Towne Mall: Well aren’t I aesthetically pleasing.
Michael: Yeah I mean your style is right up my alley.
Towne Mall: Oh you think so!? You should come in! Are you hungry!? I’ve got mexican food! Yeah that’s all, but it’s really good I promise!”
This has been a short interaction between an incredibly desperate enclosed shopping center and a guy who loves dying retail. For YOUR pleasure. Our beloved viewer!
*TV static ensues
We get it, you haven’t seen much attention since the 1990’s, and I love you, but don’t be so pathetic you’re driving people away to cincy premium outlets.
I’ve been to this contemporary masterpiece a handful of times, but only inside a few because I’ve mostly just driven by it with my brother at night to view its sweet dark facade. I attempted to visit and document its interior for a blog back in March with my family but was unable due to the (then recent) coronavirus pandemic, and was disappointed to arrive at locked doors. Despite our failed visit, I knew I had to go back soon because I wasn’t sure how a place like this that has already been struggling for so many years could survive through the retail and economic decline that we are experiencing due to the pandemic. So my girlfriend headed down to Cincinnati to visit me for the weekend and we decided to take a little day trip up to Dayton, and I knew we had to take a pit stop in the middle of the ride so that I could show her this masterpiece. Well, and to fill the void of dead malls I’ve visited lately.
Debuting in 1977 by the Jacobs Group, Towne Mall (no galleria back then) became the second enclosed shopping center in Middletown, Ohio. Located almost smack dab in-between Cincinnati and Dayton, the small city of Middletown had already had its own enclosed shopping center right in the heart of downtown (literally). City Center Mart which was built over the existing streets and businesses of downtown Middletown was the first enclosed shopping center in the city. Though it failed miserably, and was demolished in 2001, Middletown thankfully got a true city center back and was left sadly with one already dead shopping center just 4 miles away right off of I-75.
Towne Mall’s original anchors were Sears (of course), Elder-Beerman, and McAlpin’s. In 1998, the McAlpin’s became Dillards, and then in 2001 the mall was sold to CBL associates. After that, one anchor kept closing after another, the mall has been very dead my entire lifetime since the early aughts. Though plans circulated of turning the mall into a lifestyle center like most dead malls have talked about nothing ever actually happened, and the mall was sold again in 2012 to S.A. Mary & Bless properties. It was around this time period that Galleria was added to the name. With the already hurting property, searching for something to go its way, Cincinnati Premium outlets opened nearby with a wide variety of shopping which basically rendered this place at the point of no return.
From the exterior the mall is a nice mixture of 70’s contemporary with a little bit of brutalist touches via the grooved concrete as you can see from our featured image up top. Below you will see the entrance of former department store Elder-Beerman. Loving all of the entrances at this mall, from the main, to all of the department stores. Here, this curved glass facade with a mirrored wall in the breezeway gives a very cool vintage modern design that I like to see in malls. I love it when a mall has never been renovated like Towne, so that I can see more clearly what it could have looked like when it had first opened, and to see what the architects originally had in mind.Next I have a picture of some more of that lovely grooved concrete with my brother checking to see if the former Sears doors were still open.From the parking lot the place doesn’t look vast and imposing as other dead malls like a Cincinnati Mills, but rather has a cute small TOWNE mall feel. (See what I did there ;).) This place reminds me a lot of another galleria mall that I have visited actually. If you’re a frequent Dad Blog follower then you will remember when I went on a mall blog spree like an 80’s mall rat in the beginning of this year, but then was stopped in my tracks because of the pandemic. Regardless, the last one I was able to visit for quite some time was in mid March when I took a day trip to New Castle, PA and checked out Cascade Galleria. I very much enjoyed that trip and Cascade was an extremely similarly designed mall in the center of a smaller town. Really love both of these places.Hopped in the back of the truck for that one from the parking lot, looking at old Sears.It is to my knowledge that at some point in the oughts the old McAlpin’s was converted into two stores, (Gabe’s and Burlington) with both currently operating independently from the mall. Anyway folks, that’s about all I’ve got from the exterior, so let’s flash forward from March to July when I was able to get inside.
Look up, and BOOM! Right when you walk in you are hit with one of the coolest light fixtures known to mankind. I would literally pay money to see this colorful brass chandelier light up once more.And you’re not disappointed when you look down either.Moving forward let’s take a look at the main corridor, keep in mind there’s no food court in this mall, just one mexican restaurant as seen on your right.Gotta love those smoked glass light fixtures too. Want a quick look at the directory?Pretty sure there’s only like four stores on that list left. Such a shame that the Family Christian Bookstore is gone, that was my favorite place here. Moving on, here’s the “foodcourt” at Towne, right as you walk in.Not sure if that smoothie shop opened up after Vanilla Ice’s 1990 hit but nonetheless it’s a great name and a great song. Also there’s that mexican restaurant I was refferring to earlier on, seems to be the only place you can get food at in here anymore aside from the candy machines. Continuing through the main corridor, if you looked far enough in that smoked glass lamp picture, you would have seen this fantastic middle gathering area of the mall.Okay maybe it’s not fantastic, but that skylight certainly is. I’m not even sure if there were any actual lights on in here at all, I think they just let it be lit through their copious amount of skylights, and I certainly have no issue with that. Aside from lighting, I’d like to believe that at some point in time this meeting area was sunken and was a huge 70’s conversation pit. Speaking of which, let me show you my most favorite, most inviting, and snazzy part of the mall. The seating areas at the end of the corridors. I won’t go far enough to say that they are conversation pits because they aren’t sunken but man are they cool and they’re pretty damn close.I always love those tropical-esque trees, and to my surprise these plants were real! Probably the newest feature in this mall is those blue LED lights that shine on the palms.I just wanna sit here for hours, maybe even take a nap.Another great shot of the “chill zone” we’ll call it, and the modern skylights. Take a look at those brass sconces on the brick wall of the Sears.Next up I’ve got a shot of the inside of former Sears through those smoked glass doors.Still looks like its in pretty good shape too! “Excuse me sir, can I get one of those new flat screen plasma TV’s?” Turning around and right by old Sears is a hallway that leads to the only restrooms here, which look pretty lit. Not in the party way, the creepily lit way.Past the restrooms is the mall management office, and boy I don’t think there’s much management to be had here.Wishing I was the king of this mall and could sit back and chill in my oversized office chair next to that copper wall.Even the thermostat has never been changed here, Towne Mall is frozen in time. Unfortunately I don’t see many mall bloggers and vloggers visiting this place but I would love to see some other people’s takes on it because it’s really a blast from the past.Now while there was nobody around in the office, there was one mall cop at Towne who took his job a little too seriously and upon leaving the bathroom was told that mall that I was not able to take pictures of the mall because “mall management prohibited it.” yeah the mall management seem to really care a lot about this place, buddy. In all actuality though I just said “Okay, I understand.” but then because it’s me I had to take more pictures. More on that later. Look at what we have here, nothing surprising but something you’ll see at almost every dead mall.Cool tiles, Radio Shack. Looking down this corridor you will see the Burlington at the end which is closed off from the mall. I really don’t know why so many department stores do this at dead malls but sadly they do.Love this surreal looking dark and dead image above.But not here! you’ve got little kids playing, people getting their nails done, and some subtle patriotism. Legends say that you have to sing the national anthem in front of the mall cop perfectly recited to gain entry to Towne Mall.
I am very glad that I returned to Towne for a second time this year to see all that beauty that laid inside. It’s sad that there is not much of a market for small urban malls especially in smaller cities because I would love to see places like this have “Great success!” Though Towne has been dead for so long, it amazes me how well kept the exterior and the interior are. There might be two whole stores open on the inside and the mall management clearly doesn’t like paying much in electric but they do a good job in upkeep of this ’70s masterpiece. Not many dead malls I’ve been to are as spotless as Towne, and not many are as beautifully original. Any time travelers who accidentally arrived in 2020 from the past might be very disappointed in the world but definitely not this place. Towne Mall is a pleasure for not just dead mall goers but also for nostalgia seekers. Towne Mall is truly frozen in time.
Mall Maniac Rating:
Entertainment and pleasure: 9/10
You thought I was done? No no no, I have my mall cop story remember? If you recall, he told me that “mall management prohibits photo taking inside of the mall.” and I replied “Okay I understand.” but continued to document more discretely. So I happened to notice that after leaving the bathroom and mall management area, my girlfriend and I were being loosely followed by this man. Being two of the maybe 5 people total in the mall, I was not surprised because I already bothered him by doing a “prohibited activity.” Anyway, I was not going to let a mall cop with nothing better to do, stop me from getting everything I wanted for this blog. So we took the rest of the pictures I needed, and then headed towards the main entrance where we were parked. While walking towards the door, we notice that he’s gotten closer so we decided to stop and sit on a bench near the front doors, waiting to see if he is just going to stand there watching us while we chat and relax. To no surprise he did, and so we just sat there for a good five to ten minutes taunting him and getting as much of a rise as we could by acting like we were going to leave, then walking back and sitting back on the bench. Oh and of course that made him watch closer. So it had been about ten minutes of us sitting on a bench being watched by a mall cop and we decided that it was time to leave, we had gotten the reaction that we wanted out of this man, but there was one more thing we had to do. On our way out we took a prohibited selfie together at the mall to capture him in the background. We heard the man yelling, “hey, hey!” trying to get our attention as we walked out the doors, but it was too late for the slow pathetic mall cop. It was a great cap to the visit and something that I’ll never forget.
Check him and our bench out below.