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               100 OAKS MALL: NASHVILLE, TN

JJ Wyatt's Commentary:

Posted May 11, 2005 (user submitted)

The out parcel building that was a MegaMarket was orginally a Service Merchandise Outlet store and then a Service Merchandise concept store called "The Toy Store". It was alot like Toys r us. In addition to some of the stores already mentioned in the early years the mall had a Shoney's Big Boy Restaurant, Woolworth's, Morrison's Cafeteria, Zimm's Jewelry, Cotton Patch, Port o' Call records among others. All of these stores closed during the first death. The lower level was turned into big box retailers on the 3rd rebirth of the mall. Prior to that this mall had a regular 1st level with a huge J.C. Penney store that was two levels and an outdoor garden area. The Firestone building was originally a J.C. Penney Auto center.

Zack Bennett's Commentary:

Posted March 31, 2005 (user submitted)

Nashville's 100 Oaks Mall is dying again. It's no stranger to death. It has already died and been shuttered twice, and it looks to be heading for a third timely death.

It was Nashville's first mall, opening originally in 1968. Located about 2 miles south of downtown, 100 Oaks is a complex that features several big boxes on the first floor, and a single-corridor mall on the second floor. It is also home to a 5-story office building, which has always sat virtually empty. Among its many original stores were Woolco, Harvey's (a local vibrant department store chain that had its heyday in the 50s & 60s, and disappeared entirely in the mid-80s--"It's Fun To Shop at Harvey's"), Penney's, Magnavox, John Simmons, and Games Imported. 100 Oaks also was home to Nashville's first multi-screen enclosed theatre, the Martin, which had a whopping two screens. Another mall, the now-closed Harding Mall, was located just 3-4 miles away, but actually complemented 100 Oaks more than it hindered it. Local department store Castner-Knott chose to open in Harding Mall rather than 100 Oaks, and the local upscale retailer, Cain-Sloan, avoided malls altogether to focus on its downtown store (this would change in the late 70s when they moved into the suburban malls).

(--a postcard of 100 Oaks in 1968 is online at http://nashlinks.com/100oaks.jpg -- this is not my site, i just found it--)

100 Oaks was plagued with location problems from the beginning. While it sits directly alongside I-65, there was originally no access to the mall from the interstate when I-65 opened in the early 1970s. The only method of getting there was via Thompson Lane, which curiously also did not have an interchange constructed to I-65 despite its status as a main thoroughfare. Part of the reason: Nashville Mayor Richard Fulton was an investor in another retail project, Rivergate Mall, located in Madison/Goodlettsville, about 15 miles north of downtown and successfully blocked interstate access to the 100 Oaks area.

By the late 1970s, 2 new malls opened in the outskirts of town: Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, and the aforementioned Rivergate Mall. 100 Oaks managed to co-exist with these two substantially larger malls for a few years, partly due to the distance between all of them. But 100 Oaks began to falter in the early 1980s and eventually emptied out completely. Penney's was concentrating on their stores in the suburbs, Harvey's closed their entire chain, and Woolco/Woolworth just decided 100 Oaks wasn't a viable place to do business anymore. The mall was shuttered in 1983, a victim to its own location, and the accompanying outward push to the suburbs.

When an I-65 exit was built to Armory Drive and Powell Avenue (two streets adjacent to 100 Oaks) in the mid-to-late-1980s, interest in 100 Oaks began to rise again. The mall saw some tenants return, and a large Burlington Coat Factory store opened, but it was the addition of the MegaMarket supermarket next door in 1987 that officially revived the area. But the interest was small and short-lived. Unfortunately, in the early 1990s, the Martin Theatre closed and most of the mall's tenants began to leave again as a result of several new retail developments in the area: the now-closed Church Street Centre downtown, the massive expansion of the upscale Mall at Green Hills 3 miles west, the now-dying Bellevue Center west of town, and the Cool Springs Galleria superdevelopment, located about 10 miles south on I-65 in Franklin. MegaMarket, which had its own building next door to the mall, survived until 1995 when the company sold to Cub Foods and closed all of its Nashville stores. 100 Oaks was once again a dead mall. All of the entrances were shuttered in 1993, and all of the stores had abandoned the premises, with the exception of Burlington Coat Factory and the Firestone tire dealer, both of which could operate without the mall being open. In fact, the Firestone dealer's building was not connected to the mall. The owner of 100 Oaks had planned to tear the structure down and redevelop it, but in 1995, Belz Enterprises, famous for operating enclosed outlet malls, purchased 100 Oaks and planned to re-open it yet again.

The fanfare came in 1996. The MegaMarket store had been torn down and Regal Cinemas was building a 27-screen multiplex (Hollywood 27) in its place, which ironically stretched onto the site of the old 2-screen Martin Theatre. It was to open in late 1997. 100 Oaks re-opened with 100% occupancy. The first floor was retooled to include chain big-boxes, while the second floor (the actual enclosed mall) was to feature all outlet stores. The mall was given an industrial theme, with giant cogs the main element. Also, yellow/black striped bannering littered the mall. An animatronic stage show was placed in the food court, and at the top of every hour, a robotic cowboy would sing country music songs. This was a key feature of the mall. Under 100 Oaks' main marquee facing Interstate 65 was a sign that said "Next Giant Showtime:" and had a numeral-board to announce when the next show would take place. Unforutnately, the sign only worked for about a month and the animatronic show was shuttered about a year later, but remained an eyesore in the food court for another few years. The marquee was torn down and replaced with a sign reading "100 Oaks Mall Second Floor Entrance".

Among the stores occupying the first floor were Media Play, CompUSA, Michael's, MARS Music, PetSmart, TJMaxx, Linens & Things, and the first "superstore" for Electronic Express (a local electronics store with 15+ locations around the city). These marked the first stores in the market for CompUSA, PetSmart, and MARS. The second floor was home to Off 5th, Reebok, JCPenney outlet, many other stores including Burlington Coat Factory, which survived the mall's second shuttering. (Note, the mall is built on a slope, so the Burlington Coat Factory is the only second-floor store to have an exterior entrance). This incarnation also introduced the food court concept to 100 Oaks, but it was very small and had only about 5 restaurants including a Taco Bell and a gyro place.

By 2000, though, the second floor was beginning to fade away yet again. Most of the stores had closed. JCPenney abandoned their store when the company was going through financial problems, and most of the other outlets moved to the then-new Opry Mills, a new outlet-based supermall located on the site of the old Opryland Themepark which opened in May 2000. After the 2004 Christmas season, Off 5th shuttered its 100 Oaks store, leaving the second floor with Burlington Coat Factory again as its only anchor. Now, all that remains on the second floor is GNC (which from my survey of other dead malls on deadmalls.com, seems to be the last man standing in most dead malls), GameStop (formerly FuncoLand), Reebok, Dress Barn, a fingernail salon, and one or two non-chain stores selling clothes.

Meanwhile, the first floor of 100 Oaks is as successful as ever! All of the big-box stores are still open except MARS, which went bankrupt at the corporate level. In fact, MARS stated at its closing that the Nashville store was the most successful in the chain (due in part to its proximity to Nashville's famous "Music Row"). Maybe that is why Guitar Center quickly renovated the old Firestone building and opened its first Nashville store there. The MARS space was quickly snatched up by Ross Dress 4 Less. The area around the mall is very successful. Hollywood 27 still generates a lot of traffic to the area. Along Powell Avenue, the following stores have opened since 1997 and are doing very well: Home Depot, EXPO Design Center (the only one in Nashville), BMW/Mini of Nashville, Staples, CarMax, and a Rafferty's Restaurant.

All of this seems very peculiar to me. The big-boxes and the area around the mall is as vibrant as ever, but the mall itself is breathing its last...yet again. It would not surprise me if Belz shutters the second floor for good in the near future. A visit upstairs can be very creepy, as the number of employees usually is larger than the number of customers.

The only way to explain this half-dying mall is that the second floor must be haunted. Looking at the mall from I-65, the parking lot is usually full and traffic seems to be steady. Go to the second floor, however, and you see a completely different story.

100 Oaks...the mall that wouldn't die.

Exclusive Photos:

100 Oaks Mall Pics courtesy of Zack Bennett

Links:

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