Stephen Leach's Commentary

Posted April 29, 2006 (user submitted)

Built sometime in the mid-70's, Delco Plaza Mall was located on the west side of York, PA along the intersection of Route 30 and Carlisle Road (Route 74). It was an odd hybrid of strip mall and regular mall similar to the popular York Mall on the east end of town; all of the small stores facing Carlisle Road had storefronts, and you could walk from each storefront into the corridor that was the mall itself.

Delco was anchored by two department stores; Hills Department Store sat on the Route 30 side of the mall, while Grant City was at the other end. The mall also got a lot of traffic from the outlying Pathmark store which sat in a large building right next to Grant's. Grant later became Kmart. Other stores in the mall included a five screen UA Cinema, which was the largest theater in York for many years and drew plenty of traffic, Bookland, a locally owned newsstand, the International Family Restaurant and Dipper Dan, a locally owned ice cream parlor.

After the West Manchester Mall was built across Route 30 in the mid- 1980s, Delco began its long, steady decline. The first of the anchors to go under was Pathmark, which went under in the late 1980s/early 1990s as the chain closed many underperforming stores. That space sat vacant for many years before Tractor Supply moved in. Probably the biggest early hit for Delco was when the UA movie theater went out of business. It changed hands and became a discount second run theater, which pretty much killed the traffic within the mall, which then led to the arcade and just about every restaurant in the mall going under. The mall had been a popular weekend and evening destination because of that multi-screen theater... without the theater, there was no Friday and Saturday night crowd.

Delco gained a stay of execution when the post office moved in, and having a state liquor store helped, but the kinds of people that went to those places didn't really stick around to shop. The mall was evolving from a retail space to a "service" space. By the mid-1990s, the mall was virtually dead; Bookland had changed hands and the new owner closed within two years, the liquor store moved out, and a number of local businesses, from a pet store to various Chinese restaurants, all tried and failed to gain an audience. By 1996, there were virtually no retail stores left between the anchor department stores... the mall had a driver's license photo center, the post office, a dentist office, an eye doctor, a women's-only health club, a loan store, a tanning salon and a karate studio. Shoppers had almost no reason to walk in the mall save for a beloved local comic book shop, a jewelry store and a very run down D.E. Jones variety store. Mall management fired the full-time security guard because there was no traffic for him to guard.

The shoe dropped when Hills, which had been struggling in the face of competition from Wal-mart, was bought out by Ames department store, which went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Within a few years of that, Kmart closed, leaving the mall a virtual ghost town.

The mall was 95% vacant for the past several years; even the post office moved out. However, in 2005, the last tenants went out of business, moved, or had their leases bought out, and the owners of the mall had almost everything leveled. In its place will be a new big box strip center, anchored by a home improvement store. It was bizarre to drive by there at night after the mall had been torn down, because there was a huge black space with no lights where a busy mall had sat for over 20 years.

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