Retro Round Table: Favorite Stores at the Mall


You may have noticed that the Top 5 Tuesday post was missing earlier this week.  Well, that’s because it’s moving to Fridays now!  And no longer are you stuck with just MY opinion.  Oh no, now you get a variety of opinions on whatever subject comes up for the week, as I’m being joined this week by several luminaries from the online retro community as they share their take and memories of their favorite stores at the mall back in the day.  These guys took some time out of their already busy schedules to join me, so make them feel welcome and appreciated by visiting them at their own establishments.  You’ll surely find plenty to enjoy at their places too.  And, don’t let our five opinions be all that is shared.  Down there in the comments at the bottom, let me know what YOUR favorite store was at the mall in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s too.


Warner Brothers Store

Warner Brothers Store

There’s only one establishment that comes to mind when I think of mall stores that mattered to me in my childhood and that’s the Warner Bros Studio Store. Sure there were lots of Tasmanian Devil shirts and Bugs Bunny mugs on the shelves, but it was so much more than that. In the center of the store was a Marvin The Martian spaceship playhouse with built-in TV screens playing old Looney Tunes shorts, as well as an animation cel studio where you could buy actual framed art from Animaniacs or Batman: The Animated Series for outrageous prices.
Most important of all was that in the wake of the Bat-Mania brought about by Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 these stores were filled with DC Superheroes merchandise you couldn’t find anywhere else. But I rarely bought anything, I was just there to stare at the decor. On the ledge of one wall made up to look like the Daily Planet they had life-size statues of the Justice League which made me long for live action movies that were as comics accurate as those 3-D sculptures. That made the WB Studio Store was my number 1 stop for any trip to the mall.
– Hoju Koolander

You can follow along with all of Hoju’s retro shenanigans on his twitter feed, @hojukoolander, read a lot of his his fine writing on a variety of retro topics at Retro-Daze, keep up with him at PopGeeks, and listen to his awesomely fun podquest at SequelQuest Podcast!  And if you haven’t seen it, check out Hoju’s very cool Review of Grunt! The Wrestling Movie right here on Retro Ramblings.


Aladdins Castle

Aladdin’s Castle Arcade

I spent many, many hours at the mall when I was in junior high and high school so this was hard to narrow down. Waldenbooks? When I was in junior high, my friends and I would go in there just to read the dirty joke books. Later on, I’d go in there to read the music rags. Corndog 7? I could score free food but not technically a store. The Brass Buckle? I didn’t go in there to shop so much as I went in there because the girl I had a crush on worked there. Hastings Records and Tapes? Bins right down the middle of the store full of LP’s. Walls lined with tape cubbies. Poster racks in the back. “Now Playing” album rack hanging on the wall by the cash register. I used to love to thumb through the heavy metal albums just to see how weird they were. But I digress. I’d have say my absolute favorite was Aladdin’s Castle. Although not technically a store, I did spend many a hard earned dollar there. I spent more time in that establishment than anywhere else in the mall. Every trip would start and end there. Like a heroin addict, getting a fix before I walked the mall then back later for more. Before you could drive, your parents dropped you off and picked you up there. If you’ve seen the arcade scenes in Stranger Things season two then you’ve seen me.

– Eric Vardeman

Give Eric a follow on Twitter at @Eric_Vardeman, and you can find his retro memories right here on Retro Ramblings!  His article on being a music pirate back in the day is a great look back at the 80’s.  He’s also a talented singer/songwriter, and you should check out his music at EricVMusic.  I highly recommend his version of I’m on Fire made famous by Bruce Springsteen.


KB Toys

Kay-Bee Toys

I grew up in a world of department stores like Kmart, Ames, and Montgomery Ward. Going to a toy store was a real treat. The mall about 30 minutes away had a Kay-Bee toy store that seemed like heaven. A whole store dedicated to kids. There was no mistaking it’s Utopian atmosphere even when you approached the entrance to the store and heard mechanical sounds of a ferret rolling a ball. My favorite was the little penguins climbing their escalator and sliding all the way to the bottom just to climb up again.
 Kay-Bee always seemed like a storage room for the local department store’s toy section. There was so many figures, games, and toys crammed into each aisle that it always felt like I probably missed something yet I always came out satisfied. Sure, it was always fun to visit the mall’s arcade and I always enjoyed the atmosphere of the record store, but Kay-Bee would be the one I’d love to experience again.
 – Jason Gross
 Jason is the chief bottle washer over at Rediscover the 80’s and is always posting some of the best retro content you’ll find anywhere on the web.  His twitter feed is a heavenly slice of the 80’s, so you should give him a follow there at @rd80s.  He and I collaborated last year to compile out list of our ten favorite episodes of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.  Check out his five here, and then give my five favorites a look too!

Spencer Gifts

Spencer Gifts

Where I grew up in rural southwest Virginia, we didn’t have a lot of options shopping wise.  We had K-Mart, Roses, and Magic Mart, but that was really about it.  There were no real specialty shops around, except for at the Bristol Mall, which was a 45 minute ride, and that wasn’t a trip we made too often when I was a kid.  Early on, I fell in love with the Spencer Gifts store there mainly because it seemed taboo with some of the more exotic items they sold.  But it was also the only place around where you could a t-shirt featuring your favorite band, or cool belt buckles, and those awesome black light posters.  We couldn’t even find places to order that kind of stuff from around here, so having that one place we knew for sure would have those unique items was great.
 – Retro Rambler

Villa Pizza

No trip to the mall was complete until you had grabbed a bite from the food court.  The food court at our local mall had a few of the usual suspects like Great American Cookie Company, Subway, and Chick-Fil-A, but my favorite was Villa Pizza.  Hanging out at the mall and being able to go grab a slice whenever you wanted was a pretty cool thing to a young teenager.  Along with the pepperoni rolls, this place had what my heart usually desired, and that was Italian bread, sauce, cheese, and spicy meat.
 – Retro Rambler