Lion of the Blogosphere

Malls in the 1980s

Malls in the 1980s had the following fun stores which no longer exist:

Coin-operated video arcade
Record store (with vinyl records)
Radio Shack
Store that sold Dungeons and Dragons stuff
Art supply store

Furthermore, department stores like Macy’s used to have televisions and stereo systems.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

74 Responses

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  1. And a pizza shop or pizza pagoda, in areas where pizza shops weren’t super common yet (i.e., outside of the NYC area).


    December 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    • Pizza was pretty common everywhere in the 80’s and for quite some time before.


      December 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm

  2. Don’t forget comic book stores


    December 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm

  3. Peter Thiel’s friend Marc Andreessen doesn’t want to hear about Waldenbooks.

    He had to drive an hour to find a Waldenbooks, in La Crosse; it was all cookbooks and cat calendars. So he later saw Amazon as a heroic disseminator of knowledge and progress. “Screw the independent bookstores,” he told me. “There weren’t any near where I grew up. There were only ones in college towns. The rest of us could go pound sand.”


    December 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    • Correct that Waldenbooks was a small store with a limited selection of books. I remember the first time I was in a Borders and it was like heaven for a book-lover compared to what I was used to.

      Amazon is better than bricks and mortar bookstore (except for passing the time outside of your home or office), and nearly instantaneous download of ebooks is better than having dead-tree books shipped to you.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 28, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      • If I could barely remember, B Daltons was another ubiquitous bookstore at the shopping malls.


        December 28, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      • Correct, B. Daltons.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      • Yes, the first time I saw a Borders I loved it. It replaced a Kay Bee Toys in my local mall. When I told a friend about it, they said that I should try Barnes & Noble instead. I did and I was hooked.


        December 28, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      • Sam Goody was the equivalent of B. Daltons when it came to record stores.


        December 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      • “Correct that Waldenbooks was a small store with a limited selection of books. I remember the first time I was in a Borders and it was like heaven for a book-lover compared to what I was used to.”

        Manhattan didn’t have any independent book stores that sold new books in the 80’s or 90″s?

        What about good used books stores in NY?


        December 28, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      • When I was in high school, I used to go to a science fiction book store The Forbidden Planet in the Village. A store with the same name in a different location today sells only comic books.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 28, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      • There was always the Strand BOokstore, an independent bookshop which is literally next to Forbidden Planet on Broadway near Union Square. I think FB also sells collectible toys, besides the usual comics, graphic novels and DVDs.


        December 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    • When I was in LaCrosse a few month ago it had to be the whitest city I’d ever seen.



      December 28, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      • Heaven. I was in Wisconsin as well. If Walker didn’t gut the public unions, I would move there.


        December 28, 2016 at 5:15 pm

  4. Other than the vinyl record and D&D stores, all of these could still probably be found in most malls in the early 2000s.

    The loss of bookstores has made visits to the mall much more of a chore. In the past I could go with a girl, we could do some shopping together, then she could go to look at candles or bath salts or something while I went to the bookstore before we met back up.

    Arcades were still a fairly big deal in the early 90s. Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat were the last big hits that I remember, where there’d be a line of perhaps 5-10 teen guys waiting to play the game at any given moment. But then the home ports of those games arrived, and there was never another big pull to the arcades. Also first-person shooters, which are ill-suited to the arcade, became much more popular. Still, there was an arcade in our local mall into the early 2000s.

    In Japan, arcades are still huge. People live in crappy, tiny apartments, so rather than have friends over to play video games, they still meet at the arcade. Also first-person shooters are less popular there. And culturally, there are perhaps more grown men there who wouldn’t feel shame (or at least not enough shame to stop them) going alone into an arcade.


    December 28, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    • At-home games exceed the quality of arcade games now. Playing online with other real people exceeds playing solo in an arcade.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 28, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      • Super Guido Bros which came out sometime in the mid 80s, should be the greatest video game ever.


        December 28, 2016 at 7:54 pm

  5. the arcade has seen a preciptious decline since the 1980s. they saw something of a re-surgence in the early 1990s with the fighting game craze and have experienced slight dips and troughs since that time with the coming of other fads (like DDR) but its safe to say they are effectively dead. the only arcades that exist anymore are nostalgia hipster catering places like the barcade (i went to one with my friend in jersey city when i was in america in 2014). otherwise i cant name a single dedicated arcade in a 250 km radius from me. even standalone arcade machines are pretty rare; the only ones left in my town are a few dusty old consoles left at the local bowling alley (another dying institution probably) that inexplicably are still operating.

    fun trivia: there was a home video game console in the early 1990s called the NeoGeo which was intended to replicate the arcade experience at home in a way that the other other consoles on the market couldnt due to their less powerful hardware. its retail price in 1991 was about $600!!! for the cost of a NeoGeo console back then, inflation adjusted you could buy an xbox one, a wii u and a ps4 all together today, and probably have $$ left over. insane.

    james n.s.w

    December 28, 2016 at 1:11 pm

  6. 80s entertainment was all arcade games, Atari/Colecovision, b-movies that were mostly of the horror genre, glitz pop and heavy metal, and the shopping malls had stores that mostly cater to these forms of consumption. The late 70s and the 80s were creepy prole.


    December 28, 2016 at 1:44 pm

  7. I loved Waldenbooks. It was like Disneyland to twelve year-old Stealth.


    December 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm

  8. I got a gift certificate on Christmas for Amoeba records in Berkeley. I spent an hour in there and ultimately left empty-handed. I don’t own a record player, CD player or DVD player, so the visit was essentially pointless. Everything is online or my iPod.

    Sort of a bummer, thinking back on how much I enjoyed spending hours in places like that as nearly as ten years ago. Luckily I can easily avoid that disappointment by simply not going in there again.


    December 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm

  9. When I worked night shift in the military (back about 10 years ago), we used to joke about America having “too much freedom.” There was some chatter along those lines in academic circles around that time as well, if I recall correctly. The mall was a huge leap forward in variety for most regions, but couldn’t last. The internet affords nearly infinite choices, while Walmartarget gives us the lowest common denominator of capitalism (maybe not exactly the lowest, since dollar stores are a thing). When people can choose from a thousand different mops, all at their fingertips, they will try to seek out the “best,” which inevitably leads to the browning of choices (you can have coke, or you can have pepsi). Before the Mall was what, the general store? You got what you got, and it worked as well as it worked. The mall let you choose, and in choosing changed the importance of any given purchase. More choice and more discernment are probably not good things for the egos of most people, already damaged through being spoiled by our preposterous amounts of material wealth.

    One trend to consider, going forward, is that it’s likely that ~90% of the population will only be able to afford the Walmart version of things, while ~10ish % will be buying middle class versions, and the top 1/2% will be buying giant self-driving yachts with robot butlers. Expect (more of a) return to hand-crafted, solid items; Amish furniture beats the pants off of IKEA any day of the week for the new mercantile class. I would not be surprised to see functional quality become important to the mercantile class as a reaction against the lower and what’s left of the working class gobbling up conspicuous amounts of IKEA crap.


    December 28, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    • i dont htink online shopping is killing the mall, though it obviously didnt help. brick and mortar retail still lives, its just that the enclosed mall retail format is being supplanted by big box stores and “lifestyle centres”. in the u.s anyway? why though? everyone i have talked to said its because minorities are hanging out at malls now and theyre not cool for white people anymore.

      this photo gallery is absolutely fascinating by the way:

      james n.s.w

      December 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      • Fascinating how? Shows the influence of KISS I guess.

        mel belli

        December 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      • Amazing how many white people there used to be. This was under Jim Crow, right?


        December 28, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      • I’m thinking it’s an evolutionary process if you want to look at it in a positive way. The 80s was a violent period, over-sensual, blood gory for everyone, and Whites have left that era now only to be taken up by NAMs.


        December 28, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      • fascinating in that every second person wasnt fat and it looks like its taken from another universe?

        james n.s.w

        December 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      • and yeah wow look at the number of white people.

        james n.s.w

        December 28, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      • “Amazing how many white people there used to be. This was under Jim Crow, right?”

        Amazing that this was as late as 1990. I’ve remarked before on how you don’t have to go that far back in time to find examples of non-multicultural America. When these trends are so ubiquitous, they can seem like they’ve been going on since before you were born. But I’ve recently seen old TV commercials from 1990, the year I turned 14–I was already a teenager!–when we were only 2 years away from electing Bill Clinton, and Seinfeld was on television, and when you watch them today it’s striking how white they are. Advertisers didn’t feel the need to depict what was supposed to look like a random sampling of Americans as “diverse;” there wasn’t what the late Lawrence Auster called “the standard liberal iconography of today” wherein any grouping of people was comprised of nonwhites plus a white woman but no white man. They would be almost uniformly white, with maybe one black thrown in once in a while. It’s amazing how even in what feels like “contemporary” times, America was still thought of as a white country.


        December 28, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      • 80s hair was still alive and well in 1990 in Suffolk County.

        You can see America’s white regional diversity in the photos well, many more darker colored whites in NYC suburbs than yours see in the Midwest. Suffolk looks like 50% southern euro or Jewish from the pictures, the Midwest is mostly under 10%.

        80s hair was big in the Midwest too, but not quite as much. If these photos were taken in the Midwest you’d also see half the boys with tails. Or for WWC boys around 1990, 75%.

        In a couple pics some teens show an early sign of 1990s fashion: very bright colors and very baggy pants.

        Another trend that was shorter lasting than baggy clothes was elastic cuffs on jeans. I had a few of those, I have no idea why my mother purchased them.


        December 28, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      • how you don’t have to go that far back in time to find examples of non-multicultural America.

        I’ve observed that before too, how many things you hear people associate with “the 50s” were still in effect as late as 1990. The other day, my wife and I, being in the mood for something totally inane and goofy, watched Ace Ventura (came out in 1994) and it’s amazing how much of it would never pass SJW muster today. Ditto for the pilot episode of Wayne’s World which is, or used to be, on Youtube. PC really accelerated in the 90s.

        Samson J.

        December 28, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      • I love the guy in the “youth gone wild” shirt. I still listen to Skid Row.

        Samson J.

        December 28, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      • “PC really accelerated in the 90s.”

        Yes, only 7 years later, in the days after the September 11th terrorist attacks, I remember tuning into NPR on my drive to work, and hearing a segment about supposed anti-Muslim backlash, complete with an interview of a Muslim mother sobbing over the potential blow to her son’s “self-esteem.”


        December 29, 2016 at 12:59 am

      • Tattoos really were not a thing yet.


        December 30, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    • What would your consumer profile look like if you were in the top .5 %?


      December 28, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    • Yes, according to the philosopher Mark Mothersbaugh: Freedom of choice is what you got, Freedom from choice is what you want

      See also: Buridan’s ass


      December 28, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    • I remember some intrepid business guru going around Dollar stores asking people why they shopped there. Most gave hm a very interesting answer: the stores allow them to save money without buying in bulk. And that is really true. You can’t do an apple to apple comparison because the dollar store sizes are not comparable to big box retail sizes. They are not standardized.

      I think Steve Sailer commented once on how big box retail and warehouse stores save you money by passing off inventory control to their customers.


      December 29, 2016 at 3:50 am

  10. Most malls today seem to have way too many stores selling young women’s clothing. Given the struggle of malls, it’s a strategy that isn’t working.

    If Sears ends up going out of business it’ll be *really* bad for malls, as many of them have a Sears as a hard-to-replace anchor tenant.



    December 28, 2016 at 2:50 pm

  11. Does anyone remember a mall arcade chain called Aladdin’s Castle? I have fond memories of my dad taking me there frequently in the 70s. I remember one of my favorite games was a trivia machine. Amazing to think there was a market for something like that but I remember sometimes there were lines to play it.

    One fun mall store from the 70s/80s that still exists in some malls is Spencer’s Gifts. It was a cool, crowded place back then but now seems dead. I remember buying some type of pin that had the word sh*t on it. My mom, who used that word in her vocabulary, was so angry when she saw it and stormed into the store demanding a refund. “I can’t believe you would sell that to an 8 year old” she screamed.

    The mall I have all these memories from was the Northridge mall in Milwaukee (where I used to buy records from a store called Musicland). It was always so busy, it was the place to be. I haven’t lived in Milwaukee in 40 years (or visited in 30 years) but from what I read that mall got totally taken over by blacks and became very dangerous with blacks (including a gang of girls) beating up white shoppers in the parking lot. The mall became dead and was shut down several years ago. I can’t even imagine this since it was safe and booming when I lived there.

    Jay Fink

    December 28, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    • Do you ever read Steve Sailer’s posts about Milwaukee? His theory is that Milwaukee got Chicago’s worst blacks, because the welfare is more generous.

      mel belli

      December 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    • In my youth I would take the bus out to Northridge with a friend… it seemed to take hours, but it was fun once you were there. The whole area around Northridge (closed 2003) has stayed depressed. Even Target and Walmart couldn’t stay in business in the neighborhood. The area gained a reputation for being unsafe, and it didn’t help that Jessie Anderson murdered his wife in the Northridge parking lot and tried to pin it on black kids.

      Radio Shack was a favorite. I was sad to see it go.

      December 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      • I worked at a mall Radio Shack in my late teens to early 20s. Radio Shack has been in a continual slow decline for almost twenty years, and has now become more of a Sprint cellular phone store. In fact, I went by one today and the signage identifies the store as Sprint Radio Shack, with the focus and prominence on the “Sprint” part of the sign.

        Back in the early ’80s, my Radio Shack store manager regularly made over $65K per year; of course, that required working about 320 days out of the year. He was finally permanently laid off in his early 50s after 30 years w/ the company when his store was closed; but he was able to retire w/ a 401K and company stock worth well over $1 million.

        E. Rekshun

        December 28, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      • How did Radio Shack make money? They always struck me as a hobbyist electronic store selling stuff like breadboards.


        December 29, 2016 at 3:46 am

      • They sold resistors and capacitors and stuff like that at HUGE markups. Nowadays, you can only buy that stuff online, but at a much lower price than the Shack used to sell them for.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 29, 2016 at 9:10 am

  12. Another thing you used to see all over malls in the 80s that you see very few of now: white people.


    December 28, 2016 at 4:22 pm

  13. Malls in the 1980s had the following fun stores which no longer exist:

    And don’t forget mens’ retailer Chess King.

    @Jay Fink: Spencer’s Gifts Yes.

    I’m familiar w/ a few traditional enclosed malls around the country that were popular during the ’70s and into the ’80s, then lost anchor stores and became largely vacant or occupied by “Dollar”-type stores. The strategy was to turn these malls into “open air” non-enclosed malls. That seemed to bring some life back into them for a short while, but never lasted.

    There is a decent mall one mile from my home, but other than lunch at Subway in the food court, I haven’t spent a dollar in there in ten years. All my shopping is done on-line during work hours, almost all at Amazon, and in person at Home Depot and a nearby grocer.

    E. Rekshun

    December 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    • Now it’s ebay for those who are looking to rewind for retro items. There’s a glut of junk, but certain items fetch a lot of money like the original Star Wars toys.

      Anyone here thinks young guys today collect Playboy/Smut rags as wanking material, which were the thing during their heyday in the 80s? There’s plenty of that on ebay as well!


      December 28, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      • I read Playboy for the articles.


        December 28, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      • The best one, Barely Legal, didn’t even appear until about 1994.

        Incidentally, near the Berkeley campus there used to be a place called Dave’s Smoke Shop that had a wide selection of stroke mags on display. One day around ’00 I was in there when two female undergrads came in and started examining the spreads. They were actually taking a class on porn. The owner, an Egyptian muslim who considered me something of a troublemaker, was working the register. I went up behind these girls, looked over their shoulder and said, “that’s some nice pussy right there.” They were deadpan about it. I asked them if that stuff shouldn’t be suppressed since it objectified women. Their response was, “it’s OK if it’s erotic.” Good to know a Berkeley education produces that kind of trenchant analysis.


        December 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      • Candy Stores/Newstands during the 80s and to a certain extent the 90s displayed porn magazines as if they were on a clothesline, where young men would sneak peek at the covers while getting their fix of junkfood, candy, comic books and baseball cards-garbage pail kids.


        December 28, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      • The 80s was disgusting, creepy and prole and prole.


        December 28, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      • Young guys today? The Internet is much better for porn. Avenue Q even wrote a song about it.


        December 30, 2016 at 8:15 am

      • Yes, how many of them are buying wanking material on ebay — there’s a glut of junk?


        December 30, 2016 at 11:27 am

  14. If you want to see an example of an 80’s mall, see the documentary Fast Times at Ridgemont High


    December 28, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    • I despise “Fast Times.” It romanticized decadent living for teens while pretending to oppose it. And I was annoyed at Cameron Crowe for making his two IA characters a callous creep (the boyfriend who gets the Jennifer Jason Leigh character pregnant) and the airhead Jeff Spicoli. If I ever meet Crowe in person he’s getting a piece of my mind for both.

      To those who will say the movie has positive messages because Spicoli shows signs of starting to grow up in the end and the Jennifer Jason Leigh character ends up with a nice milquetoast boy who treats her better – I’ll say this. Whatever characters get the most attention are the winners in a movie. What got remembered from this movie? When you refer to someone today as a “Jeff Spicoli” everyone knows what type of young man you’re referring to. Yet what was the name of the character who worked in the convenience store and took down the robbers near the end? See what I mean? Phoebe Cates looked great in that bathing suit, and the masturbator who got caught is remembered. Not much else.


      December 28, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      • Never seen it, but I see from the plot summary on Wikipedia that it depicts consensual sex between a 15-year-old girl and a 26-year-old guy. That would never fly today. In fact, both SJWs and mainstream social cons would throw a hissy fit at the use of the word “consensual”–“she CAN’T consent! It’s RAPE!!!”


        December 29, 2016 at 11:53 am

      • Pretty Little Liars features sex between a high school teacher and his under-aged student, and that’s a recent TV series.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      • Most of the comments here aren’t even about the 1980s.


        December 29, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      • Very interesting about Pretty Little Liars. Maybe I’m wrong about the feeling of the zeitgeist on such matters. Though googling “Pretty Little Liars sex with teacher” did produce this article fretting about statutory rape. But then, I find that the show is set in Pennsylvania, where the age of consent is 16, and the article says the relationship in question began when the girl was 16, so it’s not statutory rape.


        December 29, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      • “Phoebe Cates looked great in that bathing suit…”

        Darling, Phoebe Cates looked more than just great. In an era that was awash with R rated movies showing plenty of topless scenes, the topless scene with Phoebe Cates is iconic. It changed my life.

        Whatever legit criticisms you have about the movie, that scene is a classic.

        Mike Street Station

        December 29, 2016 at 5:59 pm

  15. Another mall fixture, at least down here, was “The Pipe Pub” tobacco store.


    December 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    • You’re right. Every mall used to have a smoke shop. Tons of different cigarettes, some cigars and pipe tobacco. Plus rolling paper and other assorted pot paraphernalia for The Jeff Spicoli crowd.

      Cigars are actually more popular now then they were in the 1980s, while pipes have virtually disappeared.

      Lewis Medlock

      December 29, 2016 at 11:15 am

  16. Scenes from American malls in 1989.


    By the way, speaking of bygone brick-and-mortar stores, does anyone remember Media Play? Their big draw was that the store featured books, electronics, CDs, DVDs, and video games all under one roof. It was always fun to browse their CD and DVD sections.

    Oswald Spengler

    December 28, 2016 at 10:24 pm

  17. There’s a neat series on YouTube that explores abandoned malls called “Dead Malls” by Dan Bell. For some reason seeing these mostly-abandoned places is quite mesmerizing.

    Panther of the Blogocube

    December 28, 2016 at 11:50 pm

  18. Has anyone been to a reunion of the employees of these lost stores – Borders, for example, or Blockbuster, or even the local mom and pop video stores that existed in so many towns? I am sure there are thousands of couples who met at stores like that, with tens of thousands of kids: but are there ever, like, parties where even people who did not get married to fellow employees are invited? (I don’t expect an answer….). What do they talk about? Regret? Chronicles of Wasted Time? The Restoration of the Years that the Locusts Have Eaten? (like I said, no answer expected, sadly).

    howitzer daniel

    December 29, 2016 at 1:26 am

    • I’m sure there are couples who met there, but most retail jobs aren’t pleasant enough to create memories you’d want to rehash. Remember that time you worked at that gas station? Or McDonald’s?


      December 30, 2016 at 8:19 am

  19. I hadn’t even realized that department stores like Macy’s no longer sell home electronics. I remember having the impression that such stores were common sources of TVs and stereo systems for middle-class families in the 80’s and early 90’s. I guess that market has totally shifted to big-box stores.


    December 29, 2016 at 11:49 am

    • And VCRs too! Remember VCRs?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 29, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      • I remember how exciting it was when we got our first VCR circa 1984. I can still remember, as a tech nerd, reading the manual cover-to-cover and thus knowing how to use every feature, and watching my dad try to program it to record a show, bumbling ineptly and failing miserably, yet refusing to listen to me as I tried to tell him how to do it, because who would trust an 8-year-old to know how to work a complex machine? I could never understand why adults tried to rush into using appliances blindly without reading the friggin’ manual.


        December 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm

  20. Fotomat drive-thru kiosks, which offered overnight processing, were in many malls throughout the country during the 1980s. One-hour film processing came along later to put them under.

    Lewis Medlock

    December 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm

  21. In Australia you will still find a book store, a figurine store with some dragon and dungeon stuff as well as all the other anime and comics characters and if it is in an Asian area you will find also a coin-operated video arcade. But today people got their phone to pass time so all the shopping mall has to provide is a place to sit.


    December 29, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    • at the mall in my town (dubbo n.s.w) theres nothing that cool. just some big anchor stores (big w and woolworths and jb hi fi) and a tonne of clothing stores for females. therres a food court and its pretty pathetic.

      james n.s.w

      December 29, 2016 at 8:10 pm

  22. You’ve seen Stranger Things, right?

    If not,you’d probably really enjoy it, based on this post. 😉


    December 30, 2016 at 8:20 am

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