Smart SpendingSmart Spending The final resting place in retail

Online historians chronicle shopping wastelands.

By Karen Datko Oct 8, 2009 7:03PM

Has the mall of your teens died a slow death by neglect or succumbed to sudden trauma inflicted when vehicle traffic patterns were changed? If so, chances are you can find its eulogy at

Or maybe the current economy is driving it into the ground. With so many mall-based chains flocking into Bankruptcy Court and their hosts in serious need of life support, the mall historians at are chronicling a very bleak period in retail. is an entertaining but sobering site. We decided to see how malls we visited as a teen are faring.

We clicked on Pennsylvania at a map on a page called Dead Mall Features.

  • Roger DeMarco reported that the Monroeville Mall, the Pittsburgh-area mall featured in "Dawn of the Dead," is "doing very well." But, like many of the mall profiles at the site, it was written in 2006. (Lee Eisenberg, who also recently discovered, reports at The Daily Beast that the Monroeville Mall appears to be healthy. Readers of can submit updates.)
  • Back in 2006, the site says, the Northway Mall was in decline. rightfully recognizes it as the first enclosed mall in the commonwealth fondly known by residents as "PA." It's still in operation, unlike Southwyck Mall of Toledo, Ohio. It's being demolished. (In the Toledo Free Press, a writer recalls fond memories of that place.)

For the real scoop, a blog at the site tracks news on all things mall, like David Segal's story in The New York Times, "Our love affair with malls in on the rocks." We also found biting commentary, such as "Dead malls are the canary in the coal mine of the economy," which includes site co-founder Brian Florence's criticism of how New York state's stimulus money is being spent.

At the site's glossary, you can also learn mallspeak. Some example are:

  • Greyfields: "Malls where annual sales per square foot is less than $150, or one-third the rate of sales at a successful mall."
  • Labelscar: "Fading or dirt left behind from a sign on or in a mall" that's useful in pinpointing where departed stores used to be.
  • Mallmanac: Those handy maps near the mall entrances that show where stores are located.

What's a dead mall? In part, it's "a mall with a high vacancy rate, low consumer traffic level, or is dated or deteriorating in some manner."

Published April 8, 2009

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