The mall sans people

My depressing visit to The Mall of the Mainland in Texas City

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

It’s been a long time since I walked inside the Mall of the Mainland in Texas City.

I had a store there several years ago, but closed it when my lease ran out.

I went back to take a family member to the movie theater inside the mall. When I had the store, I sat in that theater a lot because they had the cheapest matinees around. You could see a first-run motion picture for only $2.

It was so cheap that once when I saw a kid who was about to sneak in, his friend pulled him back, saying: “Hey, I’ve got two bucks. It’s not worth risking it.”

They actually have raised the matinee price to $3. As I said, I hadn’t been there for a long time.
So, we went to see a mediocre movie. I didn’t think it was mediocre when I saw the previews, but then again, no movie preview looks boring.

They do a really good job sprucing it up and making it look like this movie is the greatest ever, and you just have to see it.

This one didn’t live up to the billing. But, it was only $3 a piece, so I am not complaining.

If you are going to see a not-so-good movie, a matinee that costs $3 is not a bad way to see it.

The movie ended, and we decided to walk around the mall a little, maybe see where the old store used to be.

That’s when I became really shocked.

The mall was practically empty. Very few stores remained. Half of it was blocked off, the half that used to contain my store.

It was almost like the History Channel’s “Life After People.” They could have filmed the television series right here in the middle of this mall.

One store was closing and running a going-out-of-business sale. The clerks at the few remaining open ones looked very bored.

So, this is what happens when a community abandons a mall ... This one is almost done, sadly. I wonder what will become of it after everyone leaves - when all of the leases run out?

This is the scenario of what happens when this type of downward spiral is not stopped: When people don’t go shopping at the mall (or any other business location) leases expire are not renewed. When stores close, even fewer people frequent the shopping center, which, in turn, forces more stores to close. Then even fewer people go back, and so on, and so on.

Mall of the Mainland is a perfect case scenario for this principle. Even when I was there, they had more open spaces than stores.

Malls try to put a good face on vacancies by walling them up and painting pretty murals where the stores used to be. Let’s just say that there were always lots of murals at The Mall of the Mainland.

I didn’t do too badly there, but I saw the writing on the wall. I’m now glad I did.

As it turns out, that mall was never meant to be. It was built off of the beaten path, in an area that – all by itself – cannot really support a mall.

It would need traffic from surrounding areas. But just a few miles north on I-45 is Baybrook Mall. To the south is Galveston Island.

To make things even worse, a Tanger outlet mall opened last year on I-45 that is almost walking distance from the Mall of the Mainland.

This mall is sort of in no-man’s land.

Even the name is awkward. They should have called it Mainland Mall.

So, the next time, dear reader, when you hear someone criticize Brazos Mall in Lake Jackson (a community about half the population of Texas City), ask them to visit Mall of the Mainland to see how a failed mall looks.

Then let them know how lucky this area is for having, in a small to medium market, a nice mall built 30+ years ago that is well-maintained and improved.

If you’re in the Texas City area, or if I got your curiosity up enough that you want to see that mall before it completely closes, catch a first-run movie before 6 p.m. for only $3. That’s the best movie deal anywhere.

“Ask them if they have a senior citizen’s discount,” my wife suggested for an accompanying family member.

“Why? It’s only $3. I’ll just pay the full price,” I told her.

But don’t get the small drink at the concession stand. That’s $4.