Building an Icon – Rolling Acres Mall

In 1964, on Akron’s west side, The DeBartolo Corporation was building the city’s first enclosed shopping center, Summit Mall. On the northeast side, Akronite Richard B. Buchholzer had partnered with Cleveland developers Forest City Enterprises and was in the beginning stages of building Chapel Hill Mall. Malls were going up everywhere across the country and it only seemed logical that Akron’s south side would be next. When studies showed the demand existed and with major department stores showing interest in the area, Buchholzer and Forest City concluded that the time to start planning Akron’s third major mall was now.

Two years later the group would settle on a 260 acre site on Romig Road located in the city’s southwest corner. The initial plan was to build a near twin to Chapel Hill. A single layer shopping mall flanked by two anchor department stores. In the acreage surrounding the center the group panned to build a 200 suite motel, medical and office buildings, and some 900 apartment units.

This artists rendering of Rolling Acres Shopping Center showcases Forest City Enterprises second major Akron project – a twin to the already existing Chapel Hill Mall – in which an 800,000 square foot center bordered by apartments and office buildings.

But Rolling Acres wasn’t the only shopping center being planned for the area. In the nearby city of Barberton a group was planning the Austin Mall Development, a smaller enclosed mall that would be surrounded by a new housing development.

Both projects faced major setbacks from area residents with many believing that the shopping centers would reek havoc on downtown retail in both Akron and Barberton. It was also thought that a shopping center would stunt downtown urban renewal projects.

Though Rolling Acres and Austin Mall were both eventually given the green light for rezoning, the Austin Mall never materialized.

The architectural rendering shows the first phase of Forest City’s development at Rolling Acres. Forest city also owned 127 adjacent acres which they had planned for commercial and high density residential.

After years of delays, construction at Rolling Acres would finally get underway in 1973. The shopping center was built in two phases. The first phase being the malls main level and the initial two department stores. The second phase would be the addition of a promenade level and three more department stores.

Original development plan for Phase I of Rolling Acres Mall shows the main level of the mall and plans for a future lower level.

The full first year of construction was spent grading the rugged landscape and transforming it into a workable site so the foundation of the mall could be laid. Once the initial foundation was in the rest of the project took only eleven months to complete.

Rolling Acres was nearing its opening. All of the years of planning and manpower put into the construction were finally becoming clear and the end result was truly beautiful. A modern wonder of retail was finally coming to life.

An excited Ray Kapper who was Chairman of the Planning Committee, speaks to The Beacon Journal on construction finally getting started at Rolling Acres.

Prior to the malls opening there was a special preview ceremony and private reception held at the mall where Rev. V. Stan Hampson pronounced the blessing of the mall and consecration of The Court of the Twelve Trees using a thousand year old Hawaiian chant.

After the mall was given it’s blessing, Ruth Ballard, wife of former Akron mayor John Ballard gave a champagne christening for the spectacular fountain that sat at the center of The Court of the Twelve Trees underneath a massive spaceframe skylight.

Some of the lucky group that was privy to the mall preview celebration.

At long last, the big day had finally arrived. The grand opening. The original twenty stores would be a perfect representation to the company’s philosophy of meeting the needs and demands of shoppers of all ages and incomes. A family could spend the whole day at the mall, take in a movie at the cinema, let the kids play video games at Play Palace, and then cap the day with dinner at Der Dog Haus.

Rolling Acres Mall Grand Opening
Rolling Acres adopted RA, The Friendly Giant as their mascot. Named after the Egyptian sun god, RA would appear in many advertisements throughout the early years. He even made an appearance at the grand opening.

The opening was a success. New stores would open on a near weekly basis. In addition to this success, Rolling Acres was also becoming more than just a retail outlet, the mall was becoming a center of community activity with special activities and events ranging from meeting Santa or the Easter Bunny, to meeting celebrities such as the Budweiser Clydesdales or getting to ring a life-size replica of the Liberty Bell. There was always fun to be had at Rolling Acres and the community loved it.

Rolling Acres Entrance
Originally posted by Tony Parks in the Rolling Acres Mall Memories Facebook group, this photo shows the entrance how it may have appeared at its opening.

Riding high off their achievement of a successful phase I it was now time for the company to turn its attention to phase II. But that’s a story for another time. Stay tuned!

Need to feed your nostalgic Rolling Acres craze? Be sure and check out this video walkthrough of the mall.

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.

Rolling Acres Mall – Bubble Elevator

It was a pleasant surprise to come across this old Dover Elevator ad while recently thumbing through an old Architectural Record from 1979. I always thought the elevator at Rolling Acres Mall was special, but I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Dover Elevators apparently thought so highly of the elevator that they featured it in this ad which ran for several months in multiple trade publications.

Elevator Rolling Acres Mall
1979 Dover Elevators as featuring the “Bubble Elevator” at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio.

With a design similar to what one might expect to find in a big city hotel, The elevator at Rolling Acres Mall was touted as “Akron’s First Bubble Elevator” and would serve customers as they traveled from the main level down to the Promenade Level.

This Beacon Journal clipping from 1976 points out that the mall’s bubble elevator was supposed to be yellow.

Though the ride on the elevator itself only lasted 15 seconds, it was definitely worth waiting for to take in the the beautiful fountains and and the French-styled greenscaped Parc from above before gliding to a smooth landing at the Promenade level.

Rolling Acres Mall Promenade
A 1978 Beacon Journal Ad featuring the Bubble Elevator promoting the opening of the Promenade Level at Rolling Acres Mall.

The elevator was a hit with shoppers, especially children. It was claimed that the because of its novelty the elevator had probably carried nearly as many shoppers up and down as the double escalators that it compliments in the Court of Lights.

promenade court rolling acres mall
A late 90s view of the still dazzling elevator in the Court of Lights at a Rolling Acres Mall in decline.

Head over to The Court of the Twelve Trees or take a video tour of Rolling Acres Mall from 2003 where you can see the bubble elevator and the escalators running.


Court of the Twelve Trees – Rolling Acres Mall

This 1979 Ohio Edison publicity photo shows the fountain in The Court of the Twelve Trees at Rolling Acres Mall. This is the only photo I’ve ever seen showing the fountain running in full in its full glory (the main fountain as well as the smaller fountains).

If you look close you can see a Davy Jones Locker store peeking out from behind the fountain and lush foliage. This was one of my absolute favorite storefronts in the mall. I was always fascinated with their nautical theme.

court of the twelve trees rolling acres mall
1979 Rolling Acres Mall – Akron, Ohio

The below image shows a difference of about 20 years. The mighty twelve trees that provided amazing scenery and a sense of living have been removed. The smaller fountains no longer in operation. Being the late 90s and mall traffic had greatly slowed, its somewhat surprising the fountain was even still in use at this point.

rolling acres mall fountain in the 90s
Late 90s at Rolling Acres Mall

The fountain, the trees and the mall are all gone now now, but many of us still have the wonderful memories of this magnificent shopping center.

For me, most of my memories of Rolling Acres Mall come from the 80s, and the logo on the shirt pictured below is the logo I most identify the mall with. What a wonderful time to be at the mall…

Rolling Acres ShirtThis cool shirt and as well as many other classic retail related gear is available from Untitled Colours.

I have this shirt and love it. Be prepared for people to strike up a conversation about the mall, it happens nearly every time I wear it.

Christmas at Rolling Acres Mall

Rolling Acres Mall Fountain Santa

“Our Christmas wish for you are these: May you always see Christmas with the eyes of a child. May you always know the warmth of love, the joy of giving, the magic of Santa Claus and the wonder of a star. May your days be filled with laughter and your lives be filled with peace.” from the Rolling Acres Merchants (The Akron Beacon Journal, 1991)

Rolling Acres Mall 1998 Gingerbread Man Dillards

Rolling Acres Mall Christmas 1998

Rolling Acres Mall Christmas 1998 Payless Shoes


Rolling Acres Mall 1998 Dillards

and Reindeers…

Rolling Acres Mall security

and Bears…

Rolling Acres Mall Dillards Christmas

Oh my!

Zales Roling Acres Mall

Rolling acres mall fountain

Seriously, how long is this going to take?

Christmas Rolling acres mall

Rolling Acres Mall Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…denim and a black light.

Christmas Rolling Acres Mall

Rolling Acres Mall

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a department store with three Christmas carolers near.

Rolling Acres Mall Fountain

I’m sorry, but that floor, how did they get it so shiny?

Rolling Acres Mall Fountain

Rolling Acres Mall

Well, this is a little sad.

Rolling Acres Mall REindeer

JB Robinson Rolling Acres Mall

 ♪♫ JB Robinson ♫♪

JB RObinson ROlling Acres Mall

Rolling Acres Mall Christmas Train

 Best darn job in the mall!

Rolling Acres Mall Christmas     1998 WQMX Rolling Acres Mall

Could it be the WQMX “Wish Upon A Star” Wish Wheel where you could spin for a free trip, a telescope kit, or a $1,000 shopping spree? I’m in!

Northern Reflections Rolling Acres Mall

That reminds me, I still need to get my Christmas cards.

Rolling Acres Mall Entrance

Wow, that Post Office was also in this great video.

Rolling Acres Mall Fountain

Rolling Acres Mall Fountain 1998

Ahhhh, I think I’m going to rest right here on this beautiful bench and just take in all the glory that is Rolling Acres at Christmastime.

Rolling Acres Mall Elevator

Meanwhile, on the other side of the mall.

Rolling Acres Mall

May your shopping bags be full, and your local malls stay open!

Merry Christmas from everyone at

Frederick's of Hollywood - Rolling Acres Mall

Advert Reactions – Vintage Mall Advertising

As much as I love to photograph and explore dead malls, I love the golden age of shopping even more. Who wouldn’t want to go back and experience those days just one more time? The following is a collection of advertising from some great old malls when times were better. I hope you enjoy.

Century III Mall – West Mifflin, PA

Century III Mall Advertisement

By 1980 the pieces were all starting to come together for Century III Mall. A brand new anchor, Montgomery Ward, was opening as well as the completion of phase two of the mall project which included the addition of over 40 new retail stores. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s completely fallen apart for for this once great mall. Today, only JCPenney remains as the lone anchor along with a small handful of stores. With a sale of the property looming this wonderful old malls days are certainly numbered.


Rolling Acres Mall – Akron, OH

Rolling Acres Mall Advertisement

Romig Road in Akron, Ohio is a desolate area full of broken dreams, shuttered shopping centers, closed restaurants and a field where Rolling Acres Mall once stood proudly, but it wasn’t always that way. Back in 1980 Romig Road was in the height of its golden age and the mall had themed shopping events such as this “Old Fashioned Days” which drew the likes of The Budweiser Clydesdales and a giant Barrel House that was brought into the mall for shoppers to view and enjoy.

Be sure and check out our previous articles for more on Rolling Acres Mall, including a 2003 video walk through.


Jamestown Mall – Florissant, Missouri

Jamestown Mall Advertisement

Summertime 1979. Fun times, a Fathers Day picnic, and of course, shopping at Jamestown Mall. Sounds like a wonderful time to be alive, or at least that’s how this illustration makes it look. Times have certainly changed haven’t they? Deemed no longer a viable location for a shopping mall in 2009, Jamestown Mall finally closed its doors for good in 2014.


Salem Mall – Dayton, OH

Salem Mall Advertisement - Dead Malls

As Dayton, Ohio’s first enclosed shopping center, Salem Mall was charged with excitement and flying high in the spring of 1982. Sadly this flight would come to a devastating crash and Salem Mall would close for good in 2005. Mostly demolished and forgotten, all that remains today is the empty shell of the former Sears store.


Regency Mall – Racine, Wisconsin

Regency Mall Advertisement

Described by current management as a failed mall, Regency Mall in Racine, Wisconsin is easily the least “dead mall” of any on this list. However, after recently losing yet another major anchor in The Boston Store during the Bon-Ton closings, this mall is in desperate needs of a hero if it is to stay alive much longer.


Easter Eggs-travaganza at Rolling Acres Mall

It was 1976 and Rolling Acres was bicentennial crazy. Now was the time for the All-American “Grand Opening ’76” to help celebrate the continuing growth at the mall. Sears, Penny’s and fifty other fine merchants were open and ready to offer many goods and services. There was an exact replica of the Liberty Bell in the East Court, the main entrance. And in the West Court you could find none other than Rolling Acres very own Bicentennial Easter Bunny. Dressed in red, white and blue and just waiting to take pictures with all the little ones.

Honestly if I could make one Easter wish, I’d wish with all my might that I could be there. To see the first Easter at Rolling Acres Mall. Instead I can spread some Easter cheer by sharing with you a few pictures we acquired along with a wonderful walk through of Rolling Acres Mall that you can find here. That promotional video is from 2003 but the pictures hint towards Easters which took place sometime in the 1990’s. Perhaps a lot less grandiose than their first Easter, these pictures do give you a nice glimpse into the last moderately good years at this mall. And without further ado… is proud to present an “Easter Picture Eggs-travaganza”

Easter Bunny Rolling Acres Mall

Enter here.

Easter Photo Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

Easter Bunny Akron Ohio Rolling Acres Mall

Easter Bunny Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

This little fellow just couldn’t wait.

Easter Bunny Akron Ohio Rolling Acres Mall

Easter Bunny Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

Easter Bunny Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

Wonder what’s the light for?

Easter Bunny Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

You drive that train kid.

Easter Bunny Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

Easter Train Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

Easter Rolling Acres

I can’t stop staring at that balloon bunny staring at that lady.

Easter at Rolling Acres Mall Akron Ohio

Easter at Akron Mall Rolling Acres

Why is the only one interested in the puppet show all the way in the back?

Easter at Rolling Acres Mall

Thank you every bunny for scrolling through the Rolling Acres Easter Picture Eggs-travaganza. Be sure to scroll through again so you don’t miss any part!

Rolling Acres Mall – Full Video Tour 1-7-2003

Rolling Acres Mall header logo

Rolling Acres Mall Video Tape

This video cassette was found in the rubble of a mostly demolished Rolling Acres Mall. The tape was supposedly sent to potential buyers to help showcase the many beautiful features of the mall.

I acquired this video in early 2017 but it wasn’t until September that I finally hooked up my VCR to watch it. I had no idea what was on the tape and upon watching I was absolutely flooded with emotion and memories of Rolling Acres Mall. I watched the video at least 5 times that night and dozens more in the weeks that followed, it just never really got old.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Smooth Jazz by Pat Metheny
  • The Janitor cleaning the fountain in the court of twelve trees
  • The flickering storefront lights at the USPS store
  • Escalators in motion
  • The chandelier
  • Picnic Place
  • People shopping

This video is around 14 minutes long and it’s really worth watching the whole thing. It’s a full video walkthrough of an alive Rolling Acres Mall albeit long past it’s prime days.

Please let me know in the comments below what your favorite parts were.

This place has some seriously amazing Rolling Acres Mall logo shirts

2000’s Rolling Acres Mall Logo – White Text by turboglyde