Sunday, April 29, 2012

Take Me Back To Holyoke Mall '82

Wood you like to take a ride on the Ingleside? Turn the time circuits on, we're going back to 1982!

Last month, The Caldor Rainbow has been out-of-the-blue obsessive about the Holyoke Mall's history in pictures, attempting to find whatever we could from the mall's roots to share with you. We searched the archives, sent inquiries to Pyramid's marketing division only to come against a concrete wall. Then we came across a fascinating postcard that came up on Card Cow, a vintage postcard thrift site that sells existing printed cards from days past or from when shopping mall postcards (and the like) were not quirky things to send your grandmoms. Sadly, the aforementioned $15 card was sold with only the stock scan available to view. 

The postcard, shot by Holyoke local Dan Overton, peaked our interest enough to contact the source for the original image. He was unavailable to respond to our request.

Recently, Flickr user KaizenVerdant directed us to an article on MassLive, the online side of The Springfield Republican, which caught our attention. The Holyoke Mall Facebook page at the behest of the marketing director Lisa L. Wray randomly posted a couple of buried treasures; a 1982 mall directory with accompanied concourse shot. Much like the postcard, the shot displays the garish basement-like "Cafe Square" complete with earthtoned fountain, brown slate flooring, multi-platform seating (and what looks to be a stage) complete with wood mania; planters, tables and benches everywhere! What an exciting place to be!

In case you despise Facebook, we posted both shots here for your enjoyment.

The Cafe Square was remodeled in the late 80's, only ten years after the opening the mall, the developers must've responded to sour reception or just the changing retail times. Guess the developers recognized it wasn't such a great idea after all though it takes a chunk of character out of the original mall. The $1 million remodel replaced the cramped cavern setting, pool-like fountain with "canals" and eight-screen movie plex and blew the entire thing open for more seating and a brighter, whiter Italian marble-floored openness and more retailers to fit into most of the old theater space like Macy's Close-Out, Filene's Basement and a indoor mini-golf course at one point. 

You can see the "current day" 2007 Cafe Square (though, not from the same angle) food chasm here because, really, on a Saturday night the place is dreadfully crowded.

Some years into the millennium, they just stopped referring to the food 'chasm' as the Cafe Square, a moniker given to Pyramid mall food courts, which really didn't show up on malls until the later 80s, Holyoke Mall's food and entertainment concept was among the early ones.

My history with Holyoke Mall only dates back to the early 90's and for the most part, the mall's 1979 wood craze hasn't changed so I never got to see this amazing iteration of the Cafe Square in its heyday. I know I'd totally hang out here on a weekday with a cup of coffee and a flared collar shirt. OK, maybe no flares of any kind.

It's all here; the enormous geodesic dome, wood-decor from top-to-bottom, gardens, a fountain and a busy, dark original Cafe Square food court!

One thing that plagues our curiosity in this three-fold directory is the absence of G. FOX in the full-color shot. Perhaps it was taken during construction of the store and was still hidden from the mall. If you just look horizon-level and up, you'd be hard-pressed to believe this shot was taken 30 years ago seeing as the mall hasn't changed too much from its original design.

Let's take a closer look, we find a lot of familiar shops of the time and even some of my favorites like York Steak House, a sauteed onions 'n steak chain found at most premiere malls in the 70's featuring medieval decor, cafeteria-style dining, and your option of JELLO cubes or pudding dessert choices. Service Merchandise (a two-level one!) which I never knew was an early anchor lasting all the way up until the chain's final days, American Eagle and The Gap in their earliest years, Holyoke Dental which is in the same place and in its own timewarp today, Friendly's who just closed their over 30-year restaurant location in the Cafe Square, The Ti Shop, who had a tiny store in Westfarms, Original Cookie (remember the BIG cookie?!) and so many more.

If you're interested, check out the Pyramid Group's nearby, immaculately preserved albeit sister 1978 Hampshire Mall has a brown-draped Cafe Square over in Hadley still kind of resembles the bygone browns of Holyoke's. Sadly, it too, has had its fountain dismantled but not entirely removed.

Mall geeks will be joyed to see Holyoke Mall's wood-paneled mania still sporting the three-level mall some 33 years later though the mall got an exterior earth-toned repaint a few years back and even ditched the 1995-added neons for hanging fixtures even more recently.

We have a bevy of photos of the Holyoke Mall, mostly from 2007 (before the exterior repaint and neon removal) on our Flickr page, most of which have been revamped or replaced with better quality edits from years past. 

Share your memories! And see more historic stuff from our archives here.

The first photo was provided by, the directory and photo provided by Holyoke Mall Facebook Page on behalf of the Pyramid Group.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

What Was Riverview Plaza?

A friend of mine recently stumbled on an oddball site known as The Manchester Mall on Main St. in Manchester, CT. It's not a mall, really. Instead, it was a limited indoor retail space that may have been more in the 60's. Still, the hand-painted sign around the back signifies a mall, though only a whisper of one and in the oppressive shadows of a nearby blight and overwhelming site. When anyone says "mall" they think of this. Not this. The word association with the word mall classically refers to a gaggle of retailers within a cluster of space whereas today's people associate it with megatons of indoor, climate-controlled retail space which has consumed generations' since the indoorization craze beginning in the 1970s.

Riverview Plaza in Norwalk doesn't even call itself a mall but it sure as green grass on a Spring day look(ed) like one. A road sign doning seagulls could only forecast its fate that one day of the official mascot of the dead mall will paint it white.
I've been sitting on these photos since 2007, around the time I wanted to do some investigating about this forgotten site, seemingly awaiting demolition. When I first stumbled on Riverview Plaza, I took a walk inside only to be greeted by three darkly-lit corridors of the T-shaped center where daylight once gleamed through now only to peak into void space, shadows within storefronts, grimy pits where plants once set and an occasional vagrant or legit clearanced patronage in the few lights it up here. Uninviting and creepy, no one wants to be here anymore aside the perception of unsavory activity and reports of "low lives" and as clear as the stank air, the days for this decrepit dump are (or were) numbered.

Most of the chain retailers Radio Shack and AutoZone were either basking in cheap leases or finishing them up and stayed outside the mall in the frontage strip part -- which had no part of the indoor portion.

All that really kept this place alive was, among a few fronts living out the rests of their leases was a 90's-throwback McDonald's Express, complete with the scriptish logo I associate with short-lived personal pizzas 90's children discuss in circles when reflecting upon youth.

Though I can't seem to gather anything on this place, it was likely a smaller community mall so very common in many towns long departed, likely built in the late 60's or early 70's and actually served a great deal of business in a high-traffic area up until the swing of the century when the traditional indoor mall was in trouble. Plenty of design elements recall earlier times white-washed over, you have to appreciate this place was much more fanciful of a classic smaller indoor mall of that time.

Today, Riverview Plaza is (mostly) gone. The renewal attempts to keep the riffraff away but not enough thanks to the nearby swells and smells of the damned and defeat at the nearby OTB -- I mean Winners off-track betting around the side. That office building behind it continues to hearken (in) back to its office/retail days with Riverview signage removed. Its developers have made an attempt turn this handsome space into a 'lifestyle' mixed use site with integrated living and retail space which actually completely block and occupy a greater part of the former parking lot.

Like putting a towel on a rotten milk spill, the plan to revitalize this area by developer Avalon may still be far off. Can't blame them really, the once blighted property passed many eyes on the US-1/7 area and that attempt to block it was errr -- successful. Seriously, go read the Google reviews on this place.

The McDonald's is seemingly still on the lease and on the signboard but we just couldn't find it. Recently, we went back to investigate to see if the indoor portion was still there only to find it had been mysteriously vanished.

The wonderful, now dead Siteride once had an impressive collection of photos from the living years of this mall during the mid-90s (including a sweet shot of the cramped Dunkin' Donuts interior) that have since purged along with that site and until someone unearths those, these are all we have. You can actually still see a lot of what's now gone on Google Streetview.

Here's to the new Riverview, where I might just see a body floating down it.