Looking for Continuity at Randall Park Mall

The Oxford Dictionary defines continuity as the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time. Continuity is by no means is one of the first words that might pop into your head when thinking of Randall Park Mall. After all, the mall had a fairly short operating life of just over 30 years. But in 1976, when the mall was nearing it’s grand opening, continuity would be the perfect word to describe the DeBartolo Corporation who were busy erecting regional shopping centers at a frantic pace to keep up with consumer demand and fierce competition from rival developers.

Edward J DeBartolo
Edward J. Debartolo in front of his “Continuity” sculpture. Image courtesy of the Leo Noser Collection.

This continuity at which the company would operate would be the result of the DeBartolo Corporation’s ability to handle all aspects of shopping center development in house. From site selection and design, all the way to leasing and operations. The DeBartolo Corporation handled it all and they were quite good at it.

Thus It would only seem fitting for the DeBartolo Corporation’s crowning achievement of building and operating the world’s largest shopping mall, that they would look for the perfect piece of art to help convey the company’s image to the public in a grand fashion.

Werner Neblung
Werner Neblung, the artist behind Continuity with his son Rick directing work on one of their sculptures.

The DeBartolo Corporation would commission Werner H. Neblung, an immigrant German artist and owner of Railco Metal Craft to construct his “Continuity” piece after it had been selected from a sketch and a two foot model.

When completed Continuity would be in the shape of a ten foot cube consisting of one continuous (hence the name) ground and polished piece of polished eight inch aluminum tubing. The sculpture would weigh in at 2000 pounds and would rest on one of the end points of the cube. where it would be perched high atop a seven foot tall pyramid.

Continuity by Wener Neblung. Image via Randall Park Memories Facebook group.

Neblung would actually fabricate the entire piece completely in his studio and when complete the sculpture would receive a full month of grinding and polishing to achieve its perfectly smooth and shiny look.

Sculpture Randal Park Mall
The brushed aluminum of Continuity goes marvelously with the bright red carpets of Randall Park Mall. Image via Stores of the Year Volume I.

This striking sculpture would most certainly catch any shoppers eye from either level and from any viewpoint in the mall and would become the focal point of the lower level of the mall opposite the Higbee’s entrance.

Christmas at Randall Park Mall
During the holidays the sculpture was double perfectly as a Christmas gift. Image via Randall Park Mall Memories.

Though Randall Park Mall is long gone, rumor has it that the sculpture was removed before demolition and is currently hidden in a storage unit at the Thistledown Racino in North Randall.

 

Complaint Department – Merry Go Round

The Merry Go Round store at Rolling Acres Mall definitely had a rather long rap sheet with mall management. In this early complaint, a written warning was finally given from Vivian Poe, the Mall Manager to store employees after multiple verbal warnings were ignored about playing the music too loud.

Rolling Acres Mall Complaint
Written warning from the desk of Vivian Poe.

Through exhaustive research I was finally able to track down the image below via a Merry Go Round Alumni Facebook Group which shows two of the possible perpetrators working at the store in question. The photo was taken near the date of complaint so these two must be considered suspects.

Two Merry Go Round store employees at Rolling Acres Mall in the early 1980s showing signs of obvious guilt and remorse.

In these girls defense they were probably just doing what they were told. There have been many studies on the volumes and genres of music played to retail shoppers. Some studies say that loud music disorients customers, while others say certain types of music makes a customer spend more money. There’s even a theory about how playing music loudly keeps certain age groups out of the stores which would otherwise detract from the target customers experience, which makes perfect sense as I never noticed the loud music when I was younger, but now an older age I steer far clear of these stores.

Blueprint Archive – Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall

Today’s entry to the Blueprint Archive is this lovely sign drawing from Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall. The mall, which was developed by Jacobs, Visconsi & Jacobs would open in 1977 and the Lerner Shops would follow suit shortly after opening in 1978.

architectural drawing euclid square mall
1978 sign drawing for Lerner Shops at Euclid Square Mall

In the 1970s Lerner Shops had already established themselves as a major player amongst women’s fashion retailers. At one point they were even America’s largest chain of fashion specialists. Held in high regard amongst multiple generations of shoppers, Lerner Shops would offer all of the newest styles to complement any occasions, from¬† daytime versatile to nighttime alluring, customers knew they could find the look they were after at Lerner.

Lerner Storefront
Though not the Euclid Square store, This image from a 70s Rapid-American Corporation (majority owner of Lerner Shops) annual report shows what the finished storefront may have looked like.

The Euclid Square Mall store would eventually move from space B-252 to the A-156 location where it would remain until closing in the early 2000s.

After its days as a Lerner, the store A-156 would go on to become the Euclid Beach Boys Event Center and Museum which featured memorabilia from local amusement parks Euclid Beach, Geauga Lake, and Chippewa Lake.

Lerner euclid square mall
Store A-156 – Lerner at Euclid Square Mall marked for doom in its final days during the malls demolition.

Higbee’s – Randall Park Mall

In the early 1970s Edward J. DeBartolo was quickly becoming one of the biggest single developers of shopping centers in the country. Already having a strong foothold in the Northeast Ohio market owning and operating Great Lakes Mall, Summit Mall, and Richmond Mall, DeBartolo was planning for something bigger for the area. Something like maybe the biggest shopping mall that anyone had ever seen.

Ed Debartolo Sr.
The king of shopping centers, Edward J. Debartolo and son Eddie more than likely scheming on where to build the next mall.

So in 1973 construction began on Randall Park Mall in North Randall Ohio. The mall would be a massive 2,200,000 square feet and its size would unseat A. Alfred Taubman of the Taubman Company as the “Builder of the World’s Largest Shopping Center” and cement Mr. DeBartolo’s legacy as the true king of mall developers.

Higbee's Randall Park Mall Under Construction
This 1974 image from Higbee’s Annual Report shows the interior construction of Randall Park Mall from the viewpoint of the Higbee’s store entrance.

A shopping center of such grandeur would of course need some pretty remarkable anchor stores, and where better to start than with a Cleveland local, The Higbee Company. Higbee’s, already having been in the business 116 years, had truly blossomed into the area leader in full service department stores when they opened their ninth store at Randall Park in 1976.

Higbee's Randall Adventure Game
Higbee’s Randall Adventure Game featuring the many departments of the store from the Cleveland Plain Dealer Special Randall Park Mall Grand Opening section.

With the Randall Park location, the Higbee Company would look to open their fanciest store yet. A two level store of 195,000 square feet. The upper level of the store would house a complete fashion center for the entire family with departments such as The Signature Shop for men, a complete Designer Shop for women featuring many of the top brands, a Pro Shop for sports clothing, and of course the Junior Area and Student Shop for the kids.

Make a name for yourself in the Higbee’s Signature Shop for Men.
Higbee's Footwear department
Fancy footwear for the ladies from all the best brands.

On the lower level of the store you could find additional departments such as Housewares, Gifts and Gourmets, Books, Toys, and Form & Function, an all new contemporary furniture and home accessory shop which borrowed strongly from the highly successful Higbee’s Westgate Home Center.

Gifts at Higbee's Randall Park Mall
Gifts and gourmet abound on the lower level of the new Higbee’s at Randall Park Mall.

It’s easy to see how one could get caught up and make a whole day out of a trip to Higbee’s alone. There was even a restaurant, The Racing Silks Dining Room, where customers could stop and have lunch or visit The Pronto Room for a quick coffee or nibble.

Randall Park Higbees restaurant
Fine dining in The Racing Silks Restaurant at Randall Park Mall.

The Fountains of Eastwood Mall

Eastwood Mall logo
The original umbrella logo of Eastwood was meant to represent the unusual umbrella style of ceilings in the complex.

William M. Cafaro, Youngstown native and Chairman of WIlliam M. Cafaro and Associates, the firm that would develop Eastwood Mall in Niles, Ohio had already been constructing shopping centers across the United States for several years. So when it became time to bring a mall into his own backyard, he wanted something extraordinary.

main fountain at Eastwood Mall
This old Postcard depicts the main fountain with colored lighting.

And extraordinary it was. The blueprints alone for the project took ten and a half tons of paper to draw up. The transformer used to power the concourse would be the largest of its kind in the country at that time. The project would use 64,500,000 pounds of concrete, and would feature 120,000 square feet of terrazzo flooring.

Fountain Eastwood Mall Niles Ohio
Two lovely young ladies pose in front of the massive main fountain at Eastwood Mall.

But the highlight of Eastwood Mall would be its extensive fountain system. With more than 12 miles of pipe that would continuously circulate 25,000 gallons of water to the cascading fountains sprawled throughout the mall. The fountains would be considered one of the most lavish creations in the modern shopping world.

Eastwood Mall Fountain
Atlas Cement Ad from 1969, the year Eastwood Mall opened showcasing the umbrella ceilings, terrazzo floor and fountain.

The main fountain would be hailed as one of the most attractive in the nation. Powered by a 60 horsepower pump and an electronic system that would control the cycling of water jets as well as an arrangement of colored lighting to enhance ambience.

John Cafaro, Executive Vice President of William M. Cafaro and Associates would go on to say “There’s no other shopping area in Northeast Ohio or Western Pennsylvania, or any place else in the country for that matter, any more beautiful or convenient to the shopper than Eastwood Mall.”

Eastwood Mall in the 80s
The fountains were still stunning in the 1980s.

The beauty however would not last and in a 1995 remodel the fountains were completely removed and replaced with seating areas, complete with big screen televisions…

Removal of Eastwood Mall fountains
Image showing the mid 90s removal of the fountains at Eastwood Mall.

Though nowhere near as magnificent as it was 50 years ago, the mall is still owned and operated by the Cafaro Corporation and remains somewhat relevant, recently (2017) being named The Best Place in Ohio for Black Friday Shopping by USA Today.

Complaint Department – Canton Centre Mall

Once regarded as highly sensitive and top secret material, these official mall complaints are finally made public for the first time thanks to our whistleblower on the inside.

Today let’s take a look at some of these complaints straight from the files of the Canton Centre Mall Customer Service.

Canton Centre Mall Customer Service
Canton Centre Mall Customer Service Desk.

Exhibit A: Nick of Time

To insiders Alice is known as a “Buzzer Beater” aka someone who shows up at the last minute. On this particular evening in late May, Alice had to make a pickup at an unnamed Canton Centre store before 9:00 PM. Arriving at the mall at 8:50 PM she found the doors to be already locked. Thankfully there were customers leaving and Alice was able to slip in.

Conclusion: Disaster narrowly averted.

 

Exhibit B: Would You Like Fries With That?

Subject “Jamie” came to Mr. Hero on a July afternoon to order food, however the service sucked and they didn’t give her the right things. To compound issues even further, Jamie was given things that she did not want. Suggestion to hire new/smart people should be seriously considered.

Conclusion: Definite major malfunction

Canton Centre Mall Complaint

 

Exhibit C: Bad Vibes at Big Abes

Subject “Sherrie” was attempting to shop at Big Abes on the afternoon of July 13th. While in the store she was very offended by the use of profanity in the music played by the store personnel. Sherrie cited examples of the use of words such as “mother f_____, b____, pu___ and so forth”.

Conclusion: Sh__.

Blueprint Archive – Euclid Square Mall Site Plan

Retailers Higbee’s and The May Company, along with developer Jacobs, Visconsi, and Jacobs were looking to build a shopping center on the property of the Chase Brass Company located on Babbitt Road. However with that property currently zoned for industrial use, the decision would be left up to people of Euclid to decide if the land should be rezoned. So it was put it to a vote in 1973 with the result being nearly two to one in favor of the mall.

Euclid Square Mall Blueprint
1977 Site Plan of Euclid Square Mall shows a general mall layout flanked by its two anchors, Higbee’s and the May Company.

The mayor at the time, Harry J. Knuth, who was a long time champion of the project considered the mall “One of the greatest things that ever happened to the city of Euclid”. Richard E. Jacobs, President of Jacobs, Visconsi, and Jacobs added that the malls developers “want to prove to each resident of Euclid that the city will benefit from this development and become an even better place in which to live in the years ahead”.

Artists Rendering of Euclid Square Mall
An artists rendering of Euclid Square Malls interior shows Mr. Richard E. Jacobs vision of a better tomorrow for the city.

Mr. Jacobs was right. The Euclid Square Mall would eventually open in 1977 and pay immediate dividends in the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs, plus huge increases in income to the city from real estate tax on the new mall which helped the city avoid raising its taxes.

Bigger Than Life – Time Out at Forest Fair Mall

In the fall of 1988 Cincinnati, Ohio would be the arena for an all out shopping mall rumble. With a total of 6 shopping centers within a mere 80 miles of one another it was not a battle to be the best but rather to see who could stay alive. There was a massive renovation to transform a strip mall to a 100,000 square foot enclosed shopping mall. An $80 million dollar expansion to one of the larger existing malls and a $2 million renovation by one of the smaller ones. Another hired not only Micky Mouse but also Ray Charles, like the real, actual Ray Charles, to head line the grand re-opening upon completion of their $100 million expansion. There was also one mall that was not even opened yet but the promise for something new, like nothing no one had ever seen before, was the most intoxicating of them all.

Forest Fair Mall Grand Opening

Just shy of 2 million square feet, would not only put Forest Fair Mall in the elite 1% of malls larger than 1 million square feet it would also make it the second largest shopping mall in the state. Intentionally designed to be different than all the other mundane shopping malls, the five anchors were to have their own individual style through the use of architecture. Offerings would include fashion, both high and discount, a considerable assortment of food outlets and an entertainment complex, the first of it’s kind.

Time-Out on the Court at Forest Fair Mall

Time-Out was not new name in the industry with more than 70 locations through out the U.S. by this time. In fact most would very fondly remember their local Time-Out arcade. But Time-Out on the Court was not your normal shopping mall arcade. It was an arcade and a midway area, and an 18-hole miniature putt-putt course. If that wasn’t enough there were amusements rides for the kiddies, bumper cars for the adults and a carousel for all ages to enjoy.

Ferris Wheel at Forest Fair Mall

“Timeout On The Court was the s*** when I was a kid. If I died and had to choose between heaven and Timeout, I’d choose Timeout lol.” [austiNati] “Forest Fair Mall/Cincinnati Mills questions (Dayton, Burlington: tenant, theatre, live)” city-data.com, 3 Mar. 2021.

Forest Fair still remains open to this day (Now Cincinnati Mall), though with just a small handful of stores. And one of those stores is an arcade. It’s not Time-Out for sure, but it’s still a lot of fun to visit. If you do go to the mall, why not do it in style in a retro style Forest Fair shirt from Untitled Colours.

Forest Fair Mall Shirt Cincinnati Ohio

Remembering “The Four Seasons” at Chapel Hill Mall

When an unfinished Chapel Hill Mall with only 19 stores opened it’s doors in late 1966 shoppers must have truly been in awe as the walked into the mall for the first time.

Four Seasons at Chapel Hill Mall
“The Four Seasons” seen in this1967 image from the American Gas Association.

Upon entering the main court the focal point was quite obvious, “The Four Seasons” a sculpted mural that spanned a whopping 218 feet and was 13 foot tall. Designed by local Cleveland artist Brian Plesmid, the sculpture was made of troweled cement over mesh and decorated with multi-colored glass. The sculptures design was to depict the areas seasonal changes in nature.

Chapel Hill Mall in Akron, Ohio
This colorized image from 1964 shows nearly the full length of the sculpture and the hallway coming in from the main entrance.

To complement the massive sculpture, the main court also featured twin musical fountains designed by Jack Erbe of the Roman Fountain Company. The fountains splashed and danced to the sound of music played throughout the court area.

This Forest CIty Enterprises publicity photo shows one of Jack Erbe’s musical fountains.

Sadly, the mall didn’t age well. Even though a market study showed that in 1993 more people shopped at Chapel Hill Mall than at any other Akron area chopping center, merchants and customers alike thought the mall was quite dated. Dennis Weiland of Retail Consulting, a firm from Macedonia was quoted in the Beacon Journal as saying that “It needs something to bring it into the 90s”.

Christmas shopping at Chapel Hill Mall
A Chapel Hill Mall employee cleans up after a long night of holiday shopping.

So bring it into the 90’s is what management did. In a 1994 remodel, the Four Seasons sculpture was either covered up or destroyed, The twin fountains were removed and replaced with an updated single fountain, and a 5 million dollar food court, complete with carousel was added.

This photo from Chapel Hill’s Facebook shows that the main court was still quite nice, though not quite as awe inspiring as when opened.

In 2021 the mall closed it’s doors for good and is being turned into a business park. One certainly can’t say that Chapel Hill didn’t have a good run though as it stayed in business 55 years and outlived its major Akron competitor, Rolling Acres Mall by 13 years.

Greetings From Belden Village Mall – Canton, Ohio

On October 1st 1970, Belden Village Mall opened its doors to a “New World of Shopping Pleasure”. Mall management billed Belden Village as “The Magnificent Mall”, and a quick glance at these old postcards makes it rather obvious that it certainly lived up to it’s moniker.

Belden Village Mall Canton Ohio
Main Entrance – Belden VIllage Mall

Upon entering, one would immediately realize that Belden Village Mall was much more than your average shopping center, the mall was alive with fountains, lush plantscaping, and gorgeous sculptures from several well known artists.

1970s Belden Village Mall
The Main Court at Belden Village

In the malls Main Court tied into the fountain is this rather striking free-form metallic sculpture by Cleveland’s own Clarence Van Duzer who had several of his works on display throughout the mall.

Fountain at Belden Village Mall
A great view of the fountain and Clarence Van Duzer’s sculpture

Another renowned Cleveland artist, William McVey Contributed this magnificent piece in the Higbee’s Court. Mr. McVey also had pieces in other mid-century malls most notably being his hippo sculpture in Detroit’s Eastland Mall.

Higbee's Court Belden Village Mall
Higbee’s Court featuring sculpture by William McVey

In addition to the artwork placed throughout, the mall also featured cozy seating areas, surrounded by tropical flora and contemporary lighting really did make the mall feel alive, even during the harsh winter months in Ohio.

Belden Village Mall 1970
One of the many cozy seating areas at Belden Village Mall

Back of postcard reads:

Belden VIllage Mall – Where good taste costs no more.

Main entrance to belden village mall
Belden Village main entrance in 2018

Though remodeled in 1987, today the mall is still very much alive and serving Canton well, but I can’t help but wonder what happed to all the amazing art from the mall.