Submitted by Jody Rice
Hi, it’s Jody and I’m so happy to be back with you in This is Reno! It’s my turn again to tell a story about part of our “Greatest Little City.” I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. A special thanks to those who have reached out to me with story ideas, photos and other things that will help keep the Reno memories alive.
With the stores all shuttered for this plague, my mind harkens back to the 80s when hair was big, vinyl records were all the craze and the term “mall-rat” needed no explanation.
Sure, record albums are back on the uptick but the days of teenagers killing time cruising the mall is now only a national pastime of bygone days.
A typical weekend for my group of a dozen friends meant whiling away the hours at Park Lane Mall, and eventually, once-erected ‘waaaaaay south of town, the newfangled Meadowood Mall.
Park Lane’s… Weinstocks….Miller’s Outpost…Orange Julius…House of 5-7-9…Casual Corner…Woolworth’s… Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus…World of Toys…Waldenbooks…Xanadu…Roos Atkins and Joseph Magnin, and so any more…
All of these lined the 46-acre complex in the late 1960s at the corner of South Virginia Street at Plumb Lane. Before that, casinos and stores shared the downtown, drawing both tourists and Truckee Meadows families. Until six locals decided to transform the south Reno farmland, lined with giant cottonwoods, into the largest Nevada shopping center of its time.
“I even vaguely remember when it was an outdoor mall,” said Jenny Breen-Angella, referring to the later enclosure that happened in 1979. “Oh and we used to get the most amazing taco salads at a kiosk in the middle! We lived there.”
Sears started the migration out of downtown, leaving some to worry that the town’s core would rot if only casinos were left–a situation that is still a topic of conversation with the city council. But that was something for the adults to worry about back then.
Yes, it deserves its own listing. Shoppers passed by the racy Frederick’s of Hollywood, naughty Spencer’s, Foxmoor, or the See’s Candies but the record store was the main destination for people my age. The number of hours spent there was only comparable to the vast number of albums available for purchase.
Mirabelli’s opened downtown, then relocated to the Village Shopping Center but found its permanent home here near the beautiful Ginsburg antique clock, which had been moved from the west side of Virginia Street in front of Ginsburg Jewelers. Sitting under that magnificent timepiece, you’d often find another Reno mainstay, Ed Carlson, who most remember as simply “The Waver.”
I still have a hand-written, inspirational note and rock given to me by the quintessential, sandaled and bearded man who made an almost daily trek between Reno and Carson for more than 40 years, waving at motorists who, in turn, rolled down their windows to wave and smile back.
In keeping with the city’s hotel and casino boom in the late 70s, planners decided Park Lane with its 600,000 square feet of retail space was not enough. A bigger, better and even further-south shopping center was about to do to Park Lane what Park Lane had done to downtown.
I remember the drive to Meadowood Mall well. The route from my home in west Reno called for us to travel a quiet, two-lane road through a stunning tunnel of cottonwoods, known at the time as Hash Lane–a far cry from current South McCarran Boulevard. The east-west roadway stretched for one mile between Plumas and Virginia streets. Now, it is part of the six-lane, 24-mile road that encircles Reno.
Almost reminiscent of the first migration away from downtown, Park Lane’s decline happened in the shadows of the new mall. This time JCPenney, one of the last downtown holdouts, led the way when in spring 1979 Meadowood opened, with 1.4 – million square-feet of space.
Ice Skating…Macy’s… Liberty House… Lord Byron’s Pizza Pub. Eventually, Sears makes yet another move, this time away from Park Lane to Meadowood.
Then-Park Lane manager Mark Darwin characterized the rivalry like this: Park Lane has the advantage of tradition and a casual relaxed atmosphere. In contrast, one can feel out of place in blue jeans in Meadowood’s gracious but sterile, white-walled mall, according to a March 23, 1981 story in the Reno Gazette Journal.
By 2007, Park Lane was torn down and yet another mall, The Summit, opened even farther south of the once-too-far-out-of-town Meadowood. Sears has departed, this time to bankruptcy, and a lonely dirt pile was all that was left of Park Lane Mall for more than a decade.
A stark contrast to last year, when the empty lot became a bustling construction site that is to become a parking garage, surrounded by up-scale apartments and, yes, retail to once again grace the grounds.
And the grand, 1920s-style Park Lane clock, one of the few four-dial clocks still in operation in the U.S., was moved back to downtown Reno in 2013, a half-block from the spot where its Reno tenure began. Perhaps a reminder of the cyclic nature of things. And hopefully, an appreciation of Reno’s past as old meets new…
I’ll visit with you again soon; I know so far this week I’m putting the finishing touches on a piece about the Coney Island Amusement Park, a childhood friend and neighbor of Karl’s is working on a story, and that six-year-old-kid is hatching up another of his yarns! Karl started what became a tradition on these This is Reno pages and I’ll perpetuate it here: Stay safe, huh?
Editor’s Note: Raise your hand if your parents, like mine, didn’t want you hanging around the north entrance to Park Lane Mall because that’s where the punks, with their black leather jackets and mohawks, would congregate. A dangerous lot they seemed to a pre-teen suburban kid browsing the racks at Rainbow Connection while waiting for Dad to finish his haircut down in the basement. Of course we snuck that way regardless, because that’s where the Orange Julius was, and T-Shirts Plus and the pizza place…what was it called? If you’ve been in Reno long enough you likely have just as great a memory of Park Lane. My mom’s: she saw Liberace there. ~ Kristen
Submitted opinions do not represent the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.
From Karl: Jody Rice is a Reno lass who grew up with my sons, learned to write good at Swope Middle School, then Reno High and the University of Nevada Journalism College. She’s been writing around our hamlet for years and I’m pleased to have her join me for an occasional foray into local history!
Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.