The Magic of Beauty in Death (in Mall Form)
Last year, our local mall was shutting down to make way for a new supermarket. My parents and I walked through the mall in one of its final days to take in the sights. While we hadn’t been to that specific mall in a while, it was eerie to see the store vacancies and inventory liquidations. I only realize now that my local mall was actually one of the lucky ones. Marshalls and Kohls, the anchor stores of that mall, were still running and are continuing to run today, and the mall quickly found a separate buyer in the form of a Wegmans (the supermarket is currently in construction at the time of this article). Sadly, this has not been the general case for the rest of malls in the United States.
According to Business Insider, over 300 malls are directly at risk of closing in the United States. The loss of a mall can be a huge detriment to the rest of a community, as malls bring in plenty of jobs and taxes for the rest of an area. Most of these dead malls wind up abandoned; it has also been found that abandoned malls also see the closures of surrounding stores. The biggest contributor to the deaths of malls is the loss of “anchor stores”, big box stores that fill the ends of a mall, such as Macy’s, Sears, and Nordstrom. According to TheStreet, Sears stocks crashed 30% in January 2016, and the company’s fate is becoming increasingly dismal. Without a mall anchor, the mall and its leasing stores inevitably begin to flounder and sometimes even become infested with crime (the Rolling Hills Mall of Akron, Ohio is an infamous example). According to Business Insider, consumers have also been changing their tastes. Instead of retail shopping, consumers have begun to prefer online shopping and spending larger purchases on experiences such as vacations to mall retail.
However, with death there can also be beauty. Dan Bell has taken to documenting the state of dying malls in his “Dead Mall Series”. He takes the viewer on a tour throughout the mall all the while featuring vaporwave artists (vaporwave is a music genre that revels in consumer culture of the 80s and 90s and focuses on the consumer culture of malls). His pacing and commentary make the experience of walking through these dying establishments all the more eerie and fascinating. Even the malls seem like artifacts of a bygone era. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the malls were mostly built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it especially shows in dead malls within the series. The video below is one of his more recent mall videos. If you enjoy this one, I strongly recommend checking out more of his series (I personally have not been able to stop watching them.)