Bryant Smith's Commentary

Posted July 9, 2008 (user submitted)

I moved to Meridian, MS in 1994 and even by then, the Village Fair Mall (located on I-20 and former main drag 22nd Avenue) half the stores were closed. The movie theater was boarded up (we peeked through the windows to see a "Three Men and a Little Lady" poster so I assume it went under in the early 1990's). There was also the obvious remains of an Orange Julius which had been turned into a local diner called, appropriately, "Mall Burger." The anchor stores were JC Penney and McRae's, which I remember just feeling "old." It had bright, kelly green carpet and just didn't feel like the bright, clean new department stores of other, larger malls. There was a Chick-fil-a and a cafeteria restaurant called Morrison's, K&B Toys, a Foot Locker, Sound Shop, and various other chains, but mostly empty store fronts and a few local shops such as a western wear store. Oh yeah, there was a Goody's, a discount clothing chain. Needless to say, as young teens, we thought Village Fair sucked. Located close was the R&S Cinema, an El Chico Mexican Restaurant, and a Shoney's.

Eventually in October 1997, a new, bright, bigger mall called "Bonita Lakes Mall" opened less than a mile east on I-20 closer to the Wal-Mart and K-Mart off Highway 19. Almost instantly the stores jumped to Turtle Creek. Even the neighboring Cinema jumped ship, first going discount, and then closing all together. El Chico and Shoney's eventually went defunct as well. But here's where it gets interesting: developers painted the property bright, pastel, Easter colors and renamed it "Value Fair Mall." JC Penney was turned into an area salvage chain called "Hudson's" and I don't remember if any stores moved into the old mall itself, but I do remember huge, Disney character pinata-esque statues hung from the ceiling. Weird. Eventually Hudson's moved to the nearby former Service Merchandise location (where it stays today) and to my knowledge, not much goes on in the Value Fair Mall. It remains a pastel eye sore next to the interstate.

Ironically, in just over ten years, Bonita Lakes Mall is already showing signs of dying. Although they just built bigger chains around it (Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart, even) a few retailers like Gap have left the building and local "urban" stores abound. It's far from dead, but maybe has one foot in the grave?

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