Archive for May, 2009

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It’s all at the Mall

May 13, 2009

callofthemallWhat questions are you dying to ask about shopping malls? This afternoon, I’ll be interviewing my friendly, neighborhood mall manager as part of the research on upcoming book with the working title, A HOME FOR CHRISTMAS.

The original title was MALL GIRL and it opened with the line, “It’s all at the mall for Sylvie Stark,” who was a devoted gift-wrapper at a department store.

The story has morphed into a romance with a mystery set in the Starlight Desert Mall just before Black Friday. Sylvie is the interim manager, so she’s come up in the fictional world.

Anyway, I can’t wait to get the skinny on a day in the life of a mall manager. Also, I’ve deep into THE CALL OF THE MALL by a guy who spends every working hour studying malls and retail stores and how and why people buy what they do.

Did you know the reason covered malls are so ugly and nondescript on the outside is because they’re built by property developers who own them, not by the stores. “A blank wall with a mouse hole” is how a mall architect describes it.

So throw out your questions and I’ll ask them this afternoon!

Here’s the book, by the way: I’ve deep into THE CALL OF THE MALL by a guy who spends every working hour studying malls and retail stores and how and why people buy what they do.

Did you know the reason covered malls are so ugly and nondescript on the outside is because they’re built by property developers who own them, not by the stores. “A blank wall with a mouse hole” is how a mall architect describes it.

So throw out your questions and I’ll ask them this afternoon!

Here’s the book, by the way: http://tinyurl.com/qkeory

Best,
Dawn
Atkins, who’s putting on her shopping shoes…

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Would You Get Married at the Mall?

May 8, 2009

Behold, the American cultural icon, the shopping mall. I’m not much of a shopper, so I’m no expert, but I know shopping malls figure prominently in most people’s lives.
I get dragged there by out-of-town friends who are good shoppers or my sisters who outshine me completely and I’m always dazed and confused by the size, the number of shops, the choices, choices, choices until I want to go home and curl in a ball and never buy anything ever again.

So why did I set an upcoming book in a mall? Because malls fascinate me. Because I dreamed up a character who grew up in a mall, hanging out, working and playing there, because her second family owned the mall. It’s an old mall and quirky. Of course.

Sylvie’s’s the assistant manager hoping to save it from going under after the manager leaves suddenly. The mall is her home, the tenants her family. The hero of the book, Chase, is the son of the owner and assigned the task of determining the mall’s value to be sold…you can see the problem here. It doesn’t help that she’s always had a crush on the guy.

But I digress. Back to the importance of malls. From senior citizens jog-walking the perimeter with their iPods, to new moms blearily window shopping with an Orange Julius clutched in the hand not pushing the stroller, to the after-school clots of teens ogling each other in the food court or outside the arcade, malls serve as cultural hubs, the village well, so to speak. They reflect who we are and what moves us, as well as our consumer desires.

Notice how some malls are “cool,” where the kids hang and then they get replaced by the next hot spot. I think the “cool” mall near me actually refuses to allow groups of young people to congregate. I guess if they shoplift, spill drinks and scare away paying customers with their antics and noise they become a hazard. Whatevah…

Unlike my quirky little mom-and-pop mall, most malls are generic–the same chain stores practically in the same locations–so that you could be in a mall in Washington, DC, or Scottsdale, AZ, and you wouldn’t know the diff. I suppose that’s comforting in a way, but also monotonous.

My little mall needs some unique shops with high appeal. What are the most unusual or interesting stores you’ve discovered in shopping malls? The Mall of America has golf course and a wedding chapel, can you believe it?

Got any special mall memories? Met your first boyfriend over the hot-dog-on-a-stick grease vat? Loved the back-to-school shopping with your mom? Bonded with the cool posse over a fondness for bangle bracelets from Claire’s? Fell in love with Brad Pitt at a mall theater?

What did you love about going to the mall? Anything that bugged you?

When I started researching malls, I quickly found news reports declaring the death of the enclosed shopping mall. There’s actually a term of art for failing malls: Dead Malls. Not sure how much of a vacancy rate it takes to be declared “dead,” but I’d hate to be on life support in that world, for sure. If you’re curious, visit deadmalls.com and see some sad, sad pictures.

On that cheery note, I welcome your thoughts on everything mallish. I’ve already got a list of questions a mile long for the manager of my neighborhood mall.
Best,
Dawn Atkins
http://www.dawnatkins.com/
An American icon, the shopping mall