Thursday, January 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday - The Late, Great Shopping Mall

When I was a little girl, going to the shopping mall was fun.  My favorite was North DeKalb Mall in Atlanta (Decatur area).  This mall was built in 1965, and it was enclosed.  It was a smaller mall, with all the shops on one level.  North Dekalb featured a Rich's department store, a wonderful Woolworth dime store, and other fun, like a Dipper Dan ice cream parlor and a Milton Bradley toy store.  

Rich's was special.  This Atlanta department store chain was a beloved institution.  (See my earlier blog post about Rich's here:  Return to Rich's, an exhibit at the Breman Museum.   I fondly remember shopping at Rich's, North DeKalb Mall for school clothes, Easter dresses, party dresses, books, and records.  (My first record album came from this store.)  There was a tea room upstairs, and I went to a few fashion shows with my Mom there.  I remember buying "Buffy dresses" (marketed to look like the clothes worn by Anissa Jones as "Buffy" on the 1960's television show Family Affair) after one of the fashion shows that featured children's clothes.   There was also a snack bar, and an amazing bakery (coconut cake, cupcakes, and more).

In high school I worked part-time in the Juniors Department, which I loved (cute clothes!).  Later, in college, I worked part-time one Christmas in housewares, which I also loved (I love kitchen gadgets and cookware).

Through the 1980's, this mall was still thriving, with a food court, a movie theater, and shops like The Gap, Old Navy, Hallmark, Casual Corner, The Limited, a bookstore, a music store, etc.  

At some point, Woolworth closed.  Then Rich's was bought by Federated, changed to Rich's-Macy's, and eventually evolved into Macy's.  It was still a nice store, and usually referred to as Rich's by people who grew up in the area.  

Then something happened.  National chain stores started closing and being replaced by discount stores and little local shops.  There was a high turnover rate for stores, and it seemed constantly in flux, with some blank spaces where shops had been.  Chain restaurants at the mall started moving out.  The mall changed.  It was no longer what I remembered from childhood.

The Macy's (former Rich's) at this mall held on.  It was a small but nice store.  I shopped there for linens, for birthday gifts, for Christmas ornaments.  I was very surprised to read the announcement last year that this lovely little department store would close.  It had been around most of my life and was such a childhood institution.  

Shopping malls are different now.  They aren't the destination they were when I was growing up.  The only thriving mall I can think of in this area is Lenox Square, an upscale mall in Buckhead (Atlanta).  The others have all changed, to varying extents, with closed stores, little local businesses taking over chain boutiques, high turnover, downsized food courts.   

So of course, I rarely visit the mall.  I shop online, I run to Target, I find other ways to shop.   And I miss the old fashioned malls from my childhood and teen years.

What are your shopping mall memories?  Have you seen the same trajectory with shopping malls in your area?   Are there any malls that still thrive?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below. 

Book Review and Giveaway - The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth La Ban

Book Synopsis
What could be better than being married to a restaurant critic? All those amazing meals at the best restaurants…pure nirvana, right? Well, Lila Soto, the heroine of Elizabeth LaBan’s charming new novel, The Restaurant Critic’s Wife (Lake Union Publishing; January 5, 2016), might tell you otherwise. Sure the food is heavenly, but the downsides are considerable—especially being married to a man who is obsessed with his job and paranoid to the point of absurdity about being “outed” from his anonymity. Add to the scenario the fact that Lila has given up her own career to follow her husband’s job to a new, unfamiliar city, and that she is now a fulltime stay-at-home mom—a gig she never aspired to, despite loving her kids—and you begin to see why Lila is doubting every life decision she’s ever made.

Though it is not an autobiography by any means, it can’t be overlooked that Elizabeth LaBan is herself married to Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig LaBan. “This book wouldn’t exist without my husband,” she says, “who brings excitement, adventure, love, and great food into our lives every day, and has always been open to my writing a novel about a woman who is married to a wacky restaurant critic. For the record, Craig is not obsessive or controlling like Sam—and Craig did not tell me to say that.” But, even if her main characters are fictitious, there is no denying that Elizabeth draws on aspects of her own life to lend a delicious verisimilitude to the novel. 

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is a charming portrait of the complexities of life that many women face when dealing with their marriages, their children, their friendships, and their careers. All the talk about exquisite food is merely the icing on a one-of-a-kind cake.

Purchase Links

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My Review 

I will admit it: I'm a foodie. I love cooking, reading cookbooks, reading about food, dining out, and reading foodie fiction. I've often thought it would be great fun to be a restaurant critic for a vegetarian magazine. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to review The Restaurant Critic's Wife.

This book was a terrific read. I enjoyed reading about the life of Lila and her husband, restaurant critic Sam. Their trips to restaurants, sometimes incognito, were fascinating. 

I really liked Lila as a protagonist. I empathized with her as she settled into life in a new city, especially as she left her job to be a stay-at-home mom. Sam was difficult at times (controlling!), and a big part of the novel centered on their marriage. 

This book felt real to me. It had humor, it had touching moments, and it had multi-dimensional, interesting characters

I would recommend The Restaurant Critic's Wife to other readers who enjoy contemporary women's fiction or a foodie novel. 

Author Bio
Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is also the author of The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven languages.

Connect with Elizabeth

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