, but this post about Richmond, Virginia’s departed Azalea Mall should be read in tandem with the pictures (and history) he sent of Petersburg, Virginia’s Walnut Mall awhile back.

Azalea Mall in Richmond, VA, 1991

“The Azalea Mall was located in Richmond, Virginia in the city’s North side. It was located on Brook Road and was opened in 1963, according to company records. Its two anchors were a 50,000 foot Thalhimers and one of the first Woolco stores in the country. Azalea Mall was Richmond’s first enclosed shopping mall. In addition to Thalhimers and Woolco it also contained such stores as Peoples Drug, Woolworth’s, Food Fair, Hofheimer’s Shoes and many other ‘standard’ mall stores. It was never a large mall but it definitely served its local residents. Things changed over the years, Food Fair became Pantry Pride, which became (a rather low end) Super Fresh. Woolco became Ames but many stores such as Rees Jewelers remained. The kiss of death for Azalea Mall occurred in Spring of 1991. Thalhimers new parent company, May Department Stores, announced that it was going to close the Azalea Mall store. “We don’t operate 50,000 square foot stores,” said May at the time. Yes, the store was a little dowdy, but it had a loyal following and still operated a large beauty salon as well as a full candy counter and bakery. (By year’s end. May would announce that it was retiring the Thalhimers name and was also closing many of its smaller stores along with the downtown Richmond store.) When Thalhimers announced its closure, mall officials said “Losing Thalhimers will actually help Azalea, which has shifted to more of an off-price shopping center.” With Thalhimers gone in July 1991, Azalea Mall started to fall. Along with losing the Super Fresh its next big hit (or hits) would be in 1993, when Ames announced it was closing its Virginia stores due to bankruptcy. Next, Woolworth announced its first major round of store closings, which included all Richmond stores. Then Azalea Mall fell. Peoples Drug, which never remodeled–ever–and had a wonderfully glum and abandoned lunch counter, left to become CVS in another center. By 1995 the mall was shut. By 1998 the mall was gone. Except for a strange old sign and the remnants of the Woolworth Garden Center the mall was nothing but asphalt and weeds. Plans have come and gone but right now it is a true retail graveyard. These pictures are from May 1991. Thalhimers didn’t have much of an exterior entrance but the one photo shows it as well as possible.”

Azalea Mall in Richmond, VA, 1991 Azalea Mall in Richmond, VA, 1991 Azalea Mall in Richmond, VA, 1991

76 Responses to “Azalea Mall; Richmond, Virginia”

  1. Was the Superfresh ever an A&P (given that all Superfresh stores that were established in 1982 were once A&Ps)? What year did Pantry Pride close and Superfresh open?

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  2. Even though Pantry Pride closed its stores in 1979 in the Philadelphia area, its home base, it continued to operate stores in Baltimore, Southern Virginia and Florida well after that date. (Pantry Pride complained that it was its JM Fields division that was losing money but some reason they closed the grocery stores in Philadelphia one year before the JM Fields stores folded.) In Virginia A&P purchased Pantry Pride in 1986. Most stores were small and antiquated. This purchase included the Azalea Mall store but there was also a Super Fresh one block away on Azalea Ave. at Chamberlayne Ave. Eventually these two stores merged into a new large store at the Chamberlayne Ave. site.
    The Super Fresh at Azalea Mall was quite dark, empty and scary. (Which meant that I loved it, to some degree.) It had a wonderful Pantry Pride labelscar on its side wall which I never photograped. I once purchased something that was well passed its due date at that store. I told the manager that this was not “super fresh”, thinking I was being so damn clever. He saw no humor,
    The Azalea Mall was truly a neighborhood mall. It is still sorely missed in Richmond’s North Side.

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  3. This is awesome. I never went to Azalea Mall, but I heard about it for years without benefit of color photos. These capture a really dark and moody place that would have been awesome to shop in.

    Azalea Mall was no showplace, but it was certainly interesting, with all those old stores like Thalhimers, Woolworth’s and Peoples Drug. They were suburban shopping icons for so long in Richmond and other parts of Virginia, it seems weird that none of them exist anymore.

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  4. Michael, I love your anecodote about shopping at Superfresh! I also have some more questions:

    *Did this Superfresh have an interior mall entrance?

    *Was the Superfresh store on Chamberlayne Ave. originally an A&P? Was its building one of A&P’s famous “Centennial” prototype stores? (A “Centenntial” was a brick building that had a colonial look to it, complete with a weathervane on top of a triangular shaped roof.)

    *Do you know the exact year when both the Azalea Mall and the Chamberlayne Ave. Superfresh stores closed, to be replaced by the “new” Superfresh store? Did that new Superfresh remain open until A&P exited the Virginia market altogether (and, what year did that happen)?

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  5. The location on Chamberlayne Ave. originally opened in the late 70s as an A&P, from what I can gather. It was not a Centennial store (which I LOVED as a kid). In the early 80s A&P changed its Central and Southern Virginia stores over to the Super Fresh name. (Super Fresh began in the Philadelphia market as a way where the employees could lighten up parts of their labor agreement in exchange for more ownership in the store. A&P had almost vanished in the Philadelphia market by then.) For some reason the Super Fresh on Chamberlayne moved across the parking lot into a new larger building with a slanted front. They did this even with the Super Fresh still in operation at the Azalea Mall one block away, one of the stores A&P acquired as they took over the Virginia Pantry Pride outlets in 1986. The Azalea Mall store had both an interior and an exterior entrance. It was quite dismal :), In 1993 Super Fresh closed the Azalea Mall store. The Chamberlayne store did a brisk business. (It is now a Food Lion.) In about 1996, A&P, trying to gain any type of strong customer base, changed the Super Fresh stores into Farmer Jack locations. (Farmer Jack was the Detroit chain it had acquired.) All they did was add more produce, changed the sign, added dancing animal displays and played the song, as you walked in the store, “Welcome back to Farmer Jack, E-I-E-I-O!”, over and over again. I wonder how many Farmer Jack fans in Detroit even knew that their were sister stores in Virginia? By 2001 A&P pulled the plug on Virginia, except for a couple in the Shenandoah Valley. They limped along for a few more years. Sorry for the ramble but my passion for shopping malls and department stores has spilled over into grocery stores as well, especially those A&Ps. Long live Ann Page and Jane Parker!

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  6. “I noticed that my house was looking a bit too much like a 1970s-vintage dead mall, with its wood-paneled conversation pits and bubbly light fixtures. I decided it was time to renovate it.”

    Aw, you aren’t going to make it a shiny marble tile and whitewashed area, are you? Make it dark, moody, and full of neon.

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  7. Michael, thanks again for the fond memories of Azalea Mall. I have sinced moved away from Richmond, but I can always remember being cooly refreshed entering Azalea Mall from the parking lot, especially on a very hot and humid Richmond Saturday afternoon.

    I didn’t even live on the North Side, but the fashionable West End, but would always regularly shop there.

    As for A&P and Super Fresh, their stores are still thriving, but now are concentrated within 250 miles of their headquarters in Montvale, NJ. They have recently sold a number of their Farmer Jack stores and left S.E. Michigan. But they are also in the process of acquiring the big Pathmark supermarket chain, also in New Jersey.

    Super Fresh is on a store building binge at the moment. A beautiful new, state of the art fresh supermarket is currently under construction in Rockville, MD. This store will have a 5,000 sq ft balcony, featuring a wide variety of coffees, delicious signature foods, a WiFI area and a seating area to just enjoy the great food and coffee, or just look down over the vast store.

    A&P’s aim is to be the largest fresh grocery market in the North East region. And that may well be, if Whole Paycheck, is unsuccessful in acquiring its arch rival, Wild Oats.

    For a company which has been in business for 148 years, it continues to be a major player in the tough, low profit margin world of food. Battered by Walmart and Super Target on one side, and Whole Paycheck and conventional markets on the other, it succeeds in finding the right niches, be they in fresh or gourmet/fine food/liquor or discount.

    Their Food Basics format is scheduled to expand along the I 95 corridor from Maryland through Connecticut in the coming years.

    For the latest information on the Grand Old Lady of Supermarkets with A Fresh New Face, click on http://www.aptea.com

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  8. The fact that in Richmond and other parts of Virginia the Pantry Pride stores were sold to A&P and operated by A&P as Pantry Pride confuses the hell out of the Food Fair fans out there.

    The original A&P in the Brookhill-Azalea Shopping Center (the “Chamberlayne Avenue” location mentioned above) is now a Goodwill store. The second A&P that is now the Food Lion was A&P’s last new store in the Ricmond area.

    The Food Fair/Pantry Pride/Super Fresh at Azalea Mall did have a mall entrance at one time.

    The Woolworth Garden Center was taken over by it’s manager when Woolworth decided to get out of the Garden Center at Azalea Mall and renamed the Azalea Mall Garden Center and moved to the corener of the property, where it still exists under that name, so technically, all is not copmletely dead. The mall directory sign remains, and is a collection of labelscars with some of the signs mounted backwards. Entrance signs for the mall on Westbrook Avenue are still there, too.

    The mall property was originally owned by the Westbrook Psychiatric Hospital and they held a 50% ownership interest in the mall for a while.

    The property is supposed to be redeveloped into a “big box” sort of center, but that plan seems to be extremely moribund, if not dead.

    I don’t think I ever sat foot in Azalea Mall more than a few times. There was really no compelling reason to go there unless you were in the neighborhood, even in its heyday.

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  9. That’s a great Thalhimers sign. I’ve never seen in before. I remember my Emporium-Capwell credit card saying it was also good at Thalhimers.
    These neighborhood malls are a dying breed. It’s good to see them immortalized here.
    Scott

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  10. Thalhimer’s was so classy ….went there in Charlotte and SouthPark and then they came to Charleston for a while.

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  11. It seems to be well-lit, except for the Peoples Drug picture. What happened there?

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  12. You have made my day. I can’t believe you were able to find pics of the old Azalea Mall.

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  13. absolutely amazing..i remember that mall and looking inside of thalhimers as a little kid. it has been since i last visited that mall as a kid that i had seen the inside of it. it was a dark mall, but still had some charm to it. (even tho i had nightmares of being locked inside after closing)

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  14. I remember going to Azalea Mall all the time as a kid. I mostly went to Thalhimer’s, Ames, and Peoples. There was a bowling alley in the parking lot behind the mall where I went to a couple birthday parties. Azalea mall got really bad towards the late 80s, early 90s. I think Radio Shack was the last store to go (eventually moving across the street). The mall seemed kind of dangerous during this era as the area (mostly on Chamberlayne road) around the mall got kind of bad. This area has improved in recent years; it’s too bad the mall is not around anymore.

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  15. I hope people submit more photos of the inside. I have some photos I took around 1994 or 1995 from all angles of the mall outside. I even have a shot of the Azalea bowl that was located behind the mall. I regret not not going in and taking photos of the inside. At the time I felt weird taking pictures in a mall. I took for granted my memory was fresh then. We used to do everything at this mall. I even got my first job there at Woolworths between 91-93. Please let me know where I can send the pictures once I get them scanned in my computer. Joe

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  16. I Just want to make a few more commits about this place. Me and my Mom did a lot at this mall. As a kid we came here to shop at Ames and Woolworth. When my mother moved even closer to the mall in 1986 she would go to the laundry mat near Woolworths. I would ride my skateboard there and play video games at Azalea Bowl and ollie off their steps along with the Thalhimers loading dock. The grocery store you could get to from inside the mall as I remember (although we didn’t shop there). And a co-worker reminded me Dollar Tree was across the hall and that there was a Baskin Robbins near Ames. Woolworths had a cool dinner near the front of the store which had a connected snack food window that faced the inside of the mall so you didn’t even need to go in. I worked at Woolworths exactly 2 years, from the spring of 91 to the spring of 93. They put me mainly in the garden center after school to load cars and help customers. In the spring and summer that place was jumping, I would be so tired loading cars. People would often come in and order 10 bags of mulch or whatever and then pull up to the gate with a honda or something. If that wasn’t bad enough they had stuff in their trunk so a lot would go in their back seat. I remember also having to go to the pet section to try and catch the fish customers wanted. Even my optometrist was in the mall where I got my frist pair of glasses. Now its down the street at Brook Run called Brook Run Vision Center (I still go there). I went there recently to look at where the skateboarders go, It made me sad to be there. I could still tell where Thahimers loading dock was and basicly where the guys like to skate is the old bowling alley foundation. Now I’m 35 and funny enough my favorite shopping place is Willow Lawn. Its on the way home and when I think about it it has some Azalea Mall qualities. It has a Kroger, Starbucks, Barksdale theather that me and my wife like, Radio Shack where occasionly I’ll pick up an item, Ross and Old Navy clothing, a Panera Bread in the parking lot now and is just a nice neighborhood mall. I wish I could commit more maybe at another time this pesky job is needing me.;) Take care everyone and please lets try to get more pictures of the inside.

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  17. Lots of memories here.

    The driver of Azalea Mall was the Woolco. My wife worked there when she was in high school in the early 70′s. According to her, it was the most profitable Woolco in the entire chain. I remember it had snack bar where the Coca-Cola syrup was turned up high, best Cokes in the world. The Woolco also had a huge tropical fish department. I remember trying to get my parents to buy an RCA 14″ color TV there in 1966 (on sale for $247 which was probably a week’s salary for my dad) so I could watch Star Trek in color. It was not to be, I bought my first color TV in 1978, after graduating from college. Dad got his first the following year.

    My wife’s engagement and wedding rings came from Ree’s Jewelers at Azalea. The first Circuit City was in the mall, a tiny, cramped place where they would always pretend that they didn’t have any of the items advertised on sale (became a CC tradition!). The Home Shop at Azalea outfitted a lot of my first apartment’s kitchen. I bought many a card at the Gary’s Card Shop there.

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  18. hey rsweeney, you can send me some pics of azalea! that would be awesome. chagib4163@hotmail.com

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  19. yep there were a couple of the centenial A&P stores From What I Can Remember, one was on Hugunaught Road, another one was at three chopt & Patterson & the last one that i can think of was at medowdale blvd

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  20. For those interested I posted the pictures I took around 1994 of the outside of the mall on flickr.com. Just type in Azalea Mall in the search engine I go by the name Bobby Brown Ale. Enjoy

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  21. Oh my, these pictures really take me back. I remember going with my mom to Thalhimers when they had the chicken window at the parking lot entrance (70′s). My mom could pick up fried chicken for dinner and dessert (layer cake anyone) from the bakery.

    Peoples had the automatic gates that would open when you stood on the mat. My dad always impressed me by opening the gate by the switch on the side so we could go out of the gates (they only opened in). I thought that was the coolest thing (I was really little at the time).

    Woolco was where we always went for all of the little things we needed around the house. The garden center at Woolworth was a frequent trip. There was a Safety Town located behind the Woolworth. I was always fascinated by it as a child. I think they tore it down in the 80′s.

    I remember marching (and skating) in the Santa parades that the mall held to escort Santa in to the mall. I had my holiday pictures (Santa and Easter Bunny) taken at the mall near Thalhimers.

    I distinctly remember my mother giving me the “you’re too old/big to be carried” speech when I was just a tot – right outside of the Thalhimers entrance in the mall (the side that they closed in the 80′s).

    As a preteen, I remember playing in the photo booth at Peoples and taking pictures (which I still have). My dad worked security at Ragtime (next to The Home Shop) and we got a great discount on my clothes at Christmas that year (1983). I shopped at Hip Pocket and LaVogue and Genie of Oakton. As a small child, I was fitted for my first pair of tap shoes at the Juvenile Bootery (I still have those too – I’m a packrat). I however do not still have the Tretorn sneakers that I had to have from Hofheimers, or the red heels that I bought from Thom McAn. I remember trying on jeans for what seemed like hours in the Juniors department at Thalhimers and my mother proclaiming that the jeans were all too tight to be suitable for a proper young lady.

    My grandfather was a watchmaker and there were always side trips from his shop to Rees Jewelers to pick up work. I can still see the suit of armor and the narrow shop.

    I miss whining for a Coke from the snack bar at Woolco. My mom would usually give in, but only because I could be a royal pain in the butt. I remember back in the 80′s when they decided to paint the exterior of the mall. My mother said then that it was the beginning of the end.

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    Alucard Reply:

    Does anyone happen to know the manufacturer / model of those automatic gates, or if there was something specific that the gates were called (“automatic gate” is too generic and hard to search on)? Even better would be to learn of places that might have any “survivors” for sale.

    I fondly remember terrorizing drug stores by purposely veering off-course and stepping on the mats of these gates to get them to open and close — over and over and over again. Another favorite of mine was to hit the black button on the right side of the main “body” of the gate in order to open it up without stepping on the mat. Finally, there was the good old metal toggle switch to shut the thing off….

    Also, I recall that some Treasury Drug stores and a few other places had these gates — all well-used by me, of course! ;-)

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    Mitch Reply:

    @Angela Edwards, re: safety town — I remember it vividly! Was also fascinated by it as a kid – had loads of fun there. Stumbled upon this great picture from one of the Times-Dispatch photographers — given the date of the photo, Safety Town was still actively in use as late as 1989. Pretty cool!

    http://collections.richmondhistorycenter.com/detail.php?t=exhibitions&type=exh&f=&s=650&record=7

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    Mitch Reply:

    @Mitch, Oops – I mis-read the date — pic was from 1975!

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  22. My first memories of shopping with my Dad were at Azalea Mall. Nobody has said a word about the fountain. I have one of the clown dolls from the display window of Hofheimers. My wife’s engagement ring came from an antiques show in the mall. All the jewery I remember my dad buying came from Ree’s. I remember Graham as a young man, think he always had that beard. I remember standing outside the pantry pride, asking folks to buy us booze from the ABC store. That is were I used my first fake ID. Franklin Federal is were I had my First savings account, Dad banked at the Bank of Virginia in the Parking Lot. I remember the bowling alley, safety town, and Burger Chef up on the hill outfront. I remember getting caught for riding my bike all the way to the Mall at 13, from Chamberlayne Farms. I am sorry that my kids even made it to the mall, there was not much left; but they had to hear all about the glory days of the mall from their Mom and I. I need a little help, when you walked out of woolco to the right was the camera store, Baskin Robbins, the Eye Doctor(maybe Dr Comer), But I can not remembrer the next shop. It had big black and white marble tile floor and alot of glass, what was the name? Damn I am getting old that was a lifetime ago. God bless you all.

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  23. I would like to nominate one of the next potential dead malls in Richmond… Virginia Center Commons. It is located a few miles north of the old Azalea Mall site and was largely responsible for Azalea Mall’s downfall in the early 90s. I go in there frequently, as I work nearby. Almost half of the food court is boarded up and has been that way for several months. A friend of mine who used to work at the Sears store there has told me that the store has not shown a profit in something like 20 consecutive quarters. Finally, I heard from another shopper a couple of weeks ago that one, or possibly both, of the Dillards stores there is now a regional clearance store, i.e. a “dumping ground” like the Hecht’s at Cloverleaf Mall turned into. Virginia Center Commons has in the past few years had some problems with crime and rowdy teenagers hanging out causing trouble that have caused many shoppers to start staying away. Not to mention, Short Pump Town Center has taken away most of its more affluent shoppers. Thalhimers’ plan was to open a store at VCC and close the Azalea store, but they were bought out by May and the VCC store opened as Hecht’s (Now Macy’s) not long after. And of course, there’s also Regency Square, which seems to be going down the tubes pretty quickly and is largely ignored these days by West End shoppers who now go to Short Pump or Stony Point.

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  24. I agree with Brandon about the rowdy teenagers hanging out at Virginia Center Commons. Thats the reason I stop going there years ago. I hope Reqency Square never closes down. Thats another mall from my youth my mother took me to. I was there Saturday and actually like Regency Square it has a relaxing atmosphere(though I don’t go very often). Let all the trendy people go to Short Pump Town Center it makes Regency less crowded. But places like Target and Walmart also really hurt these old malls that have specialty shops because these stores are a one stop shop for everything just about. But don’t get me wrong I like Target not so much Walmart though, its always crowded and a mess.

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  25. Regency is a nice mall. It’s not very crowded and I don’t get the feeling that my money is no good there like I do at Short Pump. Regency could remain viable if it could offer something to shoppers that the newer malls don’t have. The area around it has a lot of retirees and people on fixed incomes. A lot of these people can’t afford the stuff at Short Pump and, like Joe, don’t particularly want to go to Wal Mart where the store is a mess and you have to wait 20 minutes in line because they only have 2 registers open. Regency could be a good community mall and position itself as an alternative to the newer malls by offering a good environment for shoppers who want nice things but can’t afford to go to the newer malls and don’t want to deal with the traffic and the uppityness.

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  26. Coming from the Southside of Richmond, I can’t remember going to Azalea Mall. My wife has to correct me from time to time when I confuse it with Fairfield Commons, which she grew up not too terribly far from.

    Speaking of which, Fairfield Commons earns my vote for the next dead Richmond mall. I haven’t stepped foot in there in years but it looks nothing like it did the last time I went there in the early 1990s. Still remember that my mom bought me a Star Wars book from the B.Dalton or Wladenbooks inside. I am no big fan of the town centers myself. Short Pump seems too stuck up and Stony Point is little better. I used to go to Regency some in the 1990s and used to think the same of that mall, ironically. Now I go to either Chesterfield Town Center or Regency, though I will sometimes go to Southpark as well. I haven’t stepped foot in VCC for years either and used to think of it as a higher end mall. I’ll have to stop in one day to see how bad it has become.

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  27. Virginia Center Commons has been going downhill for a long time (even before Short Pump opened up). I remember going to this mall on opening night in 1991 (or 1990?). Two actors from “Beverly Hills 90210″ even made guest appearances at the mall food court (several months later, I think). VCC was really nice, but it started getting rough several years after the movie theater was built. The mall is very dangerous on Friday and Saturday nights (especially the movie theater). I heard Dillards was going to close down here or at Chesterfield Town Center. The Macy’s at VCC is kind of dirty too, and it doesn’t carry many items. VCC also has too many local stores and shoe stores.

    Fairfield Commons (aka Eastgate Mall) has been dying for over 15 years. I can’t believe it’s lasted this long. After Thalhimers left, it was never the same. I think it has a Peebles, and that’s about it. Sears is gone. I got my first pair of eye glasses at Eastgate Mall. I got several pets (cat, dog, hamster) at the Eastgate pet store too (I think the store was called Doctor pets??).

    Regency is really nice, but Short Pump has hurt it. The closing of the nearby movie theater hasn’t helped either. The last time I went to Regency, there was practically no one there. There are very few restaurants near the mall (with 2 abandoned ones across the street). I heard they remodeled the mall recently. I’ve always preferred Regency Mall over the other Richmond area malls. Short Pump and Stony Point are too expensive. VCC is too crime ridden.

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  28. I can’t believe Fairfield Commons (I still call it Eastgate most of the time) is still open. The last time I was there was around 95′ or 96′ to by some shoes and it was pretty dead then. It had those cheap hip-hop cloths stores in it and basiclly all these small private owned stores. We used to go there in the 80′s. My mom would get her hair done at a salon there and I would walk around the mall and look at animals at the pet store, toys at Murphy’s, go to Gary’s Music, look at pop-up books at the book store and play video games at Sears in there arcade room while I waited for her.

    I remember as a kid going to the west end to go to Regency in the 80′s and that was a treat, at one point they had two toy stores there. Also they didn’t have a food court at the time but they did have a Friendlys and I loved their hamburgers. Friendlys was located on the top portition of the mall right outside J.C. Penny’s to the Left. I also still perfer this mall still as well and look for clothes on sale at Macy’s sometimes (I almost called it Hetchs) or go to Gamestop. Matter of fact I’m planning to go soon to walk around the mall and see if I can find a gift for my wife. I like to go there in the summer its cool and refreshing.

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  29. Like Angela, I remember when Peoples Drug had the automatic gates at their entrances. They were a unique feature I never saw at any other chain, and I wish I snapped a picture of them back then.

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  30. Actually, the A&P at Brookhill-Azalea that Dave references (now Goodwill) was the 2nd A&P in the shopping center. The original one was a Centennial, almost directly across the parking lot.

    My first real paycheck job was at the 2nd store. I started the week they opened in Spring of ’73. It was a “Superstore” featuring dry goods such as jeans, shirts, flip-flops. We even had a film developing counter.

    I worked with some fantastic people and have some great memories. There was an amazing comraderie amongst the people I worked with. helpOur store set all kinds of sales records the first few years. John Woods was the manager. He had great vision, as he eventually left for a relatively new grocer in town…Ukrop’s.

    One other thing. The first few years we were at that location, there were Blue Laws on Sundays. Only necessities were able to be sold. Ahhhh, the good old days. Now you see retail stores open everyday except Christmas. And, sadly, it appears that won’t last long.

    WEO- when I saw that I cracked up.

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  31. Who remembers Azaela Mall’s Hofheimer’s with the monkeys in the back of the store behind the glass wall??? That was always the highlight of my shopping visit. I wonder what ever happened to those monkeys and what they had to do with selling shoes…but it worked! You would see that today!

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    D Wood Reply:

    @DD,

    I started working at Hofheimers the day after I turned 16 (1972). From there I went to work at Garys in 1977 and also sold shoes at Thalhimers through the 80′s.

    Azalea Mall was a huge part of my childhood. I remember buying my boyfriend Converse at Woolco for $11.99 and Levi’s from Edgars for not much more. I got my ear’s pierced at Reese and loved the Home Shop! Remember the small door at Juvinile Bootery for kids only and the fountain in front of Woolworths? Those were the days!

    BTW, The monkey’s named Peaches and Cream went to Kings Dominion shortly after I started working there.

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  32. I guess I’m older than all of you, but I remember Southside Plaza when one side had Thalhimers and Masons. My mother was divorced (shocking in 1963) and could only afford to buy me clothes at Masons. I hated Masons! I wanted to shop at Thalhimers. Later on when I began working, I did, even the one downtown. Those were the days.
    I also remember LaVogue, Clothes For Ladies and Their Daughters.
    Anyone else?

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    DEBORAH D. Reply:

    @Rosemary,

    I LOVED shopping at LaVogue! We also shopped at Worth and Flair. These stores were also at Willow Lawn, as well as a store called Clover Patch, I think.. They also sold Villager, John Myer and Ladybug fashions. I bought my prom dress and shoes at Thalhimers-Azalea Mall in 1968!! I still have my prom dress. Sad that I’m alot bigger than that size now!!
    Thanks for reminding me and I too remember the little moneys at Hofheimers.
    I worked at the Woolworth at Willow Lawn for almost 25 years. I loved it- at least I did love most of it!!

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  33. Speaking of Regency Square, wwe would drive down from Fredericksburg in the late 80′s for a “special” shopping trip there. I remember it being rather fancy for it’s time. The real treat though was that there was a restaurant there called O’Briensteins…..a strange irish/jewish theme, but somehow it worked……they served these green bagels that were incredible….does anyone else remember? :)

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    Terri Reply:

    @Jerry,

    I also remember O’Briensteins. Great bagels and the BEST daiquiri’s ever. Any flavor you wanted–cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi etc… I see there is one on Main St in Richmond. Same owner, still in business? Just wondering……

    [Reply]

    peg Reply:

    @Terri,
    I loved O’Briensteins!!

    And I really miss Azalea Mall. Growing up in Western Hanover county, it was a real treat going to “the mall”

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  34. I was born in the early 1980s, but my interaction with Azalea Mall was actually very high. I remember going to Ames, People’s Drug (now CVS), and the Thalhimer’s store, and I would always pass by the Woolworth lunch counter. I used to wander the toy aisles in the Woolworth store with my sister, and I remember the A&P grocery store that part of the mall. Our parents would buy us some candy in the back of the store on our way out near the Garden Center. In elementary school, Richmond Public Schools would have the science fair projects for the entire city placed in the mall. It was a very community-oriented mall, very unlike the more corporate-driven malls now. I’m from neighboring Ginter Park, and I miss going to the mall.

    I remember when Virginia Center Commons was brand new in the early 1990s and everyone used to go there on the weekends. Even through 2005, I would ALWAYS run into multiple friends, especially on a Saturday. I stopped going there for a while because I liked Regency Square better, but now I really do appreciate Virginia Center Commons a lot more. Unlike Stony Point, you can actually find affordable clothes and snag some good deals at many of the stores without snooty salespeople looking down on you because you don’t live on River Road. Virginia Center is a very middle-market, middle-class mall, and that’s just fine with me. Now, if I want Lacoste, I know where to get it, but Virginia Center has a good variety of shops. However, it is not “dangerous”, it isn’t “dirty” at all, its not “crime ridden”, and the movie theater is just fine on the weekends. There are much rowdier teens at Chesterfield Towne Center and Southpark in my opinion. Plus, the area around the mall has been growing with more restaurants and big box stores. That’s a really healthy economic area. Virginia Center Commons has a very low vacancy rate and the stores actually perform pretty well, so it isn’t really “declining” at all. The hyperbole in some of the comments is kinda amusing…the Dillard’s still sells nice clothes. If you want to talk about a declining mall, look at Chesterfield…their Dillard’s store is CLOSING because it is not profitable, and that’s the only big mall in Chesterfield, a supposedly “affluent” locality. Go figure.

    I go to Regency for the Macy’s and Aldo, but usually that’s about it. Its still a nice mall, but it lost most of its best stores like Brooks Brothers. It also used to have a Friendly’s restaurant right beside the JCPenney if anyone can remember, which was so nice (sundaes!). There was also a place that made great bread, and you could smell it in the mall. Now, Regency is pretty sanitized, but I hope it gets some strong stores to keep it going…the location is great and the surrounding area is nice.

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  35. I have vivid and strange memories of Azalea Mall. To me it was a place of magic and wonder growing up in the 70s in its heyday, until I was around 10 years old and we moved to the West End. I remember my Mom taking my sister and I to the Food Fair- which at the time was the big fancy supermarket, In that parking lot, I learned who the Easter Bunny was when I dug into the grocery bags in the car. When I was really small I remember going to that Woolco and getting lost inside and looking at the fish in the pet department. Another time I ate some candy off the floor by the coin operated candy dispensers and my Mom freaked out and gave me Ipecac syrup.That I will never forget. As a child, I went to the eye doctor there and cried when I was told I had to have glasses at 6 years old, afterwards my Mom trying to console me by taking me to see the Monkey in the shoe store window.
    My Mom was an avid bowler and she used to take us to the Azalea Bowl all the time and for Birthday parties.

    Mostly I have these weird ghostly images-of the Medieval restaurant ( does anyone know what that was) which was near Woolco and of the Holiday events that I went to there as a kid. I am still haunted by the places that surrounded the mall. There was a car wash we used to beg our Mom to drive thru. Do you remember Safety Town ? That was the coolest place. Or the white brick restaurant across from the mall ? I would love to see any more images if you have them. Thank you for featuring Azalea Mall on your website and taking an interest in “urban/suburban anthropology” I was so sad when I heard of its decline and on a visit back to Richmond to see it was nothing more than broken concrete. But thanks to you Azalea Mall lives on. This is why I love the Internet !!

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  36. To Rachel, the white brick restaurant was call Wright Brothers Restuarant as I remember, I never been there myself. Also I took some pictures of the outside of the mall with some pictures of Azalea Bowl from 1994 when I heard they were closing the doors of the mall, check them out there on flickr.com just do a search for Azelea Mall, my user name is BobbyBrownAle.

    [Reply]

    RS Reply:

    @Joe,

    As I recall, it was called “Wright’s Chicken in the Rough”.

    A forerunner of KFC style breaded chicken in a bucket and excellent.

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  37. [...] Richmond’s shopping mall history follows the national narrative closely. The first indoor shopping center was built in Minnesota in 1956. Six years later, Azalea Mall in North Side debuted as Richmond’s first enclosed shopping mall. For the next 30 years, suburban shopping malls boomed. In the 1970s, Cloverleaf Mall and Chesterfield Towne Center opened within five years and five miles of each other. Willow Lawn, built as a strip mall in the 1950s, was enclosed in the 1980s. [...]

  38. [...] Richmond’s shopping mall history follows the national narrative closely. The first indoor shopping center was built in Minnesota in 1956. Six years later, Azalea Mall in North Side debuted as Richmond’s first enclosed shopping mall. For the next 30 years, suburban shopping malls boomed. In the 1970s, Cloverleaf Mall and Chesterfield Towne Center opened within five years and five miles of each other. Willow Lawn, built as a strip mall in the 1950s, was enclosed in the 1980s. [...]

  39. I still have vivid memories of Azalea Mall. I spent untold hours with my mother inside that Thalhimers. It is great to see it again after all these years.

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  40. I remember this place from my childhood — it’s a shame that all I remember from it is everything shutting down, because I’m only in my early twenties. I remember my mom and I last visited Azalea around ’93, and it and the neighborhood was looking pretty rough. Ames, the toy store, and a couple of other places were closing, so naturally my mom gravitated to it for some sweet, sweet bargains. I remember being really bored and slightly weirded out during that seemingly never-ending trip that day, but my mom said I could open one of my toys if I promised to be quiet.

    Azalea was a big part of my mom’s childhood, as she grew up around the neighborhood in the ’60s. Her first memory of it was getting her first pair of eyeglasses there in the third grade. “I could really see for the first time!” she said of the experience.

    I believe the mall directory sign that used to be in front of the mall is still there, with both tenants and the building long gone.

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  41. What great memories this site brings back. I grew up in Ginter Park & worked at Woolco in the late 70s. Loved going across the street to Wright’s Townhouse for “chicken in the rough” and Burger Chef out in the parking lot. Also enjoyed Mayberry’s and Pizza Shack at Brookhill Azalea. What I miss most are the folks I worked with at Woolco. I was a teenager then and had the best time with the Woolco gang (especially under-aged drinking at CC Chicano’s lounge at the motel up the street!). Wish someone would come up with a reunion for former Azalea Mall employees…

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    Rachel Reply:

    Annette,
    Thanks for posting about CC Chicano’s- my Mom took us there when were little and I guess they had “exotic dancers” after a certain time and they were shooing us out-so they could go on. I didn’t understand until I got older what that meant. I always wondered what the name of that place was- my sister and I always talk about that “incident” I remember Mayberry’s the ice cream parlor- it had stripes and ribbons around it and Pizza Shack.

    Do you remember what the name of the fast food restaurant was that was on the side of the mall near Woolco? Also the BBQ place that was the same street- Chamberlyn? as CC Chicano’s
    Thanks !

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    George Reply:

    @Rachel, the barbeque place was King’s Barbeque. There is a laudromat nearby that used to be Burger Chef.

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    peg Reply:

    @George,
    And I miss Burger Chef too… their burger was way better than any Big Mac. I remember Hardee’s buying Burger Chef out… sad day.

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    Lisa Reply:

    @Annette,

    I worked at the Mayberry’s in Brookhill-Azalea in the late 70s. Maybe I waited on you!

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    Annette Reply:

    @Lisa, Maybe so! I actually still have 2 or 3 of the pink plastic spoons that went with the sundaes. Those things are sturdy!

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    Judith DiAnne Reply:

    @Annette, This was an amazing set of comments, who knew this stuff was available to read online, it made me remember things. I got my ears pierced when I was 12 at Rees and then off to get a treat at Mayberrys with the pink plastic spoons. Wow. Richmond was a great place to grow up, not too big, not too small. I moved several year’s ago, can’t imagine the place without spots you thought would be around forever.

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  42. Wow! This brings back a ton of memories for me. I miss Ames somethin’ awful!! LOL! I remember the armored knight that stood guard outside of the jewelers. Thanks for this flashback!

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    George Reply:

    @Sherry, In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they were selling boxed pieces of the Berlin Wall for $1 each.

    [Reply]

    peg Reply:

    @Sherry,
    I remember that the Ames in Ashland really sucked. worse service in the world. Now we have Roses for that! hah

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  43. Ya’ll bringing back lots of memories for me!

    I remember getting my birthday cake from Thalhimer’s one year (I’m still searching the web for the bakery that the former Thalhimer’s bakers opened), I remember getting my school close from Peoples, and WoolCo, and Woolworth’s, buying my first cassette in “Sight and Sound” (AKA CIRCUIT CITY), and I remember a girl who cut her leg playing with a butterfly knife in the main area when they were selling them.

    I also remember kissing Tracy Morgan in the parking lot one night waiting on some friends to meet us back. The only time I ever kissed her, but as you can see? It made a lasting impression.

    I really, really appreciate the nostalgia… Thank you very much.

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  44. Annette may appreciate this – in the late 1970′s, I ate dinner with Timothy Leary at CC Chicano’s.

    Now, that’s a flashback!

    [Reply]

    Annette Reply:

    @Dave, Wow, Dave! That must have been an interesting evening! Trippy!

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  45. Azalea Mall was a big part of my youth. I remember when Q94 would do live broadcasts in the summer; Christmas shopping with the folks at Woolworths & Woolco and Ames; the miniature armored knight in a glass display (I believe at Rees Jewelers). Every once in a while, my family would eat at the “Godfather’s Pizza” in front of the mall, which is now a laundromat. I always thought Virginia Center Commons was the final blow for Azalea Mall.

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  46. I cant believe its gone! l remember this mall even at the age of five! l remember that koren wig place they had there, that sign with the flower on it that said Azalea Mall, and ames. this past july l past by the lot of what Azalea mall once existed and l couldnt help the overflow of nostalga come over me! oh the memories! how l will cherish my memores of this once glorious mall which now is gone. How i wished there could have been some way to save it !

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  47. Oh what a stroll down memory lane, I grew up not far from the mall. My sister had her first after school job at Woolco and she would buy those small 45 records with a song on each side. We would go bowling at Azalea Bowl as a family and then go get 15 cent cheeseburgers at Kelly’s just down the road. Is it just me or have we lost a little something special in all this techno world in which we live. About 10 years ago one of my daughters had a date with a young man who pulled into the drive way in a 1964 Mustang (looked brand new). When she got home afterwords, all she could talk about were these wierd little knobs that you turned around in a circle to make the windows go up and down. She through all her 16 years had never been in a car that did not have electric windows. Anyway thanks for the web site, you made my day.

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  48. Does anyone remember those poor little monkeys (or maybe it was just one) at Hofheimer’s Shoes?

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  49. oh goddess i HATED those gates they were HELL to navigate around in a wheelchair but to answer the question about food fair later pantry pride what not it DID have a mall entrence

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  50. @dt4evar I think he’s playing up the dumbness, cos in some interviews he’s done he sounds quite intelligent and able to conversation, while in others he sounds dim and inarticulate.

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  51. We had a discussion the other day wether the was or not a Kmart in Azalea Mall. I said it was but some of my fellow coworkers said there was. So what is the true fact ?

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  52. ok i have a major question about azalea mall sometime in the 70′s (i don’t have an exact date) there was a mideval themed restuarnt outside of woolworths would anyone know what is was called

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    Rachel Reply:

    @kris devereux, there was I remember it too and it was another one of those fuzzy images in my head from childhood, it was called King Arthur’s, I don’t know much more about it, there is a facebook group called you know you are from Richmond, that talks about memories of RVA, and that came up.

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  53. um no melvin as far as my research has pointed out the k-mart you thought that was there wasn’t it was a woolco store not k-mart

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  54. thanks but i did a bit of research and as it turns out we were both on the money about this too bad no photos exist to verify it but at least i was right

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  55. Never a Kmart, but a Woolco. the “King Arthur” some may be referring to might have been a “Lord Hardwicke Sandwich Shoppe”. There were a few of those scattered around Richmond, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if there was one at Azalea.

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  56. Wow – great stuff – and great memories. I grew up over in Southside but my grandparents lived just beyond what’s now Virginia Center Commons – so we’d take Sunday trips “out to the country” to see them – and that almost always included a stop – either on the way out or on the way back – at Azalea Mall. I remember Food Fair in the late ’60s and early ’70s – and wandering around with my parents in Peoples, Woolco (particularly holiday shopping season!) and those SUPER tasty burgers at the Burger Chef! in fact, I remember managing to lose control of the food tray, sending my freshly filled Coke splattering all over the floor – and don’t you know, the person behind the counter, very kindly made a new one for me and refused to take the money when my father offered to pay for a new beverage. How’s THAT for great service!! :) Anyway – thanks for the memories!

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  57. I wish I was old enough to remember this mall. Thankfully my parents do and my mom has told me stories about the place. I have yet to even stop and look at the asphalt wasteland to pay my respects, but I think that will be on this week’s to do list along with visiting Fairfield Commons.

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  58. Anyone remember the notorious Men’s Restroom at Sears, Thalhimer’s, and Woolworth’s at Azalea Mall?

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