For many years, the mall has been a place to hang out for young people, specifically the pre-driving teenage years of 12 to 15. It’s that wonderful moment in your youth when your parents finally trust you enough to let you out of the house on your own. I remember many weekend days spent at the Florence Mall in Northern Kentucky, hanging out at The Coffee Beanery where my friends Dana and Heidi made lattes, or casually walking by the record store where some of the older guys from my high school worked. I didn’t have much money to spend but I’m sure I tried on all the clothes at 5.7.9 and DEB. It was a social gathering place for me as it still is today for many teenagers.
I remember one particular trip to the mall that has since been a source of family amusement at any reunion. I was 15 years old. My friend Dana (the Beanery barista) was 16. She could drive and she had a car – a 1998 navy-blue Ford Escort with a 6 disc CD changer in the trunk. She was my ticket to freedom at the time. We had planned to meet up at the mall, shop for prom dresses or something similar, and then go back to hang out at her house. It was all pre-arranged, my dad would drop me off (mom was out of town) and Dana would bring me home later that day. After we left the house to head toward the mall however, I was unaware that Dana was calling the home phone and leaving a message to the effect that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the mall for some reason I cannot recall today. So my dad dropped me off at the mall and I waited. This was a time before cellphones and after the cost of a payphone went up from Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares to $0.35. My dad and sister went home, didn’t check the voicemail (an action my father will never live down) and proceeded to collect their bikes for a 20 mile back-ride around the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky airport. Meanwhile, I waited… and waited… and waited… I circled the entire mall multiple times, like a 6:30AM 85-yr-old mall-walker. I made several trips to the payphones under the escalators and used up all of my coins trying to call Dana and my dad. Before I knew it, the mall was closing. Stores were pulling down their gates and people were leaving. I had to let mall security know I was still there. I think someone from the mall office offered to let me call home again. I had already left several voicemails. I waited with the mall cop at the main entrance for what seemed like forever, when my dad’s truck finally pulled into the parking lot. It was a traumatic moment in my life but I imagine it was even more traumatic for my father!
Jump to 15 years later and I’m telling this story to one of my bosses, Steve Yenser, our National Director of Retail Markets for Jones Lang LaSalle, and he recalls that was the same time frame he was overseeing the management of that mall with a different company, and our head of Retail Development, Larry Jensen, was the onsite general manager. It could have easily been one of them trying to help me out all those years ago. They probably had a good laugh that night about the little abandoned teenager sitting out on the curb of the mall entrance with the mall cop past closing. Little did they know she’d be working with them more than a decade later. I like to think my days as a mall rat help me do my job in retail real estate just a little bit better. I know those hours spent at the mall had a huge impact on my social life and had cell phones been around, I could have easily been mayor of the mall on Foursquare!
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Jones Lang LaSalle Retail
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