The shopping mall has become a dinosaur thanks to the internet. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be happy about it.
When I was a kid, Dutch Square in Columbia was the place to go. When it was built, some time around 1970 or so, it was huge. It had at least three — maybe four — anchor stores, including Belk and Tapp’s Department Stores. There was a Woolworth’s and a Woolco. And a toy store. And just about every other kind of store you could think of.
But Christmas was really the time to be there if you were a kid.
Down the main corridors, which seemed wide enough to fit a small plane through, they would place these fancy animatronic-style Christmas displays that depicted Santa’s elves manufacturing toys. These lead to the center of the mall where Santa (and his trusty sidekick photographer) were waiting to capture the perfect portrait.
Years later, Columbia Mall appeared across town. And after several years during which those two malls battled it out for every dollar, Columbia Centre — yes, with that annoying reversal of the last two letters of center — arrived.
The last time I visited Dutch Square, it was a shadow of its former glory. A new movie theater that has taken over one wing certainly helps keep people coming there. But it just wasn’t the same as it was when I was a kid.
Meanwhile, Columbiana Centre was built in an area of town that was experiencing rapid growth, which meant outrageous traffic. This made it no longer worth it to drive out there unless I knew they had something I couldn’t find anywhere else.