Tommy Thomas's Commentary

Posted September 12, 2010 (user submitted)

This year marks 10 years since the last tenants of Hillcrest Mall were told to vacate the premises so the mall could be demolished. Hillcrest was one of the 3 malls that inhibited Spartanburg, SC. Hillcrest was the oldest having been built in the 60s if I'm not mistaken. Out of the 3 malls that were here, only one remains today, Westgate. Hillcrest was easily my favorite even though to most people, they would regard it as the least successful of the 3.

Hillcrest had just about everything you could want. Restaurants, an arcade, a music shop, sports shops, a barber shop, a book store, a greeting card store, a RadioShack (for geeks like me :-P) and nationwide-chain clothing stores. I have many fond memories of the stores there. Hillcrest was pretty well populated with stores from the opening of the mall until around the 90s, when it started going downhill.

Hillcrest had a charm to it as well. Especially around Christmastime. Anyone who went there at Christmastime will no doubt remember the mechanical bear that would peek its head out of a gift box, along with the huge kaleidoscope and the beautiful Christmas tree. Year after year, they had the same decorations, but I never got tired of them. The mall had a very simple layout and look to it. It was dated, but in a good way. Hillcrest had a sense of humor too. In the last few years when most all the stores were gone, at Halloween, they would place grave markers in the windows of the shops, lol.

My favorite place there was Corn Dog 7. A lot of malls around the country had one. My folks and I would share a lemonade on the car ride home, plus we got corn dogs from time to time. The good times were not sure to last unfortunately.

By the time the early-90s rolled around, Hillcrest was in trouble. They still had some shops along with two anchor stores, Belk's and Dillard's, but not much else. In 1996, Dillard's left. I'll never forget when, on a trip to the mall in 1997, walking in the front door and finding my beloved Corn Dog 7 gone. Apparently, the health department shut them down for some reason that was never explained. I stared in disbelief that one of the mainstays of my childhood was gone in a flash. Later in 1997, the final death knell for the mall came when Belk's shut its doors after 32 years of having a store there. I knew at that point, without a major anchor, the mall wouldn't last long, and it didn't. In 1998, it was announced the mall would be shuttered and torn down. I remember Dad and I were there on the final day. I walked around one last time, remembering what a wonderful place it had been. It's a place that I'll never forget! I still miss it to this day...

As for Westgate... it was always my least favorite mall of the 3, and the fact that it's the one left standing of them all irks me. It just took on more of a bland appearance and demeanor than Hillcrest did. It will never have the charm of Hillcrest, no matter how hard they try.

What really bugs me to this day is the fact that instead of trying to remodel the mall and get new tenants in, it was instead torn down and a strip mall was put in its place. While I won't go as far as to say the strip mall is a failure, I will say it's not quite the rousing success it was purported to be.

The dead mall phenomenon is something that's sadly taking place across America. A lot of towns have a dead mall. If you have a mall that's near dead in your area, take a trip there and walk around, if for no other reason than for nostalgia's sake.

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