COBB CENTER MALL: SMYRNA, GA
James Legg's Commentary:
Posted June 23, 2004 (user submitted)
Every time I think about Cobb Center, I just get sad thinking about it. Of the three demolished childhood malls, this one hurts the most. I know that old mall WELL and very much miss it. How I became acquainted with the mall is when my mother drug me there often as a kid back in the 80's as she had gone to shop at the Rich's store there since it opened.
In checking phonebooks, I discovered the place had opened in 1964 and was originally known as "Cobb County Shopping Center" in "Fair Oaks" (not Smyrna??!!). The Rich's store, unique to Atlanta at the time was known then as "Rich's Cobb County"-a laughable notion today with three stores in the county, but this one was indeed the first one outside of Atlanta in this area. At the time, I was attempting to do research and try to find old photos/articles about the mall, but was largely unsuccessful.
Cobb Center Mall was a super-regional mall when it opened. According to my mother, the mall was so popular that cars were parked all the way into the highway to shop there at the then open-air plaza and large Rich's department store. As it was the first mall north of Atlanta and the first location for the iconic Rich's store, the mall was a major drawl indeed. The mall apparently thrived for almost a decade as an open-air mall and was anchored by Rich's, Woolworth's, an unidentifiable smaller wing on the southwest end (probably a Rich's Auto Center) and a Kessler's, which I understood had originally been a W.T. Grant store. That store may have been added later as I am still yet to confirm any original anchor for that site.
Cobb Center was enclosed in the early 1970's and renamed "Cobb Centre Mall" in a feeble attempt to compete with Cumberland Mall, which opened nearby with a far superior mall in 1973 (and now it's dying: go figure!). The enclosed mall featured a very dark, diagonal cut wood and dingy interior much like other 70's malls, but amazingly the mall still held a workable amount of tenants into the 1980's such as Dunaway Drugs (later Eckerd's), Turtle's Record Shop, Florsheim Shoes, Friedmann's Jewelry and Woolworth's. Davis Brother's Cafeteria was also an original anchor as my mother described eating there way back in the 1960's. The original tenants included many other specialty stores and, of course, the slough of shoe-stores so atypical of 60's malls.
In design, Cobb Center was L-shaped, wrapping around the Rich's store that served as it's primary anchor and possibly only anchor at first. In all, the design was similar to Dixie Square except for the anchor placement and overall lack of anchors besides Rich's. In fact, the design of the mall was eerily similar to Dixie Square, though the mall itself was demolished before it even had a chance to be padlocked. Outlets to the mall included a six-screen movie theater (now closed) and a Burger King, which is still in operation.
In the last years of the mall, the mall was renovated around 1987. The renovation featured a pastel look typical of late 1980's malls that brightened it up and made it look on par in decor with other area malls. In fact, the renovation did result in a breif surge of interest with a local bar and grill known as "Howard's" that had been located across the street relocating in the former Davis Brothers as a restaurant similar to Applebee's. The mall was also rebranded as the rather tacky "Four Seasons Mall". Nevertheless, in the era of "bigger as better" and the rapidly declining post-WWII neighborhood around the mall, this old school mall just didn't have what it took to make it. By the end, the mall had fewer than five tenants, the Kessler's had gone out of business along with the rest of the chain (Kessler's died around 1993) and the mall gasped for life. Basically, the loyal, but aging shoppers of the past were no longer enough to keep the mall alive.
In 1998, the game was over. The death knell sounded when the venerable five-and-dime Woolworth's shut down all US operations, including the flagging store in the mall. When that closed, the mall was promptly demolished leaving all but the Rich's store. In it's place, (gasp) a strip mall was built on each side of the grand old Rich's store! Sadly, the store only remains as an outlet, which is still attracting older shoppers and the now diverse makeup of the neighborhood shopping there for bargains in the Rich's, which has been an outlet store for at least a decade.
With the mall gone, all but the front entrances to the Rich's were sealed off, a Publix opened in the strip and the former parking lot and mall behind the store was converted into soccer fields. With Rich's oddly remaining, it was still open on subsequent visits in November and early this year. I included with this profile a few shots of the Rich's store hoping to catch it before it goes. These shots were taken in November 2003. I have also included a full-page ad for the store taken from a 1965 local phone book.