The Sad Decline Of The Centre Mall

There was a time when it was thriving.  An eight-screen multiplex.  Two music stores.  Two book stores.  An arcade.  Three department stores.  A couple of photo outlets.  And far too many clothing boutiques.
That was then.  Today, the situation is far different in Hamilton’s Centre Mall. 
Cineplex Odeon closed its doors in the fall of 2001 after exhibiting thousands of features over the course of five decades.  For a few years after its sad departure, the abandoned building was filled with the sounds of Bingo.  Then, it fell silent again.  The property has long since been obliterated.  It’s nothing more than a parking lot now.  The old sign that told passersby what times its movies were playing on all eight of its screens quietly removed.
Several years later, Sunrise Records mysteriously disappeared.  No big fanfare, no public announcement, nothing.  One day, it was open for business.  Then, it was gone.  Just a locked-up, empty space.  The merchandise it used to house no longer in sight.  There was no explanation for this whatsoever.  Then, just this past fall, Music World began its going out of business sale.  The homegrown music chain, which proudly celebrated its 40th Anniversary just a year earlier, was packing it in.  Everything was discounted starting in the 10 to 30% range.  By the last week of December, everything was at least half off.  It was slim pickin’s, by that point.
It originally occupied just a small space near Sears but sometime in the mid-1990s, it expanded.  Today, the red Music World sign has been removed.  The lights are off.  And it’s all locked up.  Yet another vacant spot.  Even the discount store beside it has called it quits.  The only place to buy new music is in the electronics department of Zellers.  And its selection is not terribly expansive., it isn’t.
K-Mart’s long gone.  W.H. Smith, the book store, is absent.  Both Japan Camera and Black’s Photography have abandoned the place.  No more Hamilton Tiger Cats store, either.  You can’t buy ice cream at Baskin-Robbin’s or TCBY’s anymore.  And if you want to play the latest video games, you better have your own system at home.  There’s no more arcade for you to throw away your hard-earned quarters.  (There is an EB Games, however.)
What happened to this place?  You walk through it today and you see even more depressing evidence of a serious decline.  Everywhere you turn, stores are having "Everything Must Go" sales.  Bata, the shoe store.  Torcan’s, where I bought two Anniversary plates for my parents.  A men’s clothing outlet.  Numerous female boutiques.  Plus, there are numerous other empty spaces in various spots throughout the mall.  One wonders how many businesses are planning on sticking it out.
From what I understand, serious change is coming here.  At some point, The Centre Mall building is to be replaced with something less desirable.  Instead of keeping warm during bitterly cold winters and cooling off during those dripping hot summer days, it will be an outdoor mall.  That’s right.  When everything is ready, in order to go from store to store, you’ll need to go in and out of controlled temperatures constantly.  Not fun.  Here’s hoping that’s not what’s going to happen.  Here’s hoping that information is false.
I’ve made hundreds of trips here since my childhood.  Grocery runs, Christmas purchases, searching for that elusive CD on my mental wishlist, book and magazine buys, and on and on and on.  When I was enrolled in Mohawk College’s TV Broadcasting program, a small group of us filmed some material for a magazine-type show we were being graded on.  One segment was filmed right in front of that expanded Music World outlet.  (They wouldn’t let us shoot inside the store.)  I was Mo The Hawk, the college mascot, during a December Christmas promotion.  Soap star Jeanne Cooper (The Young And The Restless) made a public appearance.  Before my parents bought me a fax machine (which died a couple of years ago), I used to go to Battery Plus to do my faxing.  (It’s long gone, too.)
Whatever the fate of this place (Will that huge pile of dirt behind The Barn eventually turn into a Wal-Mart?  Will that infuriating wall by EB ever come down?), the old Centre Mall is in its death spiral.  Only time will tell whether its replacement will be an improvement or a huge disappointment.  From what I know, it’s hard to be optimistic.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 18, 2008
11:53 p.m.
UPDATE:  The Hamilton Spectator has two revealing articles about the future of The Centre Mall here and here.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, January 19, 2008
10:54 p.m.
Published in: on January 18, 2008 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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