Labelscar’s friend Michael Lisicky wrote us to send some photos of the former Thalhimers at the Walnut Mall in Petersburg, Virginia, both taken in May 1991, shortly after the May Co. announced the store would be closing. Thalhimers was a Richmond-based department store chain that had stores in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina at its peak, but which was merged into Hecht’s in 1992. Here’s what Michael had to say about this store, and this mall’s fate in general:
A casualty of May’s 1991 announcement was the closing of the Walnut Mall Thalhimers in Petersburg, Virginia. Located about a half hour south of Richmond, this mall opened in 1966. Billed as “The Shopping Showplace” it contained a 67,000 square foot Thalhimers along with a large Penney’s. In addition a small local store, Rosenstock’s, was located there as well. Petersburg has been trying to beat the odds since the Civil War, and it lost once again when the South Park Mall opened in neighboring Colonial Heights in 1989. Stores bolted. Penney’s bolted. Stores near the mall bolted. Thalhimers, for some reason, tried operating its Walnut Mall store along with a new store at South Park, albeit with reduced hours and smaller departments. With the May Co. now making decisions, it was quickly announced in March 1991 that the underperforming Thalhimers would close in May. Few stores were left by then. Peoples Drug had already announced its closure. Mall owners along with city officials thought about turning the mall into an outlet mall or even offices. At one point a library was planned. But for over 15 years the Walnut Mall has sat there. If you’re ever on I-95 and driving through Petersburg, VA take a side trip onto Crater Road. You will see a true Shopping Showplace awaiting any type of fate.
These photos were taken in May 1991. By then even Thalhimers display windowed had been bricked over as the area was rapidly deteriorating.
Yow… this satellite photo seems to bear out the story–while this 1960s-vintage mall seems pretty tiny (about 300,000 square feet or so), it’s looking pretty forlorn and lonely nowadays. Deadmalls has some more details if you care to check it out, but the overall story is like one we’ve heard many times before: a smaller, more outdated (but also perhaps a bit more charming) mall was killed by a larger, more formidable competitor a few miles away. Stories like these are always a bit tragic to me, however, because here in the Northeast it’s pretty rare for a mall to just sit, untouched, for such a long time.