Malls can be a lot of fun. There is so much packed into one building it can be overwhelming and fun. You can eat at different restaurants and stop at kiosks that sell pillows and sea salt scrubs. All contribute to the mall culture and having the mall experience. Even though we have hundreds of malls and thousands of stores, they aren’t all created equal. I have been to many malls with at least a hundred or more stores that can keep you in the place for hours. Through these experiences, I have witnessed different demographics in every mall that make every experience unique.
I decided to visit a mall in a primarily African American community to see the difference in demographics.
I parked at Macy’s. My muscles tensed when I walked through the parking lot and overheard a man yelling on his cell phone. I was nervous. I didn’t want him to cause a scene. There was a police station attached to this mall if anything went wrong. But I was going to think the best of this place; it already had a bad rep. People outside the neighborhood were scared to come here, and I assumed because of the fear of being shot. I was sure this wasn’t going to happen. The demographics may not have been friendly people that lived in huge houses with white fences, but they weren’t violent thugs. They were hard every day working people.
The first thought I had when I saw the Macy’s was that it was dark. I didn’t understand why the store didn’t have light. I was standing outside and couldn’t tell what was going on beyond the doors. I walked through the large glass doors. It was still incredibility dark on the inside. Women’s clothing was on this floor. There was no one at this level of Macy’s. The employees were the only people around. I watched middle-aged women purchasing clothing, but they looked as if they were getting ready to leave the mall. This Macy’s was like many Macy’s I had been to. The only difference was there was no MAC in the center of the cosmetics department. I watched the employees look bored and uninterested in anything that was going on. I felt terrible for them; it didn’t seem like anything fun was going to happen.
When I picture malls, I imagine them grand with tens of stores and a kiosk at every step. Going to the mall should mean having the option to browse through many stores. But at Greenbriar, I didn’t have that option. As I stepped out of Macy’s into the rest of the mall, it was just as dark. Security guards were standing around engaging in conversation; they were tall black guys in white button shirts, navy pants, and boots. They weren’t watching over anyone; the was no one to watch.
What surprised me the most, was the little to no variety of stores. All of them sold the same clothes, which was urban wear and clubbing outfits. I wasn’t going to find a cute sweater to wear with a jean skirt. Many of my favorite stores, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, were non-existent. But even if they were here, I don’t think they would fit. The people in this neighborhood didn’t wear that type of clothing. Although I knew that urban wear was the style, I didn’t understand the need for twelve different stores with the same thing. People likely had their favorites, but it just appeared to be useless space. But most of the clothing was aimed at younger people.
I made my way to a store called Encore. It caught my attention because it had clothes that were geared towards women in their twenties. But I found out very quickly that not just twenty-year-olds wanted skin-tight dresses. Middle-aged women were browsing through finding something that they could wear. The store was cramped, as I weave my way through I noticed most of the stuff was something a person would put on to go out with the girls or to hit the club, possibly both.
I felt somewhat gloomy once I stepped out of the store because of the dramatic lighting differences between it and the rest of the mall was too much. Malls were supposed to be bright and very inviting, but Greenbriar never got the memo. People passed me by, and most of them were in pairs and also groups. Since the mall was near a predominately black neighborhood, when I saw white people walked past, I turned my head. It wasn’t the most bizarre thing I saw all day, but it was interesting. Maybe they were into urban wear too.
I walked down what seemed to be a long dark hallway. The mall was silent; there was no music in the background. When I did hear a song, it was no one other than Beyonce. As lunchtime rolled around, some of the stores closed.
I hadn’t seen stores close in the middle of the day. When I go to malls like Lenox Square, the stores didn’t close unless the mall was closing with it; with the small exception of Cartier, that closed at six. But Lenox also didn’t have a variety of independently owned stores in their mall. Everything was brand names with clothes that were over a thousand dollars. I wasn’t going to see that in Greenbriar. The highest price I saw in the mall was over $6000, and it was a piece of jewelry. I believe that it had diamonds. Not to say the people that were walking around couldn’t afford something more than $6000, that was just the most expensive price I saw. Sneakers were probably the next most expensive item.
This mall was half the size of many malls I had been to. I had walked it again because it was that small. Many of the stores had affordable clothing and great deals. I browsed some of them to scope out cute tops for my upcoming vacation. I could get a t-shirt for $3.99 at a store called Fallas. I wasn’t very likely to find a $3.99 t-shirt at Lenox. $19.99 was my best bet, and that was if the Macy’s was having a sale. I spend more money at Starbucks trying to get a tall caramel macchiato. That’s when I noticed there was no Starbucks, Great Wrap, California Pizza Kitchen, or any other popular mall oriented fast food restaurants, just the first in Mall Chick-Fil-A. There was nothing grand about it, but it was fun to see. People stood in a long line to get their fried chicken sandwiches. How much I wanted one, I didn’t feel like standing in line. I went for another loop around the mall.
I was in this mall for about thirty minutes and already considered it to be a dud. There were no cool, eccentric stores. The place was a hangout spot, and I had two teenage boys confirm that for me.
“We come here to hang out,” is pretty much what they said.
I walked away from them because I was interrupting their hangout time. As school let out for the last day, people filled the mall walking down the long dim hallway with smiles on the faces.