Once upon a time there was a hamlet named Greenville, situated in the northwest corner of South Carolina. With a population of 55,000, and over 300,000 in the metropolitan area, Greenville is undoubtedly the economic capital of the Upstate. Several large manufacturing firms call Greenville home, including the North American headquarters of Michelin and the first full manufacturing facility outside Germany for BMW.
Once upon a time there were five full-line department stores in downtown Greenville. At the south end of Main Street stood Belk-Simpson. Moving farther north, one passes J.C. Penney and Ivey’s. Of course, there is the ubiquitous Woolworth’s across Main Street from Ivey’s. Meyers-Arnold is located a block further up Main Street, also on the left. Several blocks to the northeast, on the outskirts of downtown, lies Sears. Greenville was your typical, mid-sized town.
And then the malls came. Three of them (or five, depending on whom you ask). I don’t necessarily think that Greenville is overmalled from an economic standpoint. Rather, the location of the malls in Greenville is what causes them to perform tepidly. All three of our malls are located within 4 miles of each other.
And so we’ll start at the very beginning with some introductions, and then work through the years.
UPDATED South Carolina: Various information
1. Meyers-Arnold WAS at Haywood Mall for a few years. I’m not sure why it closed, but it was a mini-department store where the food court is now.
2. McAlister Square started fading in the late 1980s when a few small stores closed. Dillard’s bought Ivey’s in 1990. Upton’s bought
Meyers-Arnold in the 1980s sometime. Then the mall was remodeled into a train station appearance (which it still has) in 1990-1991, which definitely helped it, as it attracted a Bookland, a Lerner, and a few other new stores.
Unfortunately Dillard’s closed in mid-1995, Belk closed sometime around 1999 and even though nearly all of the mall’s small stores were still there, many of them closed when Belk’s closed, leaving just a cafeteria, an Upton’s, a Foot Locker, a Chinese place in the food court, a Radio Shack, etc. Most of the remaining tenants closed when Upton’s did. I am still surprised that there is a Boda Pipes store there and a few other tenants, such as a shoe repair shop and a barber shop. How they make money in a dead mall is beyond me.
3. Greenville Mall opened in 1978. The cafeteria closed in the early
1990s, I think. The mall re-opened in 1995. It’s now anchorless,
apart from Oshman’s. Redevelopment of the mall into a lifestyle center has been
on the drawing board for a few years but it’s tentative. Surely the
mall can’t be redeveloped into an enclosed mall a third time; I think it will be demolished, sadly enough, and turned into a lifestyle center
eventually. What a shame because it is a gorgeous mall with great stores such as Harold’s and used to have other high-end stores that all closed.
4. Bell Tower Mall was built in 1968, just before McAlister Square
opened, and was enclosed from the start. It was a downscale, small mall that opened just as downtown started dying. It suffered from poor visibility from a semi-highway that goes by it and had weak anchors and non-descript stores that were in other malls and on Main Street, too. I think it did well in the 1970s but just died when all of downtown’s remaining department stores closed in 1980, and its Woolco anchor closed in 1982, killing it.