EASTLAND MALL: TULSA, OK
Jeff Postelwait's Commentary:
Posted November 20, 2006 (user submitted)
I have so many fond memories from this mall that it saddened me to watch it sink deeper and deeper into obscurity over the years.
When I was about five years old, I bought my first video game (Atari, I think) at the mall's Kay Bee Toys store. I saw "Snow White," the first movie I can remember seeing in a theater, at Eastland's cinema. When I was little I also got seperated from my mom at the mall -- an experience that she still remembers. I threw pennies in the fountain from the upper level and made wishes.
I remember walking with my parents through the main part of the mall and stepping only on the blue tiles that formed patterns on the floor because the white tiles were "hot lava." And I remember getting shaken down for quarters by an older kid at the Jolly Time arcade while I was playing the "X-Men" video game -- and also trading Ski-Ball tickets for those little foam WWII aircraft.
I had my first job outside of foodservice at the Gadzooks! at Eastland and I was excited to get it. My first girlfriend and I had pictures taken in one of those automatic photo booths in the food court. The last movie I saw at the theater was "Notting Hill" with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, if that tells you anything. As a teenager, my brother and I would drive through the parking lot to moon shoppers -- back then there were still shoppers to wave your butt at.
Until I read the above comments, I didn't realize how many memories I had of this mall. It's funny -- I know I went to Promenade and Woodland Hills just as often, but I have no solid memories from either of those places. Eastland had personality, and I imagine I'd still go there today if it weren't so depressing.
This will sound lame, but the place practically became a symbol of my formative years, which is why it was disconcerting to see it fall into hard times and eventual disrepair.
The last time I went there was to shop for some work clothes at the Dillard's outlet -- I didn't want to go, but my wife insisted. It was like visiting a relative who you know isn't long for this world. It was smelly, the carpets were stained and the concrete was cracked with grass growing up from the neglected parking lot and sidewalks.
On the way out, I saw a big glass wall seperating this horrible store from the rest of the mall. The huge, empty spaces where the stores used to be looked back at me sadly from behind the transparent barrier.
Kent Ahrens's Commentary:
Posted March 29, 2006 (user submitted)
Eastland Mall opened in Tulsa about the same time as the former Southland Shopping Center became Tulsa Promenade, which was 1984. It was a godsend to those in east Tulsa as there was really nowhere convenient for its residents to shop. After all, Woodland Hills Mall was at 71st and Memorial, which meant a long drive down a very busy Memorial Drive, and Promenade as well as Southroads Mall were located at 41st and Yale, which meant another long drive and no real direct route unless you could take E 41st Street straight to Yale. Those familiar with east Tulsa know that's not an easy task.
Eastland Mall really went all out in its commercials to announce its arrival. Martin Mull was the spokesman, and he went on and on about the fabric roof at the mall before finishing with, "How do they keep it up?"
The fabric roof with its tent-like structure became a symbol of Eastland Mall that continues today.
Eastland and Promenade, which continues to thrive, were much more alike than different when they first opened, though Eastland's two anchor per wing structure made it rather unique. Both shared anchors of JC Penney, Dillards and Mervyns while the smaller Eastland Mall also had Service Merchandise as an anchor. Kay Bee Toys, Regis Hairstylists, Jolly Time video arcade, Waldenbooks and many other common mall shops had stores in both Promenade and Eastland. They were more than likely seen as too far apart to compete against one another. The food court at Eastland, which was on the lower level, consisted of mostly B-rate places when it first opened, such as a NuWay instead of a hamburger stand, but having a Garfield's and an Old Country Buffet outside the front entrance as well as a Cosimo's Cafe, which was a knock off of Sbarro that was far superior, in the food court more than made up for it.
Eastland thrived to the point that a Toys-R-Us and a Target opened in a strip mall across the street in '89 or the very early 90's. Today, the Toys-R-Us, Target and other stores in the strip mall thrive while Eastland sits almost completely dead. It lost Service Merchandise, which is now the home of Mickey's, when it went belly-up, and JC Penney left several years ago. Mervyn's recently closed all of its stores in Tulsa, including Eastland, while Dillard's, which owns its portion of the mall, has become an outlet store. The mall boasts several novelty stores, like Socially Unacceptable and A Night Of Dreams, which is a wedding chapel. I've never seen either open. The Quilted Bear became Curiosity and closed last year leaving yet another void in the Penney's wing. The food court now has but one restaurant, which serves Chinese. The immaculate fountain cascading from the upper level to the food court has been shut off. Other stores in the mall have "Going Out of Business" signs posted
all over them, including Al's Formal Wear which once spoke to the success stores could have in a dying Eastland only to decide a move to Owasso would be in its best interests.
So, what killed Eastland Mall? The answer is really simple. First, the expansion of US-169 past 71st Street made access to Woodland Hills more convenient to residents of east Tulsa. Secondly, east Tulsa has seen many of its residents flock south as housing prices have declined. The houses in east Tulsa, many of which were large, were purchased by lower income families. Also, much of east Tulsa now looks like a trip to Juarez as Mexican families have moved both into Tulsa and out of the traditionally Mexican area of Admiral and Harvard. Changing demographics didn't leave much desire for an upscale mall. Sadly, the final nail in the coffin of Eastland Mall may have been delivered recently, and it's not the departure of Mervyn's. Simon, which also owns Woodland Hills Mall, announced it is selling the mall to Haywood Whichard. The deal has left many in east Tulsa, including sixth district councilman Jim Mautino, up in arms as they know Whichard's reputation. However, they're beginning to realize
the mall that means so much to them, and to me, cannot be saved.
Tom Baddley's Commentary:
Posted October 2, 2005 (user submitted)
14002 East 21st Street
The first time I saw Tulsa's Eastland Mall in 1981, it was a sprawling abandoned building left to rot on the NE edge of Tulsa. A friend and I crawled through a cut in the tall cyclone fence that surrounded the property. He had been here before, and wanted to show me the inside of this monstrosity. I was completely taken aback by the size of this structure, and the fact that it had never been completed. It was caverous and concrete. No detail work had been started, so it felt like it could almost have been carved out of stone. Aside from a little grafitti, there was little that could be vandalized. We wandered for nearly an hour before getting spooked and heading out.
It would be 10 years before I saw Eastland Mall again. By then, it had been built out into a modern, albeit small mall with all of the amenities of Woodland Hills or Promenade. Apparently, during the late-80s, the mall had been completed and quickly filled with chain stores taking advantage of the traffic driven by the anchors of Sears, Dillards, Penney's and Service Merchandise. In addition, a new Target and Toys R Us was built across the street. The first time I walked into the completed mall, I marveled at the huge tents similar to the ones used at Denver's airport. A huge waterfall fell near the escalators going down to the food court. They had really done a fantastic job creating an open environment with a bit of personality.
This was the image that I still had in my head when I purchased a home last summer less than 2 miles down the road from the mall. I should have done much more research into the area that I was moving near. I had no idea that things had changed so drastically. Due to the new growth in Tulsa continuing towards the south, east Tulsa has seen an influx of lower income families. These are typically hard-working people who usually avoid higher-priced malls for cheaper discount stores. Like dominos, one by one the stores began to close. By 2001, when JC Penney closed, even many of the local businesses that had moved in to fill the empty spaces had gone out of business as well.
What's left of Eastland mall is a decently well maintained building of empty storefronts. There are two remaining anchor stores. Dillards looks like a typical mall Dillard's from the outside. Walking inside, you quickly realize that this isn't the case. There are absolutely no store displays. Nothing on the walls, no mannequins or tables displaying the latest fashions. There's no jewelry section or cosmetic counters with lab-coated women behind them. Instead, there are rows and rows of racks for as far as you can see. This is possibly the only Dillards surplus store in the US. Near the mall entrance, they have a floor full of surplus furniture for sale. The other anchor is a Mervyn's. This one is the nicest I've seen. It's two floors and fully loaded like the department stores of the past, with full linen and housewares sections. Unfortunately, due to cost-saving measures just announced last week, they will be closing all 3 Tulsa Mervyn's including this one at Eastland. It will no doubt be a severe blow that the mall will unlikely overcome.
At any given point of the day, a handful of cars can be spotted outside of this mall. Most likely they are there for Eastland Cinema, a former big-chain 6 screen theater. Now independently owned, they advertise themselves as the lowest price first-run movie theater in Tulsa. A few other odd draws like Mickey's, a 30-lane bowling center with food, laser tag and billards attract a small local group. Somehow, Simon Properties, the owners of all three major Tulsa malls, managed to get Bath and Body Works to open a new store in Eastland during 2004. They have big banners on the corners of the mall advertising that B&BW is now open in Eastland. I sense that there must have been some arm-twisting going on between the owners of B&BW and Simon.
East Tulsa has recently seen a surge in activity. Complete renovations and new construction have occurred all along 31st St, and very high-end housing has been going up like crazy in the Battle Creek area near 145th and 41st. However, I seriously doubt that the yuppies moving into these areas will be doing much shopping anywhere except Woodland Hills or Utica Square. The easy access to Hwy-51 makes it much easier for people to use this part of town as a bedroom community, with most work and shopping done further away from home.
Someday, they'll hopefully come up with a suitable alternate use for Eastland Mall. In the meantime, I will continue to anxiously watch and wait for what happens to this area that I so unwittingly bought into.
For those who forgot that the picture up top is the link to the photo set, here's another link.
Michael Bate's Commentary:
December 25, 2001 (user submitted)
Eastland Mall in Tulsa has had a hard life. It's owned by Simon Property Group. Construction was started in the '70s, sat as a skeleton for nearly 10 years, then was completed and opened in the late '80s. The Penney's store closed earlier this year. Service Merchandise closed a few years ago. The six-screen theater was closed by the Hollywood chain, but is now open under local ownership. A large section of the mall was converted to "The Quilted Bear" -- a collection of craft and antique booths. A corridor has been permanently converted for a city government disaster-preparedness exhibit. The space next to Penney's is temporary home to the local library while its building is expanded.
The sure sign of impending doom -- Chick-Fil-A moved out. Subway is the only national chain with a presence in the food court.
Jamie DuBuc's Commentary:
November 24, 2003 (user submitted)
Eastland Mall, located at 14002 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK. This mall was built in the 80's, but was always overshadowed by Woodland Hills Mall. In its heyday, the mall housed Dillards, Mervyns, Service Merchandise, JCPenny, Sears, and contained a 6-screen movie theatre in the downstairs foodcourt. People would shop at Eastland when they didn't want to fight the crowds of Woodland Hills Mall.
Most of the major stores have disappeared now, and some of the space was temporarily rented by the Tulsa Public Library while they were remodeling. Currently the mall is still functional, but only because of the handful of smaller shops that are still under lease. Nobody expects the mall to survive another five years.