December 26, 2020, Trotwood, Ohio
Me: Hey nice tat.
The Ghost of Salem Mall: I’ve been trying to remove this thing for years, walk a mile in my shoes. Imagine that your whole body and everything was gone but you still had one arm, oh and I lived through a tornado.
Me: Wow I never thought of it that way, I’m so sorry I didn’t know. Can I still take pictures of you?
The Ghost of Salem Mall: That’s pretty fucked up but your blogs are fire so I’ll allow it.
Me: Thank you, your majesty.
Trotwood, a northwestern suburb of Dayton, Ohio was recently ravaged by one of mother nature’s most horrific sights. A tornado swept through these parts of the Dayton metropolitan area in the spring of 2019, leaving perish and the surrounding area’s homes, and landscape disfigured. Salem Mall, a once popular local shopping destination closed almost 15 years ago and since 2014 its last remaining limb (Sears) has been holding onto the ground as tight as it can through the devastation that this community has faced. Follow along to learn more about my visit to the mall.
A day that didn’t even begin with a plan to check out a dead mall, somehow ended up that way, but hey that’s just the beauty of living. Around Christmas was the first time that we got a reasonable amount of snow in the Cincinnati area and me and my girlfriend were itching for some good sled riding. However, we were a little late to find a hill around home as the snow had already melted. As crazy as it sounds, we decided to hop on I-75 and head up north with a plan to get off when we see more snow on the ground. Exit after exit we kept hoping to see more snow on the ground and then the next thing we know we’re 10 miles outside of Dayton. Our plan had failed but there’s always plan B. (It can really come in handy.) So we decided to just take a little day trip up to southwestern Ohio’s Akron, checking out the Oregon District, UD, and did I forget to mention Salem Mall?
The first enclosed traditional mall in the Dayton metro area, Salem Mall opened in October of 1966. Originally anchored by Sears (as seen above), and Rike’s, this shopping destination was quite a success for some time and at its peak had over 110 retailers. Though only having 2 anchors, the mall also benefitted from having a grocery store and a movie theater. A 1981 renovation added a second mezzanine style floor, a food court, and a JC Penney. Management of the mall in the mid to late ’80s was claimed to be “poor” by shoppers and tenants which eventually led to its troubling times in the ’90s. By the time I popped out of the womb in 1998, Salem had just lost its Lazarus (formerly Rike’s), JC Penney, its movie theater, and many other businesses and restaurants. The last 7 years of Salem’s life were not kind, businesses kept leaving and shoppers weren’t coming. In early 2005, Salem’s spirit flew off into mall heaven joining some of the greats like Rolling Acres, Beechmont, Century III, and many more. The following year the mall was torn down and the only thing left standing was Sears which held on into 2014, though its corpse still stands today. Currently the property is owned by the city of Trotwood and plans have been thrown around with a very predictable one emerging “Let’s turn it into a lifestlye center!” Blah blah fucking blah. If I never hear that word again in my life then I think I’ll be living a good life, that’s the kind of lifestyle I want. Sorry I just had to get that off of my chest. Anyway, the plan failed, so then the city was thinking it could be a business park which first circulated in 2013. Evidently the city received a federal grant of $200,000 to demolish the former Sears in 2018, but last I checked that was 3 years ago and the Sears is very well still there. Frankly I think the city of Trotwood does not have a solidified plan of what to do with the space currently, nor do they have any tenants for the supposed business park, otherwise the Sears building would be gone by now. It could be that they had to use their assets to heal following the tornado, I’m not really sure but I’m glad I was still able to see the Sears building while it was still there. The final piece.
The exterior of this place is really a sight to see, maybe the eighth wonder of the world, or maybe not but it’s still pretty damn cool.I always try to look for some relic to grab from the places I visit but unfortunately was unable to grab anything here. Anyway, I’m just admiring that wide shot. She looks pretty good close up too if you ask me.You’ve got to appreciate the globe light and the always delicious mid century Sears architecture.It’s so amazing to see just how much a place can decay when people stop taking care of it. Only 7 years ago I could have walked into this Sears and grabbed a dishwasher or some shit on clearance. The concrete is cracked and filled with weeds and squatters are screaming.Scary huh? I found a vlog on YouTube of a man who was recently there and managed to get into the building through a broken open door in the back of the old anchor. The video showed a dirty mattress on the floor and a destroyed interior. He entered at what seemed to be around here. I guess at some point the back held a Jiffy Lube which confused me because I thought all Sears had their own Sears auto care’s.
“Mom was a manager at Jiffy Lube for many years. She started her way at the bottom and worked her way to the tippidy top!”-Mac
Boarding up your windows before a storm is always a smart idea.
Too soon? Sorry not sorry. Maybe I should just
While I’m ahead. Oh sorry that’s a little hard to read isn’t it. You know I love a good messed up and/or weird stop sign. (Check out an earlier blog of mine, Eastgate Mall: Peace in the Middle East, for more about stop signs LOL)
To the left and behind of Sears you can see the land where the mall used to be. For about 15 years this area has been vacant with nothing but overgrown weeds and a ghostly memory of what once thrived.
Hi me in the side view! Malls leave such a vacancy in communities it’s like a broken heart. Here’s a closer up look.
Jealous of those folks who live up there. To have a view like that! They must be doing really good.
Unfortunately that’s all the photos I’ve got for the exterior, and considering I showed up about 16 years too late, I haven’t got any of the inside. Thankfully though I found a few on the internet and I’m going to drop one to give you a glimpse at how cool this place must have been.
Photo courtesy of Daytonlocal.com
I’m at awe, from the plants to the brick floor it just looks great. Telling from the amount of closed stores in this photo I can assume that this picture was taken around the time the mall closed and I’m really glad that it wasn’t renovated again after 1981 because it’s got the look.
If you’re interested in seeing more of the interior I found a YouTube video called Vintage Mall Commercials Part 2 which featured an ’80s commercial of Salem and its mighty fountain. Take a look, you won’t regret it.
With how many malls there were thriving in Cincinnati when I was a youngling, my family had no real reason to take me out to a northwestern suburb of Dayton to check out what was left of Salem. However I did visit Dayton Mall a time or two. Now if I was a wiser 6 year old I would have begged to see this place as its timeline and history reminds me a lot of my local childhood mall, Beechmont Mall. This is one of those malls that didn’t die because of amazon or online shopping, but just to good old fashioned capitalism. The mall was poorly managed, and people just did not want to go here anymore. I’m very thankful that I got to see Sears, and the land where the mall used to sit, before it gets demolished and the land is used for whatever Trotwood builds. Thank god though it’s not a lifestyle center. Rest in Piece Salem, I hope that the other malls are treating you well up there.
Mall Maniac Rating:
8/10: of what I saw.
10/10: If I had gotten to see it in pre-demolition or final days. I know this in my heart.
Sears: “Ahh it’s so bright! Please don’t take me away, it’s not my time yet!”
Mall GOD: You’ve had 7 years to come to peace with this! My ass it’s not your time yet.”