Editor’s Note: Earlier this week Karl Breckenridge’s column featured a guest post by Jody Rice highlighting memories of Park Lane Mall. It struck a chord with readers, who have been sharing their memories with us.
Submitted by Michelle Beck, originally written on February 1, 2007, the day that Park Lane Mall closed its doors, and posted to MySpace (with edits)
When I was a little girl, my dad only had a few jobs and he often took me with him when he had to go. Most of the time, he was just a stay at home dad. One of those jobs was at Smith’s Clothiers. It was a high-end suit store on the southern end of Park Lane Mall. I would often come home with scraps of suit material, tailor’s chalk and the little plastic clips that would hold the shirts together.
I could do some remarkable things with them and nearly all of my Barbies had a crude outfit made of some sort of dark suit material. I still have a stick of that same tailor’s chalk in my sewing chest upstairs. For me, Park Lane Mall was at that time a magical place.
Through the years, I watched Santa Claus arrive in a helicopter in the East parking lot. I got my very first record at Woolworths… Devo’s “Whip It.” I got into numerous fights with my mother because “all the kids were going to the mall” and I couldn’t go alone. I was embarrassed when my first boyfriend, Josh and his friend wrestled each other to the ground right there underneath that giant clock. I had a bazillion, “I am loved” pins from the Helzberg Diamonds store that occupied the space right across from it.
I worked at Carousel Hot Dogs, Orange Julius, Sears, Prints Plus, Pizza by Piece of the Pie, Things Remembered, Piercing Pagoda, Career Image and so many more.
I bought all my makeup at Woolworths and all of my records at Mirabelli’s Music. I could find the bathroom down the stairs with my eyes closed if I had to and I knew that there was a fallout shelter on the other side.
On Friday nights, I would meet with all of my friends and we would all walk over to Grand Ballroom which then became Red Square. If I was working, they’d gather around my store and wait for me; if Cathy, my best friend, was working at Spencer’s we’d sit outside there and wait for her. We’d probably be smoking a clove or I’d be sneaking a drag off of someone’s cigarette while I worked at Things Remembered.
On Saturdays we’d go there just to be somewhere. There was always something to do. Always someone to see. We got our picture taken in the giant rocking chair. You knew you would find your friends wandering up and down the aisles. There wasn’t a store that wasn’t shopped in at some point, even Foot Locker, and money was pooled to buy nachos at Carousel Hot Dogs or an Orange Julius or ice cream at Taco Time or Baskin Robbins or really splurge and get something from Foxy Loxy.
I had shirts custom made for me from T-Shirts + with the coolest decals of their time….I spent hours playing Super Mario and mastering it in the arcade across from Foxy Loxy by the east entrance. I worked tirelessly to win handcuffs playing skee ball.
I got into arguments in Park Lane Mall. I even made love there once. Romances began and ended. My friend Tanya and I stole Guess clothing once from Weinstocks. I often felt guilty for that knowing they closed not all that long after.
Before my son was born, his dad, my then boyfriend, left yet another expensive pair of Ray-Bans on one of their benches next to Helzberg’s. I took my son trick-or-treating dressed as Batman…he was just two years old.
Then one day, Weinstocks closed. Next, so did Woolworths. Little by little, all of the stores vanished replaced by a retail chain or little local shop, one notch lower in quality than the one before it. Mirabelli’s finally gave up.
Pizza by Piece of the Pie moved across the street and the only food left was the Park Lane Café (formerly known as Foxy Loxy’s). Hot Topic shut its doors…eventually even Sears fled which was really the beginning of the end. The only remaining die hards being – Time Square, the Shoe Repair, Prints Plus, Claire’s, Spencer’s, T-Shirts + and the nail place.
The overhead music stopped… But as you walked through it, you could hear echoes of our teenage selves preparing for an evening out, a faint whiff of clove smoke in the air if you tried really hard. Maybe even see a glimpse of my father standing outside a calendar store that once sold the most incredible suits. At Christmas, you could almost believe in what used to be as the locals would grace the mall that they had forsaken so long ago if only for a short while. So much of my entire life existed in the mall that I could walk to in just under 10 minutes from my house.
Today Park Lane Mall locked its doors for the last time. A padlock placed on the wire gates. In a month or so, it will probably be gone entirely, an empty lot near a movie theater that never did save the dying mall.
“The day they knocked down the Palais, my sister stood and cried. The day they knocked down the Palais, part of my childhood died” – The Kinks
Michelle is a native Nevadan that grew up in Reno and living in Sparks/Spanish Springs since 1996. She has over 20 years experience as a community volunteer and leader with several organizations including four years on the Nevada State PTA executive board and two years as a member of the WCSD Parent Involvement Council. She has written articles for state and national PTA as well as two local magazines. She now works from home, is a full-time caregiver to her mom, fundraises and still volunteers for local charities and organizations, wife of one, mom of two amazing kids- cheer mom and mom to a college student.
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