Born in the mall? Married in the mall? Schooled in the mall? Many U.S. shopping malls today are much more than a place to buy a new pair of shoes or the latest CD.
Malls originated in the 1950s to shield shoppers from inclement weather and parking hassles. But they have emerged as a social phenomenon in the ensuing six decades.
At the largest mall in the U.S., Mall of America in Rochester, Minn., customers can get married, go to school, visit the aquarium or ride a roller coaster at the mall’s amusement park. The renowned Mayo Clinic is even planning to open a health facility there. With 4.2 million square feet of space, the Mall of America is home to more than 500 stores and employs 11,000 people.
Do people really get married in the mall’s Chapel of Love? You bet. More than 5,000 since the facility opened.
Baby Devin Davis was born in a shopping mall. In August, his mom, Chastity Davis, unexpectedly went into labor at Fashion Square Mall in Saginaw, Mich. According to the mall office, Devin’s birth was a first.
On the other end of the spectrum, Til We Meet Again casket company at Towne West Square Mall in Wichita, Kan., became an internet hit after it was featured in a YouTube video “Death Comes to the Mall.” Customizable pine caskets and cremation jewelry are among the big sellers there. Mortuaries specializing in theme funerals actually recommend renting shopping-mall meeting space to hold shopping-themed wakes, according to a 2002 Harper’s article. Funerals in malls are verboten, however, due to shoppers’ sensitivities.
In between life and death at the mall, there’s Mammography at Macy’s. For real. They’ve got it at The Falls in Miami, Fla., one of nation’s largest open-air malls surrounded by a million-gallon waterscape and tropical foliage. If it’s not mammography you need, but other medical imaging, that too can be found at malls such as Northbrook Mall in Northbrook, Ill.
Sometimes ambiance makes all the difference in defining a mall-going experience. Among malls known for their unique design, Festival Flea Market is an open marketplace in Pompano Beach, Fla. while casino shopping malls, one of which is a painstaking replica of Venice’s St. Mark’s Square and another a Roman Forum, greet visitors to Las Vegas.
But regardless of what else a mall may offer, the shopping experience is still essential to a mall’s success. Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Fla. is considered one of the 10 most profitable shopping malls in the United States. The mix offerings at Millenia including clothing, home furnishings and restaurants, with services barely worthy of mention. Chains with strong brand identity help malls establish primacy in the shopping business, investment researchers from Green Street Advisors say, and the successful malls all have them.
It also pays to know your market. Another mall on the top 10 list, Ala Moana in Honolulu, Hawaii, is home not only to top-of-the-line clothing stores and restaurants. It also includes surfer and skateboarder specialty shops, multiple souvenir sellers, 16 salons and spas, banks, an airline office, a foreign exchange and even a dry cleaner. Its public amphitheater hosts hula-dancing shows. With 42 million annual visitors, the Ala Moana mall is not only a highly successful shopping mall, it’s Hawaii’s most visited destination, attracting both locals and tourists.