Jamestown Mall: Thanks for 40 Years of Memories

Tom Amsel. pg 2jpgA Boomer’s Journal

By Tom Anselm

For most of my adult life, and certainly all of my married life, Jamestown Mall has always been there. It originally opened in 1973, with Stix, Baer and Fuller and Sears as it’s anchors.  The Famous-Barr wing came around in 1994, along with a bustling food court, and J. C. Penny’s in 1996.  People came from all parts of North County and even across from Alton as it grew and prospered.  It was our mall of choice.  The lovely Jill always referred to the last standing big store as “my Macy’s.”

Now, with that department store announcing their imminent closing just a few weeks after Penny’s Five-Star Outlet closed, the ghosts will officially take over the cavernous walkways, and the end will come to a place that eventually outlived its usefulness.

“What happened?” one might ask.  Well, lots of factors contributed to this fall from grace. I will only put forth what I have heard from other sources.  One huge reason the Jamestown Mall ultimately failed is that the surrounding population did not grow as the founders had hoped.  True, municipalities  like Black Jack, Spanish Lake, Hazelwood and Florissant offered an established population. And there was Bellefontaine Neighbors and Riverview as well.  Plus, new housing did erupt at the ends of New and Old Halls Ferry, and along the Shackelford/Howdershell corridor.  But in the general Jamsetown area, there existed a geological problem of sinkholes as well as being geographically bound by two rivers, limiting housing growth, according to development experts.

Another contributor to the decline was the general economy and competition from other developments.  Consider places like The Shoppes at Cross Keys and St. Louis Mills.  Not to mention the debacle in the housing market of 2008.  And of course, we have seen a nation-wide trending downward in the popularity of indoor malls, many running their course in what industry experts call a 30- year trend.  But enough of the technical stuff.  Back to the memories.

Right after it opened, we had a young-in, our eldest, Jamie.  Jill wanted to work part-time, so she got a job at ‘Jacks or Better’ as a waitress.  I picked her up one night at about 1 a.m., with sleeping child in backseat of the Maverick.  It was Jill’s first, and last, day as a server.  She was totally exhausted, and this from a young gal who was no stranger to hard work.

I, too, had a job courtesy of the Mall, selling shoes at Christmas for Stix.   Jamestown was also the site of our infamous “Sears Christmas”, where everything the kids got that year was from that icon of retail, mainly because that was the only credit card with any wiggle room on it.

Now, I don’t want to get too maudlin, here.  We had wonderful times at that Mall. Taking the kids to see Santa, and even the Easter Bunny.  Food court lunches at Sbarro and Chick-Fil-A.  Kay-Bee Toys and Camelot Music. Throwing pennies in the main entrance fountain. Movies and air hockey at ‘The Cine.’ Shopping at stores like Prints Plus, American Eagle, Hot Sam’s Pretzels, The Sunglass Hut, The Hallmark Store. Meeting Lucas from ‘Day’s of Our Lives.’  Jobs for the older girls at Express and Earring Tree and Finish Line. Victoria Secret and Claire’s Boutique.  How about the restaurant on the top floor of Dillards that my kids thought was only for rich people?

It was also the best place for our Friday Field Trip when I was teaching, as my students learned how to take the 47 Lindbergh bus, buy their lunch, and “pretend shop” for items in the major stores. Ah, yes… there really were warm and fun-time memories.

And so join me as we sing “Fare thee well, good and faithful friend. We will not soon see the likes of ye again.”

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